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The Borgias is a Showtime drama set in late 15th century Rome. The specific focus of the show concerns Rodrigo Borgias' ascent to the papacy and his efforts to stay in power through the turbulent events of the period.

The show commences in 1492, the year that Alexander VI became Pope. Of course, most people will also recognize that year as the same in which Columbus discovered the New World. This date therefore provides an easy connection to the historical timeline that most people can easily relate to. Once Borgia becomes Alexander VI, the saga begins, and the show describes the machinations made to maintain Alexander six on the throne. This is a difficult and sometimes brutal history, and those that are familiar with this history will not be surprised at the events that unfold in the subsequent episodes. The show is largely historically accurate, both in the broad brush strokes and also in some of the minute details.

There is little reason to repeat the expensive information that has already been written about this series including the specific detail covered in each episode. We can easily echo, however, the extremely high-quality production values of the show. We can also echo the view that the acting in the show is extremely well done. As companies like Showtime and HBO and Netflix continue to make extremely lush, well-developed dramas, we see that this move has now become the pinnacle of television production at this current time, one that is now rivaling, and sometimes, surpassing full screen movies. This is also the case with The Borgias. This is a show that is supremely well done, and it shows in every scene. The art sets, the costumes, the colors, the settings, and on and on are superbly well done. In fact, it seems we are watching here something of a quality level that would not even normally be seen in a full screen movie.

The acting, of course, is of greatest importance, and we see with an outstanding cast including Jeremy Irons that the cast are up to every bit of the task and make the story come alive on the screen. It has been rumored that the show cost Showtime approximately $2.5 million per episode to make. That runs out to roughly $25 million per season. When you watch the show on a high definition television BluRay player, you can see where some of that money was spent. The show is lush, lavish, and it makes one marvel at how such shows are being made today. Filming was carried out primarily in Hungary, and there is some use of CGI and certain scenes, but these are barely noticeable, and in fact sometimes are not noticeable at all. The architectural backgrounds to many of the scenes are simply superb, even when they are CGI.

The Borgias had a loyal following for the first three seasons on Showtime. However, in a trend that we have heard all too often before, ratings were not as high as Showtime had hoped, particularly in Season Three. The show was originally slated for a four season run, but because the ratings were slightly disappointing in Season Three, Showtime decided to cancel the series at the end of the third season. This means that the planned Season Four of The Borgias does not exist, and likely will never be made. (This is not unlike the situation that occurred with the critically acclaimed show Boss, starring Kelsey Grammer, which was canceled after two seasons because of low ratings, but was considered to be one of the best drama shows put on television in recent memory.) But in spite of the disappointment that no Season Four is to be made, this is no reason not to watch The Borgias and to follow those first three seasons as they are made. (The same is true of Boss, as well; watching its first two seasons can be an amazing experience, in spite of the truncated ending of the show.)

The Borgias is an excellent historical drama that will help you to learn much about the period, and the papacy of Alexander the sixth. It has some difficult scenes, but the show has seemingly done a reasonable job of attempting to portray the story without making it so consistently brutal that one would not wish to watch it. Watching the show in Blu-ray format with a high-definition television can provide some of the sharpest clearest and most colorful presentations that we've ever seen.

This is an easy five-star recommendation for anyone enjoying historical dramas, or for those interested in the period.
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on May 22, 2014
This series I bought from Amazon, but seasons 2 and 3 I have actually seen on TV. As it turned out, in my opinion (because the series has ended now) it was a down played spin off of "THE TUDORS". I'm not particularly into the Renaissance, but the history of the Catholic Church during that time does intrigue me.

I have tried not to compare it to THE TUDORS, but I didn't succeed there. Like THE TUDORS the actors and actresses were all first rate, excellent actors and actresses. Jeremy Irons is a living legend and the most known of the cast. Colm Fiore is an excellent actor, and the rest of the cast was no less radiant. The sets and costumes were spectacular without a doubt.

But unlike THE TUDORS, THE BORGIAS series still lacked "something". I want to say that it didn't have quite the same sexual tension and intrigue that THE TUDORS had. And, I want to say that the cast of THE TUDORS was just a "little bit better". JRM almost "over acts" as Henry 8th, but his sex appeal and magnetism makes that series. And quite frankly, THE TUDORS was in no short supply of beautiful people.

