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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that violence and sex largely drive the plot of The Borgias. It's an adult-oriented costume drama that's loosely based on the exploits of a real-life "crime family," although sex often plays more of a secondary role. Language is comparatively tame, with rare use of words like "damn" and "hell," and social drinking takes place mostly in the background. The overall messages are that political power is gained only through corruption and that religion isn't necessarily sacred.
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What's the story?
Based on a notorious real-life family of the Italian Renaissance, THE BORGIAS charts the rise of ambitious patriarch Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons), a cunning Spanish-born cardinal who seizes power for himself -- and his children -- when he's elected to the papacy in 1492. With dutiful sons Cesare (François Arnaud) and Juan (David Oakes) standing at the ready and a pair of mistresses (Joanne Whalley and Lotte Verbeek) to please, Rodrigo turns his attention to marrying off his younger children, Lurezia (Holliday Grainger) and Joffre (Aidan Alexander), and securing the family's political fortunes.
Is it any good?
Thanks to a painstakingly scripted two-episode back story that lays the groundwork for political power plays to come, this series takes a while to get going. So if you tune in expecting a reincarnation of the sizzling Showtime costume drama The Tudors, The Borgias might feel like a letdown. That's not to say it fails to entertain; it just does so in a completely different way.
Whereas The Tudors served up graphic sex and passion with a side of violence, The Borgias largely flips the script, marketing Rodrigo and his offspring as "the original crime family." (The same family, incidentally, that features prominently in the adults-only video game Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.) That means carnage tends to outshine copulation, although sex still plays a provocative role.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how important violence is to the plot. Have the violent acts depicted on the show been exaggerated for the sake of entertainment, based on the information you can find about the real-life Borgias? To what degree does The Borgias take liberties with historical facts?
Does it surprise you to learn that a man who could be pope also had mistresses and fathered children? How do different religions and cultures deal with sexuality?
Is the show sending a message about religion or the Catholic Church? If so, what?