The Borgias TV Poster Image

The Borgias



Murder, religious corruption, sex reign in historical drama.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Corruption, dishonesty, and greed are overarching themes, seeping into both religion and politics. There's also subtle (historically accurate) racism against Jews and people of color, including Moors.

Positive role models

Everyone has an agenda, and that agenda is rarely altruistic. Even the pope -- who's supposed to be holy -- is duplicitous, taking mistresses, fathering illegitimate children, and ordering physical harm to others.


Blood flows as a result of sword fighting, murder, and torture. But there are bloodless acts of violence, too, including poisonings, suffocations, and neck-breakings.


Sexual content isn't constant, but it does include seduction, simulated sex, and male and female nudity. Other sexually charged topics range from rape, incest, and abortion to sexual fetishes and homosexuality.


Rare use of terms like "damn" and "hell." "Whore" is the iffiest insult.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking (wine, ale), but rarely to excess.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that violence and sex largely drive the plot of this 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.

Kids say

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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, The Borgias 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.

Families can talk 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 show 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?

TV details

Premiere date:April 3, 2011
Cast:Holliday Grainger, Jeremy Irons, Joanne Whalley
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byamylea December 9, 2012

The right questions are addressed.

Despite the initial review, I believe Lucrezia Borgia is a good role model for females as she stands up for what she believes in, showing a determined, headstrong woman. There is nothing wrong with having your own agenda. The questioning of religion is good as it strips back the glorified view of the papacy and shows that even those dedicated to a god can be corrupt.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educator and Parent of a 10, 13, and 15 year old Written byramccall67 August 8, 2015

Very Good Show, Not for kids......

i really liked this show. The acting was very good (Jeremy Irons)
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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