DVD Review: The Tudors: Season One

The Tudors: Season One (Paramount)

Showtime's steamy, brawny and Golden Globe-nominated series based on the early reign of Henry VIII, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the young, virile and sexy king, dumps historical accuracy for a Henry VIII: The O.C. approach. Nonetheless, this four-disc box's ten one-hour episodes offer up sumptuous sets and costumes along with 16th-century court intrigue both political and religious (as if there's a difference then or now), power struggles, murder plots and plenty of yummy -- I mean, historically relevant -- graphic sex.

Although lascivious and arrogant Henry is married to his brother's widow, Katherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy), who has given him a daughter but no son as heir, his eye and other parts are aimed at Katherine's saucy, clever lady-in-waiting Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer). "Your neck, I love your neck," coos Henry to Anne in one of the show's many ironic self-aware lines. At season's end Anne is not yet the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, so she still has her head, but the coitus interruptus ploy she has just done on Henry leaves us guessing that she might not be getting a hat come Christmas.

Rhys Meyers is too underwear-model pretty and pouty to really convince us that he's the athletic, intelligent, cruel and sexually precocious young warrior-king -- but it's true that having his Henry remind us of Charles Laughton's is quite obviously not on the agenda. (How he'll stand in comparison to Eric Bana's interpretation in the upcoming film The Other Boleyn Girl will be determined soon enough.) The rest of the cast includes Sam Neill as cunning Cardinal Wolsey, Callum Blue as Henry's longtime friend Anthony Knivert, Jeremy Northam as Thomas More, Steven Waddington as the Duke of Buckingham, James Frain as the Earl of Essex, Gabrielle Anwar as Princess Margaret Tudor, and Kate O'Toole (Peter's daughter) as Lady Salisbury.

It's all a lavishly appointed and juicy soap opera in fancy dress, although not as meaty or compelling as HBO's template-setting Rome. But as a miniseries it improves somewhat on DVD, where you can enjoy the comforting throne of your couch, surround yourself with legs of mutton and obsequious hangers-on, and indulge in an all-day guilty-pleasure binge before deciding to form the Church of England.

Showtime's DVD presents The Tudors: Season One with an exceptional widescreen image and sound options of DD 5.1. and DD 2.0. The bonus features include behind-the-scenes featurettes, free episodes of Showtime's Californication, This American Life and Penn & Teller's Bullshit!, plus "more Showtime series episodes via N Technology," namely streaming video of the first two episodes of Dexter: Season Two.

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Mark Bourne