The Tudors: Complete Series One

The Tudors: Complete Series One


Reviewed by: Keith Dudhnath

The Tudors is the story of the early days of Henry VIII's reign, before he became fat and always had a chicken leg in his hand. It tells of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy), and his ongoing attempts to leave her for Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer). With a young Henry (Jonathan Rhys Myers), plenty of heaving and naked bosoms on show, and lots of swearing cardinals, The Tudors has certainly been jazzed up for a modern audience.

I'm not a boring old stick in the mud, with stuffy preconceptions about what Henry VIII should be like. I don't mind a few historical liberties being taken. I don't mind The Tudors even aiming straight for popularism. What I do mind is that Jonathan Rhys Myers isn't very good. He doesn't have either any regal gravitas, or youthful zest. He just comes across as weasely and bland. I'm sure teenage girls will enjoy admiring his sweaty muscles when he stands around topless, but he's not a good actor. As the central character, he needs to be better than he is. Henry Cavill, who plays his friend Charles Brandon, would have been a stronger choice for the role.

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I know it's awfully mean to pile the weight of all the criticism on to the shoulders of one person. There are a few clunky problems with the script too. At times, it's like listening to a Linguaphone CD, where something is said in a foreign language, and another character somehow finds a way to translate it straight after. It sticks out like a sore thumb every single time. There are a few dreadful moments of exposition too, with the worst of the bunch being when a young child just so happens to ask why the king isn't at a funeral, in case the audience was wondering.

That said, there's lots to enjoy in The Tudors. Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jeremy Northam (Thomas More), Henry Czerny (the Duke of Norfolk) and particularly Sam Neill (Cardinal Wolsey) are excellent. They're all fantastic actors and give the sorts of performances that we expect of them.

The costumes and scenery are wonderfully done, creating a beautiful and sumptuous atmosphere. The production values are perfectly pitched, never feeling either patchy or like style over substance. Every episode is beautiful to look at.

A friend of mine, who finds Jonathan Rhys Myers very dreamy, insisted that I point out the series gets one thing right that most people get wrong: Henry was never really a religious reformer. He broke from Rome because he wanted an heir, he ransacked the monasteries because he was broke. But in terms of religion, he was always a traditionalist. He didn't like Lutherans any more than the Pope did. He wasn't our first Protestant king.

The Tudors is an opportunity missed. It could so easily have been fresh, exciting, sexy, popular, interesting and most importantly, good. Unfortunately, with a weak central actor, the interactions of those around him suffer as a result. It's light-hearted fun, but it should have been much better.

Reviewed on: 13 Dec 2007
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The Tudors: Complete Series One packshot
BBC series about Henry VIII as a young man.
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Director: Steve Shill, Ciaran Donnelly, Brian Kirk, Alison Maclean, Charles McDougall

Writer: Michael Hirst

Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Henry Cavill, Natalie Dormer, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jeremy Northam, Sam Neill, Henry Czerny

Year: 2007

Runtime: 500 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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