My original reaction to this series was acerbic (see below). But now that I have watched all 4 seasons of The Tudors, I believe it’s worth sticking it out. It grows on you. The characters grow deeper and more complex. I actually learned a lot about the period, especially what turns out to be the very significant religious clashes of the time. The series does well in showing how each queen made her mark in history. So despite my original review, I’ve decided it’s worth some eye rolling to see the history of King Henry VII’s reign come alive.
Although I’m a fan of many of the actors in The Tudors, this series has left me cold. The true story of Henry VIII is already dramatic enough, but the writing for this show cheapens the drama to the level of tawdry soap opera. The most eye-rolling scenes are written to give the king, portrayed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, a chance to remove his shirt (you can decide whether or not that recommends the show to you).
One positive standout from Season 1 is the acting of Maria Doyle Kennedy, who plays Queen Catherine of Aragon. Although her lines in Spanish can be a bit painful, she is otherwise completely convincing in her role as the jilted but always morally upright and noble queen.
There is a share of touching and true moments, but they are usually drowned out by the display of costume changes, bacchanalias, gratuitous piety, and dubious demonstrations of Tudor minutiae.
If you enjoy this time period in general, I’d recommend The Borgias. It has all the intrigue with far more compelling writing and acting, not to mention gorgeous sets and costumes. The cinematography makes the show, cemented by a beautiful soundtrack.