Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Borgias - Season 1

The Borgias is a lot like The Tudors, a period piece focused on a powerful figure from the Renaissance period, that tries to make up for occasionally stilted, stuffy storytelling with a lax attention to accuracy and a fair amount of blood and sex. Much like The Tudors, neither the historical nor the entertainment side of the show is strong enough to make up for the shortcomings on the other side. Shows like True Blood and Spartacus: Blood and Sand definitely tend to have worse writing and acting than The Borgias, but they still entertain me with their frequently over the top depictions of some of our base instincts. Right now I'm plowing through The West Wing, which is a show that relies almost entirely on people talking about politics and is always a ton of fun. So the fact that The Borgias tries for both and ends up just being kind of boring is disappointing. It's not like juggling both can't be done; Rome and Deadwood were both incredibly rich (though abridged) depictions of important points in history and incredibly inappropriate for children at the same time. And right now, Game of Thrones is trampling it in just about every category, and I think I'd be saying that even if I didn't already love the books.

Of course, those HBO shows all have much larger budgets than what Neil Jordan apparently had to work with on Showtime, but it's hard to use that to cover up the issues with the series, which extend beyond the limitations of the sets and computer effects. There's not very much going on in the story, the characters generally aren't likable, and I didn't really get a sense of what was happening being important or where it was leading. It's hard to identify an arc at all, sure, there's an invasion that comes as the season ends, but I had trouble identifying why it mattered. And like I said, it's not much of a guilty pleasure either - plenty of time is spent examining the sexual relationships between the characters, but these scenes don't offer much titillation, and a lot of the violence is either pretty rote stabbings or poorly shot war scenes. I think it's an interesting family, and an historically noteworthy one, but watching them in action hasn't been very fun. I may come back to the show later, when I can watch it in chunks instead of one dull hour at a time, but I see no need to come back to it each week next year. Jeremy Irons is usually really good, but that's about it.

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