I just finished watching The Tudors, the story of King Henry VIII and his six wives. The writing and acting are good and the costumes and settings beautiful. The beheadings, burnings, battle scenes, hangings, urine, feces, vomit, blood, scabrous beggars... well, those just add a little accurate historical color. There's one execution in particular where the screams of the condemned - well, the actor really hit the right pitch to convey the hysterically desperate howl of a man in mortal agony and terror. I suspect he had a sore throat by the end of the filming that scene. I admit to a little queasiness after that scene.
The drama of a king who thinks himself divinely appointed, who holds the power of life and death and has a horde of wives and mistresses to get through in four short seasons makes for interesting television. The history isn't too bad either, though Showtime wanted good television, not a history lesson.
Each episode left me wondering what would happen next. The characters of the wives were well drawn. One was just too stupid to live, another a tragic figure. Wife number four, Anne of Cleves, actually got a rather good deal out of her hasty obedience to the king's demand for divorce. She was given a settlement that left her wealthy and was treated with friendship by the king, all because she was clever enough to see the headman's ax in the shadows.
The four seasons of The Tudors served as an admirable distraction while I wait impatiently for Game of Thrones on HBO this April 17th. If it comes close to the quality of The Tudors in acting, writing and production, I'll be nigh ecstatic.