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|Written by Shannon Wood|
|Monday, 31 December 2007 19:00|
Sex, power, and murder. Is there any combination of events more tantalizing? We instinctively slow down to observe the wreckage. Many people are hooked into books, TV shows and movies by the promise of any one of these acts; a combination of them often proves too irresistible to resist.
Watching this combination unfold in reality? It will beat tuning into even the best soap opera drama. This is the glorious opportunity left by many of the royals of the past; after all a crown only adds to the appeal!
Henry VIII remains one of the most discussed and controversial monarchs after more than four hundred years since his death. He lived and influenced a time that helped shape our modern world and context. Plus his sex life is still fascinating and could match even the raciest celeb. Let’s just be thankful the video camera wasn’t available during his reign.
However, with Jonathon Rhyes Meyers playing the legendary King in The Tudors, we can be grateful that cameras now exist. He embodies the arrogance and rogue charm that Henry VIII must have been endowed with. Yet, Meyers also manages to elicit a certain sympathy for the Tudors character.
They set Henry up to be majestic at every turn and emphasis the drama that his life incorporated in such a way that adds to the mystic and appeal of such a strong character. The opening sequence gives a background, cleverly scrapping together images of the cast and portraits of the actual historical personalities. The interplay, which seamlessly includes the historical and social implications of Henry’s reign, is demonstrated before our eyes in what has to be one of the most beautiful opening credits ever created. Throughout the credits, Trevor Morris’s original soundtrack plays hauntingly in the background. Perhaps the only thing that would have “Greensleeves” which has always been associated with Henry the VIII as rumors persist that he wrote it for Anne Boleyn. In any case, the theme perfectly sets the tone for the show and its entire premise.
Overlaying these images and song, Jonathon Rhyes Meyers discusses Henry’s life and reign. He states, “You think you know the story but you only know the end. To get to the heart of the story, you have to go to the beginning.” This clearly demonstrates the focus the Tudors is going to take – the much discussed life and reign of Henry VIII.
It should be noted that director Michael Hirst is also responsible for bringing us Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which gives us a clearer idea of what to expect from his series. The movies, like the series, sticks fairly close (for a TV series not played on the History Channel) to the real historical personalities and events. However, he is realistic enough about the willingness of most TV viewers to suspend belief and, as such, take artistic license to increase drama or slant sympathies.
This no doubt explains some of the major inaccuracies featured in the first season- namely the synthesis of Henry’s two sisters, Mary and Margaret into the Princess Margaret of the series, or the apparent increase in the age gap between Henry and Catherine of Aragon. This gap undoubtedly creates sympathy for Henry as well as setting up the marriage between Henry and Catherine of Argon as a trap. In reality, Catherine was only six years older than her husband, a much closer match than many royal or even noble marriages of the time. However, the difference in the actors’ ages is a more significant thirteen-year gap. A very deliberate casting choice no doubt. And while this situation does garner some sympathy for the character, the show does not canonize Henry either.
They do not gloss over his careless treatment of women in the series, which is to be commended. His treatment of the female characters seems reminiscent of the potential cliché of the foolish playboy who will soon meet the right woman to show him the error of his ways. We will have to wait to see how they incorporate Jane Semeyor and if it fits this pattern.
The show also goes into the political aspects of Henry’s reign and offers possible insights as to why this memorable monarch made the decisions that he did. However, analyzing the historical accuracies of that would take far more than I am allotted, so I will stick to the more light-hearted and delicious aspects of his life.
The opening pages of the CBC website for The Tudors works hard to promote such splendor and intrigue. It opens with a picture of Meyers sitting on a throne draped with a gold necklace, emphasizing his kingship, and an intense and undoubtedly sexy stare. Behind him the words “passion…cruelty…treachery. It’s good to be King” appear in gold. Soon after the logo appears with a sword separating “the” from “Tudors”, no doubt to demonstrate how much inner turmoil and violence that this dynasty sustained, much of it stemming from this famous King. Next, three headless women, clearly representative of the King’s penchant for chopping off his wives’ heads (although only two of his wives suffered such a fate) appear behind his throne. These women are all bejeweled and dressed in gorgeous gowns clutching on to his throne or crown.
Overall, I would have to say I am looking forward to watching more of this show. Its historical bent is an interesting change from the Law and Orders and CSIs that usually occupy much of the television programming.