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Agree that this Excellent Series Was Under-Appreciated
A few days ago, I picked up Sarah Bradford's biography of Lucrezia Borgia from my sister's library to read on a plane trip. It rekindled my interest in viewing again a dusty, neglected tape, of the 1981 10-part BBC mini series, The Borgias, that A&E aired in 1985, which another family member taped for me, knowing that I love history and BBC drama. When I first viewed the series, in 1985, I thought it had good acting and production value but was a bit cheesy in its portrayal of some of the more seedy aspects of the reputed Borgia family skeletons. I did enjoy the way the series brought to life Renaissance Italy and the prominent Italian families and loved the commentaries by Renaissance historians and museum curators added by A&E.
Twenty-two years later (and as many years more seasoned) when I pulled out the tapes to view again of the series I had almost taped over several times, I was overjoyed that I had the miniseries intact. What a delight! The portrayal of the seedy aspects of the Borgias no longer seemed "cheesy," but a plausibly accurate interpretation of an audacious family's blatant disregard for conventions, societal limitations, and taboos, demonstrated in practically every aspect of their ambitious, larger-than-life actions. Having greater exposure to the entitlement attitudes of privileged, self-promoting families in politics and history, I now find the salacious aspects of the Borgias' story not only likely, but an intriguing part of the psychological whole. There are documented parallels in the families of the Egyptian rulers, the Roman Caesars and Virginia Woolfe, among others. Aside from my reevaluation of this previously disturbing aspect of the storyline, I found the portrayal of the political intrigues at the Vatican and among the prominent Italian families to be far more interesting subsequent to having traveled to some of the locales depicted. I agree with previous reviewers who have stated that the better you know your history, the more you appreciate this series.
With a few forgivable exceptions, the casting is perfect. "Rodrigo Borgia/Alexander VI" looks just like his portraits. "Cesare Borgia" looks like he stepped right out of his. "Lucrezia," "Giulia Farnese," and Alfonso D'Este also are convincingly portrayed. Vanozza Catanei and Sancia d'Aragon, strangely, are miscast as to appearance, a minor quibble as both are strong actresses.
I came online today to see if I could purchase a DVD of The Borgias as a Christmas present to the sister whose book I borrowed. While I was disappointed to find that the series is not available for purchase, I am delighted that my 1985 tape is in good shape. What a shame this series is not rebroadcast/available for purchase!
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