The Borgias: Popes Behaving Badly

Showtime was nice enough to send me an advance screener of ‘The Borgias,’ a new series premiering April 3, 2011, at 9 PM. I guess this is Showtime’s replacement for ‘The Tudors,’ and it’s a fascinating look at the Italian Renaissance period, which apparently, was filled with all sorts of colorful characters. Word has is that Mario Puzo based ‘The Godfather’ on this family.

Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia, a.k.a The Pope / Showtime

The show takes place in the 1490s and stars Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia, a Cardinal who in the first episode schemes (i.e. buys) his way into the revered role of the Pope. After watching this episode, it’s clear I’m really naïve about this whole Pope business.

Raised a Methodist, I know a little here and there about Catholicism, but I had no idea that Popes could be conniving and ruthless, sometimes used their position for unholy purposes, and made night-time sojourns to fornicate with women who weren’t their wives. At least, that’s the story with Rodrigo Borgia, who by the way, was a real person in the 1400s. You can read more about him and his legacy here.

The woman he bedded down in the first episode was Giulia Farnese (Lotte Verbeek), much to the chagrin of his wife Vannozza (Joanne Whalley). Hey, I’d be ticked, too, if my husband shunned me so he could be “chaste for God,” only to find out he got horizontal with the first woman who crossed his path. He even moved her in next door, after the Cardinal who formerly lived there was poisoned at a Papal celebration. Conveniently built tunnels give the Pope an easy route to her bedroom; unfortunately, he forgot to consider the idea that chamber maids do talk.

Holliday Grainger (Lucrezia) and Francois Arnaud (Cesare) / Showtime

Yep, ‘The Borgias’ is a regular Papal soap opera filled with sex, lies, betrayal, and murder. We also meet the Pope’s two sons, right-hand man Cesare (Francois Arnaud) and loose cannon Juan (David Oakes), as well as his beautiful 14-year-old daughter Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger), who seems weirdly close to Cesare. Like, too close.

The series is shot at  Korda Studios in Hungary, and with all the marble and tapestry and pillars, you’d swear it was shot at the Vatican, rather than an elaborately constructed soundstage. Kudos to production designer Francois Seguin.

I can’t wait to see what happens next, but until April 3, we’ll have to satisfy our curiosity with the tons of videos, photos and info on the show’s official site. It’s Showtime, so expect plenty of sex and nudity and other stuff kids shouldn’t be looking at. Definitely TV for Grownups. Here’s a look at the trailer…





  1. Alexandra Avatar

    I will really look forward to this one. It will be fun to see Jeremy Irons in that role. Thanks for the heads-up.

  2. Stephanie - Wasabimon Avatar

    I’m obsessed with religious history, so The Borgias is right up my alley. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Stephanie - Wasabimon Avatar

    Also, did a bit of digging and found this:

    Apparently it’s a semi-rehash.

  4. Los Angeles Maids Avatar

    I can imagine ‘The Borgias’ is a regular Papal soap opera filled with sex, lies, betrayal, and murder. I think it’s a nice series. Something which will teach me history I have never heard of.

  5. […] updates on this topic. I’ve been gleefully anticipating the new Showtime series ‘The Borgias.’ It looked great anyway, but I was hoping to replace another favorite show, ‘The […]

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