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.