The only thing that made me uncomfortable was the season ending. I won't mention exactly what made me uncomfortable because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn't yet seen the whole thing, but I will say, I felt that the series ended rather quickly and abruptly. Over all though, it was a very fine series.
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on January 11, 2014
This is great entertainment. Jeremy Irons is absolutely great playing the role of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia who becomes Pope Alexander VI. He was the perfect choice to play a man who is brilliant, politically astute, ambitious, lusty, and strategically places members of his family in the various illustrious families of Italy through arranged marriages. I have read several books on the Borgia family and their rise to power and this series, whereas it takes some liberties with the actual facts, for the most part reveals the power dynamics of the Italian peninsula. If anyone wishes to read a short, accurate summary of the Renaissance papacy of Alexander VI, I would suggest the chapter on the Borgias in Will Durant’s book, The Renaissance.

The film is all about power politics even if there are passages around sexual affairs and the rivalries and tensions within the Borgia family. The Papal States were those lands that belonged to the Papacy and that fell between Tuscany, often ruled by the Medici; the Marshes, often ruled by the Sforza family; and the Kingdom of Naples. The rural Papal States were often actually dominated by feudal dukes who had only tentative allegiance to the papacy. Rome was dominated by a range of noble families, such as the Orsini, and all of the major families had relatives who were cardinals, the princes of the Church, and thus were contenders to become pope.

The Borgia family was actually Catalan and Rodrigo Borgia had a mistress and children when his uncle, a pope, named him as a cardinal and he came to Rome. At age 26 he was the vice-chancellor of the papacy, which means he was in charge of the entire curia around the world. This is the second most powerful position in the Vatican. He must have been a superb manager and politician to survive the infighting within the Vatican and after 30 years become Pope Alexander VI.

Alexander VI begins to make political alliances, sealed with the marriages of his children, to build a network of allies to support his papacy. In this way he acts as any secular prince. However, Durant’s book points out the evidence that Alexander VI was also a religious man. This series depicts Alexander as a Christian despite his considerable skills at consolidating power. Jeremy Irons is beyond fantastic at being able to show the multiple facets of this fascinating character from history.

The series also depicts the rivalry between Alexander VI and Cardinal Della Rovere (who later becomes Pope Julius II who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel). Colm Feore plays this role very well since he must play a man of God who also has considerable political skills and sees the Borgia family as an insult on the Papacy and thus sees himself as the necessary antidote to their excesses.

Alexander VI had an illegitimate son, Cesare Borgia, who he makes into a Cardinal. However history tells us that Cesare had considerable military skills. This is not explored in the first season of the series and we see Cesare struggling to implement the duties of a Prince of the Church while having an affair with a married woman and having to endure his braggadocios younger brother Juan with whom the Pope has placed the responsibility of military protection of the Papacy and Vatican. Francois Arnaud plays the role well of a smart but passionate man whose loyalty to his father is strained and tested often.

Younger son Juan is played well by David Oakes but a major role has been assigned to daughter Lucrezia, played by Holliday Grainger. In fact, the disastrous first marriage of Lucrezia is a major theme in the first season. We know from history that Lucrezia Borgia was a complex and highly intelligent character. In the first season we begin to see the emergence of her diplomatic skills. The costumes, settings, and other details are very well done. Italian politics was complex and the script actually honors this with a mix of characters from Machiavelli from Florence to the invasion of Charles of France.

I strongly recommend this first season. It is intelligent and well made. Where it may at times play with historic fact, for the most part it sticks to the historic outline of events.
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on February 3, 2014
Showtime produced three seasons of episodes of "The Borgias" and now they are all available, on DVD or on Blu-Ray.
My biggest single complaint would have to be why they couldn't spend a few extra dollars to put subtitles on the discs.
It's not that much to ask but no, none of them have subtitles.

The series is based on the actual history of the Borgia family, at the time when one of them was Pope Alexander VI,
during the Renaissance (including what was dubbed the "Jubilee" year 1500 AD). Some characters are omitted/
compressed/altered a bit, in the interest of keeping the cast of characters limited enough to maintain interest in all
of them, but all of the significant characters in the series were real people and did the kinds of things that are
depicted.

Most of it is filmed in Hungary but one can believe that the Vatican is the main setting. The costuming is (as usual
in lavish period pieces) exquisitely beautiful, depicting more or less what royalty and nobility of the time would
have looked like, and the architecture is equally splendid. The story depicts a family of enormous ambition and
unscrupulous means, but then pretty much everyone in a position of power seems to have been much the same.

