With The Tudors, Showtime seems determined to prove that Henry VIII and his courtly crowd had almost as much fun back in the sixteenth century as Octavian/Augustus and his Roman circus seem to be having on the HBO series Rome. We weren’t five minutes into the first hour of The Tudors before the first naked female breast appeared, followed shortly thereafter by jousting, squash, and bling. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, still best known as a television Elvis, plays a lean and hungry younger Henry, with boudoir eyes and a species of professional negligence that doesn’t protect him from the svelte machinations of Natalie Dormer’s Anne Boleyn. Sam Neill is Cardinal Wolsey, who wants too much to be a pope. Gabrielle Anwar is Princess Margaret Tudor, who will first marry and then poison the king of Portugal. Jeremy Northam is Sir Thomas More, a man for every season. In this trashy romp, there are almost as many divorces as there are beheadings.
Painkiller Jane, the new Sci Fi Channel series, is inspired by the Jimmy Palmiotti–Joe Quesada comic book of the same name, about a young woman for whom, ever since the death of her mother, pain has been if not a friend, then at least a catalyst into another world where she can hide while her wounds heal. Even more inspired is the casting of Kristanna Loken in the title role, whom you may recall as the indestructible blonde in Terminator 3. Here she has grown up to become a DEA agent until a secret government task force conscripts her into their private war against “Neuros,” an underground of genetically enhanced freaks with superpower psychic abilities who conspire to do … what? Nobody knows for sure, but it can’t be good.
Since the anti-“Neuro” task force seems unusually incompetent, Jane—whether she is thrown out of a skyscraper window on the 46th floor or ventilated by a fusillade of bullets in the course of a police-station invasion—is fortunate that somehow, mysteriously, she regenerates her broken parts, after which she can go forth whole again to shoot microchips at the telepathic “aberrants.” To these tasks, in alleyways, elevators, bedrooms, and graveyards, Loken brings a bad attitude and a deep-pore cleansed complexion. She is almost worth watching for her Teflon self alone.