'Tudors': History Stripped Down, Sexed Up

Some object to Showtime's sexy portrayal of Henry VIII's reign.

ByABC News
March 28, 2008, 4:30 PM

March 29, 2008 — -- In a time when courting is conducted through text messages and marriages are annulled at the drop of a Vegas poker chip, it's refreshing to watch Jonathan Rhys Meyers whisper sweet nothings during naughty dalliances and and enlist the pope's aid to get with the woman of his dreams.

The only problem is, the story "The Tudors" tells isn't what actually went down in 16th century England. It's history stripped down and sexed up in stiletto heels and glitter.

"It's cracking good drama, but as a historian, my hair's standing on end," said Alison Weir, author of "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" and the upcoming "Lady Elizabeth." "I think it's misplaced, to be honest. It's sloppy filmmaking. Historically, forget it, this is not what happened."

The Showtime series about the early reign of Henry VIII returns for a second season of bodice ripping and head chopping Sunday night.

There's no doubt that Meyers, who plays the power-hungry king, and Natalie Dormer, who plays the porcelain-skinned Anne Boleyn, provide some pretty sweet eye candy. And with its regal costumes and opulent sets, "The Tudors" is one of the most visually arresting shows on TV.

But the show clearly favors flair over facts, according to some, to its detriment.

"For a program to be made with integrity, it has to take account of the facts," Weir said. "Not one female costume in there is correct for the period. It's so off the mark it's laughable. They're like fairy-tale costumes."

"There's some damn good acting," she continued. "But Jonathan Rhys Meyers should've been made to look like Henry VIII -- he needed a wig, they should've aged him, he should've put on a bit of weight. It's such a missed opportunity. They have all the resources -- why get some things right and not others?"

Oh, come on -- this is TV, not Reformation England 101. You're supposed to watch and enjoy, not analyze and take notes. At least that's how Michael Hirst, creator, executive producer and writer of "The Tudors'" feels about it.