The final stop on our odyssey of historical drama entertainment on TV is The Tudors, one of the most successful of all series. It enjoyed huge viewing figures and lasted for four seasons, allowing full time to cover the story of Henry VIII and his six wives.
I think one of the reasons that The Tudors did so well is that it has the factors that keep soap operas high in the ratings: the drama takes place on a small scale, involving the machinations of those in the Tudor court; the same reliable faces appear week after week, and the dominant personalities on display make for plenty of conflict.
There’s lightness, and love, but also moments of unbelievable cruelty that serve as a stark reminder of the ruthless behaviour of those at the top.
Sue and I are currently working our way through a box set and have reached season three. We’re loving the show: not only does it look fantastic (the costume design deserves particular mention) but the scripts are strong, too. Every episode features plenty of incident and that much-loved intrigue.
In the end, The Tudors proved that history could be sexy instead of dry and dust-bound. A young, attractive cast ably step up to the table (I find James Frain and Natalie Dormer to be particularly watchable) and, as Henry, Jonathan Rhys Meyers delivers a performance that’s become my favourite depiction of the king: as actor, he internalises everything, so gone is the necessity for bushy red beard and fat suit.