Television drama through the ages

Television drama through the ages
Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes in The Kennedys, which received mixed reviews during its run.

THE TUDORS (2007-2010)

Stars: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Natalie Dormer, Maria Doyle Kennedy What: Created and written entirely by Michael Hirst, this series follows the life of the notorious King Henry VIII of England (Rhys Meyers), focusing on the early years of his four-decade reign in the 16th century.

Of course, being a story about King Henry VIII, many of his famous female companions are featured, such as Anne Boleyn (Dormer) and Catherine of Aragon (Kennedy).

The series, which was nominated for Best TV Drama at the 2007 Golden Globes, was described by the Hollywood Reporter as "a feast for the eyes" that "boasts stellar performances and a historically authentic aura".

Rhys Meyers also scored a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a TV Drama the same year.

THE BORGIAS (2011-2013)

Stars: Jeremy Irons, Holliday Grainger, Francois Arnaud, David Oakes

What: Created by Neil Jordan and executive produced by Hirst, this series is about the prominent Italian family, the Borgias, which produced two popes during the 15th and 16th centuries.

Acclaimed actor Irons plays the scheming head of the family, a clergyman who eventually becomes pope - but a scandalous one who also happens to enjoy the company of beautiful women.

The series was noted for its sumptuous costume and set design, top-notch performances and juicy storylines containing murder, power struggles and incest.


Stars: Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Barry Pepper, Tom Wilkinson

What: This star-studded mini-series chronicles the lives of the famed Kennedy family, with Kinnear in the lead as former American president John F. Kennedy and Holmes as First Lady Jacqueline.

It drew a lot of controversy over its historical inaccuracies until it was dropped by History channel for broadcast in the United States before it was picked up again by ReelzChannel.

Amid the brouhaha, it received mixed reviews.

The New York Times wrote: "This is a portrait of the Kennedy White House that is recognisable and respectful, and also prurient, giving equal weight to historic turning points and personal weaknesses.

It's well made and also at times unnecessarily cheesy."

SPARTACUS (2010-2013)

Stars: Andy Whitfield, Liam McIntyre (below), John Hannah

What: Follows the story of a gladiator named Spartacus (Whitfield, who was then replaced by McIntyre after he died of lymphoma), who famously led a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic from 73 to 71BC.

The show was noted for its explicit portrayals of sex and violence.

The New York Post wrote that the series was "beautifully filmed, engagingly good and filled with the most gorgeous men on TV", while the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that "there's no denying that stylised decapitations are entertaining, especially when accompanied by a generous helping of soft porn".

ROME (2005-2007)

Stars: Ray Stevenson (below left), Kevin McKidd (below right), Ciaran Hinds, Polly Walker

What: Set in Ancient Rome, this tells of the rise of Julius Caesar (Hinds) and his subsequent downfall.

Interestingly, the story is told from the point of view of two seemingly obscure Roman soldiers, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, men who were briefly mentioned in Caesar's historical first-hand account of the Gallic Wars, known as the Commentaries On The Gallic War (58 to 49BC).

The series won an Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects and Outstanding Costumes (2006) and also snagged a Golden Globe nomination for Best TV Drama (2005).

This article was first published on Mar 4, 2015.
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