SHOWTIME'S glorious, gorgeous "The Tudors" is the best series since "The Sopranos." Period.
Yes, I like it. A lot.
But it's not just me. When my family was in from California a few weeks ago, we started watching it at 10 one night. We finally called it a night at 4 a.m.
England in the 1500s - like the Roman Empire - stands out as history's best movie material.
That's probably why HBO's "Rome" ended up as such a huge bore in the end. Instead of focusing on the incredibly rich cache of real figures, the writers focused on a made-up soap opera about the love lives of two soldiers.
Luckily, that hasn't happened with "The Tudors." Yes, there's the most graphic sex you'll find on legit TV, but there are also the epic conflicts, pageantry and plague.
In fact, the entire 10-episode run... follows the historical record pretty closely. I mean, how can you beat a guy like Henry VIII (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a character so amazing he created an entire religion so he could divorce his wife and keep sleeping with his mistress?
Unlike that great old PBS series, "The Six Wives of Henry VIII," "Tudors" stays in the period between Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and his dalliances up to and including Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer).
Because my space is limited, I can only say that the assembled cast - Sam Neill as Cardinal Wolsey; Jeremy Northam as Sir Thomas More; Henry Cavill as the Duke of Suffolk; Callum Blue as Anthony Knivert; Gabrielle Anwar as Princess Margaret Tudor; and my personal fave, the hunk o' hunks, Steven Waddington as the Duke of Buckingham - are all terrific.
If there's a misstep, it may be in casting Dormer as Boleyn. For my money, Anwar would have been a much better choice.
The costumes are lush and as authentic as possible, the sets are brilliant and the writing sublime. In fact, screenwriter Michael Hirsh, (who did the Cate Blanchett "Elizabeth") takes great pains to point out in the press materials that he never wanted to do a TV series - but was given such a free hand that he couldn't resist.
We can't either.
As they might have said in Henry's time to his loyalist Thomas More, "More! More! More!"
Review by Linda Stasi, New York Post