The Tudors: The Complete First Season

No matter how many infidelity scandals we hear about, British royalty just can’t make itself appear sexy or even remotely attractive in the eyes of the public. Maybe it’s having stale dorks like Charles as our main attraction but even his young and frisky sons fail to provide journalists with the juice of a tasty rare filet mignon. The Tudors, on the other hand, is nothing but juicy affair after juicy affair, to the point where some people have assumed that it’s just T&A with some head chopping in grandiose clothing. That’s a close guess but anyone who’s studied British history will know that this was an era filled with devious plotting and as we learned from Melrose Place, that makes for good telly. Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Match Point, Velvet Goldmine) is King Henry VIII, a young, fierce ruler with an appetite for power and an even bigger one for the ladies. Married to Catherine of Aragon (Mary Doyle Kennedy), the mother of their daughter Mary, Henry is dissatisfied with his wife’s inability to produce a male heir, which leads him to endless sordid affairs. When he meets Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer), however, he’s so smitten that he’s set to flout his beloved Pope’s law against divorce. But behind this love lies a series of multi-layered schemes by all sorts of different parties, which is where The Tudors earns its strength. A talented ensemble cast (Jeremy Northam, Gabriel Anwar, Henry Czerny) adds spicy subplots that help feed the fire-red passion, but best in this camp is the manipulative authority of Sam Neill’s devilish clergyman, Cardinal Wolsey, the King’s most trusted servant. Despite the mouth-watering action, The Tudors suffers from too many one-dimensional characters and a script that doesn’t spend much time breathing. The complexities of the show should be screaming to expel some emotions, but the writers seem content with keeping this show a soap opera — and no matter how authentically "English” the production design, there’s no denying this could run in the daytime after Days of Our Lives. The cast and crew interviews feel a little brief, and Rhys Meyers does little with his time. Creator/writer/exec producer Michael Hirst is more informative, explaining how he first told producers that a series based on the Tudor dynasty wasn’t possible, and the difficulty convincing viewers with "collective amnesia” that Henry was once young, lean and virile. Plus: bloopers, deleted scenes. (Peace Arch)