Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Borgias - Cousin Oliver Not Shown

One or possibly both readers will recall I checked in on The Borgias at the end of episode two, when things were starting to simmer nicely. Now having seen all seven episodes constituting the first season, I am confused and angry to report that it was something of a slow-cooking dud.

Leading up to the series, Showtime heavily promoted the dramatic possibilities of the Borgia family over a seemingly endless advertising campaign that used explicit comparisons with the Corleone family of The Godfather trilogy to imply that, you know, truly riveting stuff would happen: "the original crime family," it blared.

Sure, they were thuggish, and they perverted, gamed, and ignored the rules to suit their purposes, much as the Corleones did. It would be unfair to say that nothing of human interest happened over the course of these machinations, but it would be fair to say that too little of dramatic consequence happened.

Despite much hint of peril, and despite plenty of actual peril in the vicinity of all the proceedings, not a single major character died, or even came close to it. There was no sixteenth-century equivalent of Sonny machine-gunned in a toll booth, no Don Corleone keeling over in a garden, and no Fredo taking a last fateful fishing junket. There was no equivalent of Michael's first wife exploding in a car, and nothing as grippingly, intimately real -- or as tragically undertaken -- as Carlo's belt-whipping of Connie.

The French King Charles showed only long enough to suggest, but not deliver, genuine mortal menace.

No, season one of The Borgias opened with a father surrounded by his four bastard children, and closed with a father surrounded by those same four beloved children. It was as much a forerunner to The Brady Bunch as to The Godfather.


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