& the slipper still fits


By now, dear reader, you have probably heard more about The Borgias than you feel like repeating. And, if you haven't watched it, you've already heard a millions reasons why you should. I've been trying to figure out a creative way to review The Borgias without it sounding like everyone else's review (which undoubtedly is: OMG! I love it! It's wonderful!!!). So, I thought I'd take the most blanket statements about The Borgias and tell you my take. And then there might be a short review at the end...

If you loved The Tudors, you'll love The Borgias.
I know I've been saying this. And for me, the statement is true, but for many there will be chagrin. If you loved The Tudors, the fact is you probably loved it for the actual content of the show: the history of Henry VIII and his 6 wives, the characterization of Henry, his wives and the court, and, of course, the acting. But loving Tudor Era England and Borgias Era Italy can be 2 totally different things. On paper, at a glace, in general, we can make a statement like the above, but when we get down to serious specifics we're in a totally different time period, with totally different characters, and, in some cases, totally different values and villains. The goal of The Borgias production is to humanize a family many consider villains. Henry VIII, through a self-indulgent, haughty, wife-killer, was never considered a villain to the level of Cezare Borgias. In short, if you enjoyed The Tudors, you might tune in for the first episode of The Borgias, and if you like it, you'll keep watching.

It's like The Godfather, but in Renaissance Italy.
Did Mario Puzo base much of his novel The Family (which would later be turned into the classic film The Godfather) on the Borgia family? Yes. And yes, for those fans who have seen The Godfather, it will not be hard to parallel the characters. However, there is so much more to The Borgias than a simple mob family comparission. Like the first statement, I've been one of the people saying this, and for that I'm sorry. Now seeing the pilot, I realize that while the fundamentals like, family loyalty and dynamic, are the same, the feel of The Borgias is very different from the feel of The Godfather. If you are looking for something more Sopranos than The Tudors, you are going to find The Borgias lacking. There is murder, there is deception, but the tone is very different.

The Borgias is a period drama for thinking people.
I never understood this statement. It implies that other period dramas are not fantastic or complex, AND that there is a learning curve to watching great television. Note pop culture blogs: telling half your readership a show isn't for them because you think they're stupid...not a good plan. The Borgias is simply fantastic drama: well shot, well acted, and well edited. As is most period drama. Period drama is drama, simply set in a different era, which is often portrayed more decadently, or more glamorously. Why now are we getting all this mainstream attention? Because a big-budget production is being made; a big-budget production which is hoping to snag all The Tudors fans. Notice, Mildred Pierce received little media attention (it is a period drama, it has famous actors, it has been critically acclaimed) and when was the last time a Masterpiece Theatre mini-series ever hit the mainstream? Dowton Abbey came close; the closest a production had made it in years. Thus, the statement that The Borgias is for thinking people is the same as saying it is for people who love the Godfather: its another hook, another tempting soundbite to entice people to watch. We're thinking people, right? So we must watch...

All those answers sound a little cynical, didn't they? And certainly didn't highlight why I enjoyed the pilot. So here it goes, my SHORT happy review:

Going in to The Borgias I only knew they were considered the serious "bad asses" of history. In most history books, if they are even referenced, its like the Borgias invented the words villain and lasciviousness. So, my blank-slate of a mind, had some serious doodles already in relation to this historical family. What I found fascinating is the show is written not like they are villains, but rising heroes who will have history turned against them. Think about it, had the Bogria family succeeded in unifying Italy and holding on to the papacy, their portrayal in history itself would be very much different.

This is most clearly seen in Cesare's character. Francois Arnaud plays the eldest son of Rodrigo Borgia like a reluctant hero. He has the virtues we associate with a hero: courage, honor to his family, loyalty to his family, and the determination be a protector. He has all these things and listens to the will of his father, even when it runs counter current to his own desires. Like The Tudors, The Borgias is character-driven and Cesare will be its foundation.

The costumes are beautiful, the scenery is impeccable, the acting can wax a tad melodramatic, and the pacing of the 2 hour pilot can drag slightly in the middle, but all in all, it is a strong showing for the new Showtime series.

To learn more about the show visit here. To learn more about the Borgia family visit here. To see lots of fabulous photos, fanart, and gifs visit here.