• Publication date: March 24, 2010

Passion & Ambition Grip England Showtime Hits Back With A Steamy Costume Drama

In response to HBO�s popular historical series �Rome�(2005-2007), rival cable network Showtime developed their own period piece, based on the most captivating figure of the Tudor Dynasty.

In response to HBO�s popular historical series �Rome�(2005-2007), rival cable network Showtime developed their own period piece, based on the most captivating figure of the Tudor Dynasty.

Henry VIII, King of England during the 16th Century, has been a popular dramatic subject dating back to the days of Shakespeare. A fiery and savage ruler, King Henry had by the end of his reign executed nearly 70,000 people, including two of his six wives. The lasting political achievements of his legacy, including England�s split with the Roman Catholic Church and the crown�s taking possession of monastic lands, were at their root primarily a product of his obsessive desire to find a wife who could provide him with a male heir.

With their series �The Tudors� (2007-present), Showtime set out to streamline the political details and magnify all that was violent and salacious. So while the settings and costumes are wonderfully evocative of the time period, the focus is clearly on Henry's interest in the opposite sex, and how his personal interests intrude on his duties as a monarch.

The format was clearly a success. Drawing in nearly a million viewers, the first episode was the network's most watched show in three years. The series was subsequently brought back for an additional three seasons.

Season one begins with Henry threatening to go to war with France. His ambitious and deceitful Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey (Sam Neill) � who has his eyes on the papacy of Rome � advises him to avoid a conflict and propose a peace treaty. But while dealing with this, Henry also faces a threat domestically in the form of the resentful Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham has designs on the throne, and plots an assassination of the king. However, the duke errs in confiding his plan to Thomas Boleyn, who is closely associated with Henry. One of Thomas' daughters, Anne (Natalie Dormer), especially catches the king's eye.

A later brush with death then pushes the king, whose wife Queen Catherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy) has only bore him one daughter, even further in his obsession to secure a male heir. Henry is partly relieved when he receives news that Lady Elizabeth Blount, lady-in-waiting to the Queen, has given birth to his illegitimate son. Still, he is consumed by dissatisfaction with his marriage, and his increasing desire for Anne Boleyn.

Henry's attempts to seek an annulment of his marriage with Catherine from the Catholic Church are not as successful as he had planned. Lord Chancellor Wolsey's position becomes increasingly tenuous as Henry's patience with the Pope begins to run short. Overcome with his feelings for Anne, the power-crazed Henry acts to boldly remove the obstacles that stand in his way.

The highly successful series was given a Golden Globe nomination for Best Drama Series in 2007. Jonathan Rhys Meyers also received recognition with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Television Drama.