Not one of them features Zeus in a Speedo, but there is a fine crop of premium cable series this year. Each one takes a little getting used to, but will have a viewer hooked on the plot and the characters after the second episode.
Each series has a unique, well crafted and fascinating theatrical style. Thanks to the wonders of FX and international locations, the scenery is breathtaking in all of them.
Getting all of the shows will cost a bundle, because each one is on a different premium network. If it were not for a couple of special deals, I would be waiting for a few years to see any of them.
THE BORGIAS (Showtime)
It has been said that Mario Puzo modeled his characters for “The Godfather” series after the members of the Borgia clan: Rodrigo/The Godfather held the throne. Sonny was the bigoted, reckless and impulsive one.
Fredo was the weak minded one. Michael/Cesare was the brains of the family and the one who was most suited to take the throne. But Michael/Cesare was the one who least desired the throne.
Lucretia/Connie was the female chattel, existing only to be bought and sold in marriages that were little more than barter for securing the most money and power.
In the case of “The Borgias”, the Canadians, Hungarians and Irish came together to create a fictional representation of the rise and fall of Pope Alexander VI. Pope Alexander was a Spaniard in origin who transplanted to Rome during the renaissance period. This man fought dirty and played well in order to overcome deadly resentment and to claw his way to the pinnacle of power.
This is worth following, even though there are plenty of cringe-inducing moments and episodes of running to the computer in order to hit the Wikipedia pages!
This is a new take on the Arthurian legend with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the production lead.
While most of the “facts” that we remember from the legendary tale are honestly treated, there are some departures and revelations that refresh the ancient stories.
The acting is sublime and the actors are good looking. Merlin has been transformed into a world weary, deeply flawed political adviser who knows just enough magic to confirm the myth. Arthur is a young, reluctant and skeptical king who gradually eases into his role as the ruler that he is destined to be.
By the third or fourth episode, the mysteries of “The Singing Sword” and “The Lady Of The Lake” have been solved and the truth is nothing that you would have expected!
GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
This is HBO’s production and offering in the fantasy fiction genre. Based on the first book of the wildly nerd-popular fantasy series, this tale leaves Earth behind for a mythical world of many kingdoms. But the problem with most of the fantasy genre is that, after the few strange elements of myth, it all devolves into a stylistic rehash of northern European ideas.
So viewers will get more royal pomp and intrigue, middle ages lifestyle and fairy tale settings than they bargained for. There is a misleading element of racism and bigotry in presenting the brown and dark skinned peoples as savages and heathens, while the whitest ones are beyond doubt in their refinement and superiority.
But there are twists, horrors, turns, good, evil, and people are not who they initially seem to be. Thus, the story is redeemed when the “barbaric and swarthy” leader is given the unwilling and helpless blond maiden in exchange for his help in returning a lost throne to its rightful and awful owner. He and the helpless blond maiden both turn out to be far more than first impressions reveal.
All three shows are much better than their predecessors in television and film in that they include minuscule levels of racial and ethnic diversity in the lesser roles at least.
All of them are a bit rough for younger humans to digest. There is graphic nudity, sex, horrific tortures, blood, gore and adult themes that may be too much for younger minds to grasp.
But for sheer escapism, brilliant costuming, masterful acting and great theater, not one of these shows misses the mark.