TV Listings | Boring Borgias

The best history can make the worst dramas. Look at this lot: Caligula, Henry VIII, Columbus, Pearl Harbour and the Crusades. Each of them a fascinating period of history, but on screen: turgid.

And you can add The Borgias to that list. The 1981 TV series bombed, and so does the 2011 version. It’s got adultery, rape, incest and murder, and yet it’s so dull. It even makes The Tudors look good.

“With writing and directing by Neil Jordan and [Jeremy] Irons in the lead, it has pedigree and promise,” noted Time. “And yet The Borgias, besides the glaring Tudors parallels, is one of those shows that seems like it might actually be better if it were worse.” To be fair, not all the reviews have been bad, and it has 7.9 on IMDB and 66 on Metacritic.

In contrast, the praise for Wonders of the Universe has been universal. Presented by science’s poster boy Brian Cox, according to the Independent it is “big on cosmic dazzlement and mind-boggling perspectives and full of epic orchestration and screen-saver graphics”. Then again Creationist Monthly thought it was “utter tosh”.

Among the other docs worth checking out are Pearl Jam Twenty (SV1, Sat 23:10), an acclaimed homage made by Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe; Paris – The Luminous Years (DRK, Tue 20:00), the documentary version of SV4, Thu 22:30 The BorgiasMidnight in Paris; Go Back to Where You Came From (SV2, Tue 20:00), which see journos pretending to be immigrants in Australia with alarming, if not predictable results; while Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip (SV2, Wed 18:00) looks at the same issue from the viewpoint of new US citizens.  

Elsewhere, Immodesty Blaize: Burlesque Undressed (DRK, Sat 23:15) is rather gratuitous; Nuclear Sharks (DR2, Tue 17:55) offers an interesting take on the Cold War; there’s another chance to see UK series Friday Night Dinner (SV1, Sun 22:50) and Luther (BBC Ent, Sun 20:00); there’s new seasons of Mad Dogs (SV1, Wed 21:30) and the UK version of Undercover Boss (SV1, Wed 22:50); and in preparation for the Olympics, The 100 Metres – Gold in Seconds (BBC World, Sat 16:10 or Sun 22:10) looks at how some spend a lifetime preparing for just one ten-second moment.