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The Tudors Turnaround


Henry VIII, of England., Digital ID 1252083, New York Public LibraryMy colleague Serena Jimenez often has a nose for a fashion trend. She alerted me to the runaway success of Showtime’s series The Tudors. I’m a pretty poor television viewer, whose idea of great tv is MSNBC’s Lockup series and HBO’s Deadwood (love those expletives). Therefore, I was initially skeptical of a production that featured a hard-bodied, smoldering Henry VIII, and took various other liberties with historical fact. But, over time, listening to her consistently eager reports, I found myself intrigued.

When my husband recently joined Netflix, I had him order the first disc for Season 1. Halfway through the first episode—I was hooked! I have two points to make about this television series. First, the series creators went right after the fact that Henry was a confirmed dandy and fashion leader; diplomats from other European royal courts were ordered to report back regularly on his changes of clothes. Henry’s costumes in the show are staggering, and as the episodes progress, I find myself eagerly waiting for what outfit he’ll appear in next. Second, I love the fact that this is a series in which the male lead is the unabashed attraction and outright sex symbol—along with a spectacular, historically-accurate wardrobe. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is a sheer delight and makes wonderful eye candy. There! I’ve said it. The real Henry VIII got corpulent fairly young, but this Henry is all a susceptible viewer could desire. Turnaround time!

So hurrah for Showtime, and the Irish production company that brings us such a breath of fresh air! If this series gets young people, and others usually bored by history, interested in Tudor doings, it’s all to the good. After all, Henry’s mania for a son and heir had a profound effect on the future. The rise of Protestantism in England, and later in America, would never have happened without this monarch’s “palpable” need.


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Like you, I am not much of a television watcher. But your description makes the series sound like good fun and worth a watch and who does not like to look at a hunk on the screen every once and a while.

A pleasant surprise!

I, too, happened upon this series by chance, and have been very pleasantly surprised by it. It's nice to see a young, stylish, randy Henry -- which is apparently what he was really like before he got older and baggier. I'm sure the series takes liberties with history, but it seems to get the spirit of the times right, to judge by what little I know of Tudor England. The period (or period-style) music is beautiful! The makers of the show scored big points with me when they had Henry show the Holy Roman Emperor the pride of his fleet, the sailing battleship "Mary Rose". The top-heavy ship, under full sail, was caught by a gust of wind and capsized during a battle with the French. King Henry and the English army were watching in dismay from the shore, so close that they could hear the cries of the drowning sailors. I hope they show or refer to this dramatic event in later episodes. A portion of the "Mary Rose" was later salvaged, and is now on display in Portsmouth, England. There is a wonderful, heartbreaking description of the sinking in the novel "The Autobiography of Henry VIII" by Margaret George.

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