What made the first season of The Tudors so enjoyable, besides premium-cable nudity, was that Henry VIII and his friends all behaved as if they were in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. This seemed right. (So, in the bloody bygone days of The Iliad, must antique Greeks have thrown their weight around like surly Sopranos.) Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s Henry was not going to grow up to be a nice guy, whether or not the Reformation was a good idea. And the Reformation is what this equally entertaining second season is about, plus ditching the brunette, Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer), in favor of the blonde, Jane Seymour (Anita Briem). Joining a cast that seems to be having more fun every week is Peter O’Toole, merely a bishop in the CBS mini-series Joan of Arc, but graduating here to Pope.
Sense and Sensibility
With this dramatization of the first of her novels to be published, we are done at last with Jane Austen as rendered by Masterpiece. All six of them (plus a biopic of her life) have been gracing public television since January, and this edition provides the usual intelligence, wit, and charm. The Dashwood girls—Hattie Morahan plays sensible Elinor, Charity Wakefield her impulsive sister Marianne—sort out their late-eighteenth-century prospects with more help from Andrew Davies’s able screenplay than from their own fuzzy mother (Janet McTeer). Nothing shameful here, but nothing either to prize it above Ang Lee’s marvelous 1995 version. This new Sense is, in fact, somewhat of a drag: In so harried a time, the search for a husband seems less a heroic quest than a mundane stalk.