In theory, “The Borgias” sounds like the perfect replacement for the outstanding series “The Tudors” which ended last year especially when you take into account the fact that Jeremy Irons plays the patriarch of this ambitious and screwy family. Don’t get me wrong, I love Spartacus (I have yet to experience “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” yet but I’m getting there) but sometimes, the blood and orgies get to be too much. Taking into account the plethora of period series produced by the premium channels to fill “The Tudors” void, surely “The Borgias would fill it nicely right? Maybe not.
First off, there was a preponderance of t.v. shows just lined up waiting for the end of Showtime’s juggernaut “The Tudors.” It presented history in a way that was palatable and simultaneously unpredictable. The show melded history with embellished storylines while still staying true to the spirit of King Henry VIII’s time. The audience was given context, good writing, good acting and fantastic costuming and sets. More importantly, although nearly everyone was familiar with the story already, the audience remains engaged from the pilot to the series finale.
The creators of “The Borgias” tried the same thing but it feels like they may have rushed it. They have the costumes and lush scenery down pat and visually, you are sucked into the story. However, between the sub par writing and TERRIBLE wig they’ve befitted Juan Borgia with, it’s easy to lose interest. It seems like the creators took notes from “Tudors” but missed the part about a good script. They took a pretty known dynasty (substitute Tudors for the Borgias), both power hungry families (one a king and one a pope), and both with pretty scandalous sexual escapades (substitute a king with six wives for a pope with 4 children and countless mistresses). Everybody paid attention to the set design and costumes beautifully and the casting is decent (looove Francois Arnaud as Ceasare Borgia and of course Jeremy Irons) but the writing and pacing is really preventing this from being a standout. Its off somehow and I can only hope and pray that the show finds its rhythm in the subsequent episodes.
They had three immediate predecessors to compete with in “The Tudors”, HBO’s “Rome”, and Starz’s “The Pillars of the Earth” miniseries in addition to the current period lineup of Showtime’s own “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”, not to mention competition from the fantasy realm in the new Starz series “Camelot” and the highly anticipated HBO series “Game of Thrones.” There’s a lot of old school treachery on t.v. and I sincerely hope “The Borgias” can prove the show is worthy to be a viable contender for “The Tudors” place. Don’t disappoint me now.