For some reason, Paramount and Showtime seem to think the fact that The Borgias is ‘from the makers of The Tudors’ is something worth celebrating. I would argue otherwise. The Tudors was awful. Apart from a few well-done moments (and these really were few and far between), it was devoid of charm and displayed an arrogant disregard for historical fact. There’s artistic licence, and then there’s taking the piss.
The Borgias doesn’t exactly stick to all the facts either, but it’s a far more coherent and dramatic assembling of historical events than The Tudors. The writing is a lot better, and the cast is headed by Jeremy Irons, although saying Irons is a step up from Jonathan Rhys Meyers (the star of The Tudors) is rather like saying sex is better than influenza.
Irons plays Rodrigo Borgia, the patriarch of the Borgia family in 15th Century Italy. He becomes Pope and bad shit goes down. This description may sound crass, but if you’re looking for a subtle and nuanced stroll through many sins of this infamous crime family, this is not the series for you. The whole thing is an extreme, sometimes bloody, thrill-ride, with a lot of violence and a splash of softcore. When watching a Showtime TV series one has to remember a simple rule: if a story is worth telling, they will tell it with added bonking.
But although the whole thing is incredibly ludicrous, it is never for one moment a bore or a trial. The eye-blisteringly delicious photography makes this drama the closest thing to edible television since the first series of Nigella Bites. Everything is covered in a warm, yellow-gold syrupy glow. I suspect that this is so the audience know it’s set in Italy. Whatever the reason behind it, I would happily use it as my screensaver.
It’s also joyfully addictive too, and hops along at a lively place, making you rush through the discs in the boxset. Those who consume the episodes too quickly, however, may find themselves at a disadvantage, as series two doesn’t start until the Autumn, and those who don’t have Sky Atlantic HD will have to wait until at least Christmas before the DVD arrives and they can find out why this Borgia banged that person and why that other Borgia killed that other person. These things really do stay in your mind.
The Borgias: The First Season (2011), is distributed on blu-ray and DVD in the UK by Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Certificate 15.