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 this pay-cable series has plenty of graphic sex and violence. Some of the sex is particularly explicit and only barely hides actual penetration. For example, one scene shows a young man thrusting vigorously into a young woman from behind when her father bursts into the room (he later hits her across the face, bloodying her nose). Several scenes show topless women and views of naked men from behind. There are also violent scenes of murder, and men are wounded in fights and athletic events. The plot revolves around complicated political intrigue and is neck-deep in deception, treason, affairs, and bargaining with people's lives. Women are largely background figures.
What's the story?
THE TUDORS chronicles an exciting time in British history when King Henry VIII was young and vibrant, and (at least when the series begins) before he beheaded any of his wives. Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as England's legendary king -- a sexy, brooding royal with a quick temper, an athletic nature, and a desire to be immortalized. He sleeps with handmaidens, hunts game ferociously, and jousts theatrically. His poor wife, Katherine (Maria Doyle Kennedy), struggles to maintain his attention and assert a modicum of control over their daughter Mary's fate.
Is it any good?
Though the fact that it airs on a pay-cable channel allows The Tudors to be extraordinarily sexy and violent, the approach to the plot feels like something we've seen before, perhaps on public television or a mainstream period film. Unlike Rome -- in whose footsteps The Tudors is clearly following -- the series looks at the politics of the day from the top down, which is a perspective many viewers are already familiar with. The handmaiden the king impregnates is silenced; the children hardly speak; and the folks who tend to drive the action are the king and his closest advisors. Altogether the series is good enough and may eventually develop into something more than the sum of its parts, but viewers might not feel as passionately about The Tudors as its characters do about sex, violence, and politics.
The cast is marvelously peppered with character actors -- like Sam Neill as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and James Frain as Thomas Cromwell -- and, overall, the acting is good (if a bit exaggeratedly Shakespearian at times). That said, the problem with seeing so many familiar faces is that it can be distracting to recall where you've seen them before.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about period pieces. What's appealing about costume dramas? What would be a different way of telling a familiar historical tale like this one?
Are there any similarities between today's politics and those of Britain in the 1500s? How accurate do you think the show is, from a historical perspective? Was there really this much constant sex and violence?
Did anything you saw surprise you? How could you find out more about the period if you wanted to? What are the benefits and drawbacks about learning history through TV shows and movies?
For kids who love dramas
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.