Versailles (2015 TV Series – BBC Two, Canal+)

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Finally, streaming on Amazon is Versailles.  The first three episodes are up to devour.  New episodes are posted weekly.  Is it worth the $2.99 per episode (first one free with Prime)?   Episode 1  Absolutely.

Versailles begins in 1667 with the 28-year old King Louis XIV on the throne. Tired of Paris, he wishes to remove himself and build his kingdom palace at Versailles, which was once a hunting lodge.

The series introduces you into the maturing young king as he attempts to control the nobility who are against him and establish his power in France.  As any other reign, his bid for supremacy is threatened by those who would overthrow him.  The life at court is filled with the usual intrigue that includes those loyal and those disloyal to the throne.

What makes this show work for me is George Blagden, who plays the young Louis XIV. He is the center stage in the entire production, playing a convincing role of a young monarch who is coming into his own among the wolves who surround him. At first, he appears unsure of himself, and then as time progressives, he shows that he can be as ruthless as his enemies, tender as any lover, and merciful when it’s to his advantage.  Blagden is a convincing monarch and a perfect choice for the role.screen-shot-2016-08-10-at-1_47_17-pm

The costumes are lavish, the settings rich with grandeur, and the story believable though probably not one hundred percent historically accurate.

My only caution is beware of the over-the-top sexual scenes including the king’s affairs with his mistresses and occasional intercourse with this wife. On the other side of the coin, there are homosexual scenes involving the king’s brother, Philippe, Duke of Orleans, played by Alexander Vlahos. Sex is not a silent subject in this production.

You might find this article and interview with George Blagden by The Guardian of interest on the filming.

The rugged heartthrob is about to be very big indeed – after landing the part of the spiffily dressed Sun King in this scandalous tale of sex, violence, and sublime shoes

Source: George Blagden on dressing up for Versailles: ‘Heels do wonders for your confidence!’ | Television & radio | The Guardian

The violence so far as been tame in comparison to other shows. It appears most of the intrigue is in the king’s court and in the bed of the women he makes loves to, siring all sorts of children in his lifetime.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a good period drama, I suggest you tune in and watch Versailles. It’s enjoyable indeed to see the lavish lives of royalty before their subsequent generations lost their heads on the guillotine.

Banished (BBC Two 2015)

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Banished  has been banished after one season, which has just been my latest weekend binge watching.  I’ve got bills to pay – books to write – laundry to do, and I’ve been stuck in my new Lazy Boy recliner going through the episodes.  Then, on top of spending all that time getting into the series, I find out that Banished was banished after one season!  What the heck?

I had little historical knowledge about convicts from England being shipped across the world to remote places to do their time — whether short or long. I’ve probably heard it mentioned in passing, but it was definitely not a subject in my history books in grade school.

The series Banished is set in 1788 when Britain established a penal colony in Australia.  The colony is large, over one thousand condemned men and women, guarded by a mere one hundred Royal Navy guards and officers.  The show focuses on a small group among the many and their struggles to survive in the harsh environment with little food and nowhere to run.  It’s labor camp of sorts, where men do the work and women cook and end up sexual partners for the soldiers.  Must keep the ranks happy and satisfied.

The story line is harsh, where the Royal Navy looks upon the prisoners as the scum of England and whores to be had.  Nevertheless, underneath the exterior are characters and lives that bring you into the emotional story.  It is a well-acted, well-cast, and a well-written show that died an untimely death.  I particularly enjoyed seeing Joseph Millson in his role as Major Ross – a somewhat unlikable officer with a very fragile and needy ego underneath.

I saw Joseph on stage millsonin London twice in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies, the Phantom of the Opera Sequel, playing Raoul. The role was similar, in that he played a disgruntled and unhappy man. Unfortunately, I missed grabbing him at the stage door and getting his autograph.  Joseph is particularly good in Banished, and it’s a pleasure to see him on screen.

Other characters that are likable include David Wenham who plays the often swayed 1st Governor of New South Wales, who is doing his best to start a colony of misfits in the new world.  There are bullies and other characters that pull at your emotions when you learn of their past and their current struggles to survive. Love, loyalty, bravery, cowardice, religion, and lust play an integral part in this emotional tale.

Unfortunately, the last episode of Season One doesn’t bring this tale to culmination, and frankly, it’s a shame.  I would have like to see it progress at least another season or two.

BBC Two, what were you thinking?  Apparently, you weren’t.  It was quite criminal to cancel this show, and you should be banished.  And the worse part is that you didn’t even offer me a tissue to make it through the last emotional heart-wrenching episode.

If you’re interested in reading the real history of this 1788 penal colony, here is information from This Day In History.