There is much discreet depiction of sexual encounters, usually with partial nudity (at least once, in season 3 there
is full frontal male nudity but never full female); some swearing, and lots of fighting (both person-to-person and
in larger battles) but without gratuitous gore. Episodes of torture are depicted well enough to know what is
going on, but without dwelling on them overly long. One does become attached to the characters, despite all
their flaws. In the end I think it makes a well-told story; one which shows no purely good nor purely evil characters,
but people as they were, some mixture of the two. Learn some history the EASY way, with eye candy.
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There is probably very little I can say which has not already been said by many reviewers, so I will not bother with details much, and only give my visceral reaction. My first impression is that Jeremy Irons is about as good as you would expect him to be. And, there is a sense that he must be, because the Borgia pope is not the character about whom we hear the most in our brief encounters with history. We hear much about Lucrezia Borgia and a bit less about Cesare Borgia, but not so much about Rodrigo, who became Pope Alexander VI. The actors playing Cesare and Lucretia are not well known, but Derek Jacobi makes his obligatory appearance in a few early scenes to bring attention to the cardinals who were willing to murder Rodrigo. By far the most interesting character, by his being familiar to us from his writing, is Niccolo Machiavelli, a senior advisor to the powerful de Medici family of Florence.

For some reason, it took a long time to sort out all the characters. That may be because most of them were cardinals with similar sounding Italian names. It was hard to remember which were the allies of Rodrigo, and which were his enemies. The story seems relatively ingrown for a number of episodes until two events in the middle and the end of the season. The first is the marriage of Lucrezia Borgia to an important noble for political gain. This takes the scene out of Rome for a bit. The second is when the French king, Charles VIII and his army enter the story. But unlike "I, Claudius" and parts of the series "Rome", none of the characters seem to rise into the realm of "larger than life". With the possible exception of Rodrigo, who seems bored half the time, these characters of lore seem totally human.
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on May 26, 2015
One of the very best historical series EVER. I have watched all three seasons twice now. It never gets old. Francois Arnaud is the BEST as Cesare! Steamy fast paced, never boring. After a while the actors really clicked and I felt they really were The Borgias. Jeremy Irons does a stunning job as the pope and even in some racy scenes he is believable. Too bad this ended with season 3 and I look forward to seeing Francois Arnaud again in another series hopefully.
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on January 11, 2012
There is something mysterious to me about what makes a teleplay great. This series covers a period of history that is fascinating. The story it tells is fascinating. Many of the performances are truely inspired. I am glad I watched it, but there is something wrong with it that means I won't go back and watch it again.
For me that is the deciding factor between ok and really good. Repeat watchability.

I don't really know what it is that makes it less than it could have been. Maybe we should have gotten to know and care about the family a little before the intrique started. Its the difference between watching what happens and actually caring what happens - thats the thing.

The Cesare character is flat, wooden, and at times painful to watch. Lucrecia gets better and better as the story moves forward. I rather like Jeremy Irons performance. There are so many gem-like performances in the rest of the cast I couldn't list them all.
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on February 12, 2018
Like many of these historical drama's the Borgias marginally accurate, which is understandable given the amount of ground they must cover in hour-long episodes that span longer periods of time. Personally, the Tudors and Rome were more entertaining and had the better acting. The Borgias drags a bit and the acting was just OK.
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on August 12, 2012
I had heard about this series but did not have the time to watch the whole thing on Cable, so I downloaded Season One of "The Borgias" to my Kindle and have been watching it at my leisure. The storyline is fascinating and I think the actors are all very well cast in their parts. I love history, but as a serious student of primarily United States History, I dont know how historically accurate this series is? But I DO know that I'm enjoying every episode thus far. What a truly ruthless family the Borgia's were! They will do anything to get and keep their power, and yes, poison is one of their favorite methods. The acting is super and I love the rich, elaborate costumes and beautiful historic settings for this series. I do plan on purchasing Season 2 of this series after I watch all of Season One.
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on April 2, 2013
Aside from some historical silliness that did add to the entertainment (e.g., chained cannon balls at that time period or fooling an army with plaster canons), this is one of the best series of its genre ever to hit television. I did not think anything could top The Tudors, but this one actually does! Storyline is just plain addictive, cast very appealing (to both sexes), and acting, directing & cinematography all superb. The European series is also good, but just not comparable for its entertainment value or for its cast/acting/directing. A must-watch for anyone who enjoys this genre (and many who normally do not)...can't wait for season 3!
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