In which we’re all about the drama

So last month we finally broke down and subscribed to a few premium channels. Since then it’s been BINGEAPALOOZA. We’ve watched BLACK SAILS, THE WHITE QUEEN, season four of GAME OF THRONES, and THE MUSKETEERS. (We have yet to start OUTLANDER, and PENNY DREADFUL and THE KNICK will have to wait.)

And after binge-watching four series, all I can say is: SO MANY BOOBS. Seriously. It’s been weeks of nothing but swords and nipples on our television. Luckily, we saved THE MUSKETEERS for last because it ended up being a sorbet of a show, delightfully palate-cleansing with significantly less cleavage and violence than the other three. I’m sure y’all know by now prudery is not one of my faults, but there are only so many breasts and so many heads being split like melons before it all gets a bit YAWN. It honestly took me three episodes of THE MUSKETEERS before I realized I had seen nary a nip–it was charmingly tame.

Verdicts on the shows:

BLACK SAILS: I adore Toby Stephens and he’s getting his teeth into the role of pirate-with-a-secret in this one. John Silver and Jack Rackham are a hoot to watch, both of them providing a bit of MUCH needed comedic relief at times. There are some strong women characters, but the storylines are grabbing at rape like it’s the very last plot device life-raft after the ship went down. Seriously, there are OTHER THINGS you can menace women with. And I want the set designer to come redecorate my house like the bordello–all peeling plaster and wrought iron and candles.

THE WHITE QUEEN: I confess, I forwarded through one entire subplot because I just couldn’t. Okay, maybe I forwarded through two or three. To enjoy this one, you have to forget everything you actually know about the Wars of the Roses and just approach it as a costume drama peopled by folks with familiar names. I VASTLY appreciated the complexity of Richard III’s character, although I’m pretty damned sure he wasn’t getting busy in his tent with Elizabeth of York the night before Bosworth. And if you’re filming a hot love scene, check the lighting to make sure it’s not highlighting hairy man ass. Because no one needs to see that. On the plus side, JANET MCTEER. That deserves all caps because the woman is magic. Her voice is utterly hypnotic. I’m convinced if she sat down warring factions, she could broker peace just by opening her mouth.

GAME OF THRONES: We were late to the party this season, and I even knew what happened to Oberyn before I saw it, but watching his head get ripped apart like a ripe cantaloupe was a bit much. Okay, it was a LOT much. I went full-on girl and threw my head into my husband’s shoulder and begged him to tell me when it was over. It didn’t do much good–I still got to hear the squelching sounds. Either you’re on board with GoT or not. I enjoy the chess match going on amongst the major players, especially Olenna Tyrell. I want HER for my sigil.

THE MUSKETEERS: I admit, I have a soft spot for this one. It’s a BBC production, not a premium channel offering, so it’s giving considerably less in the way of sex and violence which is FINE, REALLY. The musketeers are ridiculously good-looking, and the chemistry amongst them is exceptional. They’re not slavishly following the books, and they’re being thoughtful about where they make changes. (Casting a mixed race actor to play Porthos is a particularly brilliant nod to Dumas’ own heritage.) And I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see some attempt at giving more power to the women, especially Constance. Having her fence with a villain while Aramis has to stand by and hold a baby? BRILLIANT. Their King Louis is utterly fatuous and completely perfect, but my favorite scenes are those where the Cardinal and Captain Treville snarl at each other. (It’s going to be interesting to see how the series plays without Peter Capaldi’s delicious evil next season since he’s left them to take up the role of the latest Doctor Who.)

Without Showtime, we’re giving PENNY DREADFUL a pass until it comes out on DVD, and THE KNICK is going to have to wait until I can gear up for another seriously bloody premium series. We’ll settle down to watch OUTLANDER in a few weeks–once I can bear to hear swords again. What about you, chickens? What are YOU watching the way of historical dramas?


17 thoughts on “In which we’re all about the drama”

  1. Suzanne says:

    I have been grounded the past few weeks with a particularly bad bout of bronchitis, so I used the time to park myself in front of the TV and watch some old historical series that I have been wanting to see for ages. The first was The Forsyte Saga, the old black and white version. I saw the new version about 10 years ago when it was on TV but the old version was much better. It didn’t have colour or widescreen or even great sets. Every time somebody closed a door the whole set shook. But I soon forgot all that because the writing and the acting were just so good. The next one was The First Churchills which was also excellent. What a pack of dopes the Stuarts were. No wonder there was a civil war.

    The next one was Jack The Ripper Investigated by the team from the UK police show of the 60s and 70s Z Cars. Wow, now that is how to write a TV thriller!! Unlike some of the shows you described above, Deanna, there was no violence on screen but it was still terrifying. Well, it was made in the early 70s and the censors were much stricter back then. You knew a bloody murder had been committed because somebody said so, you didn’t actually see it. And you didn’t need to. I often think they did suspense so much better on TV back then because of the lack of violence and blood. They just had to write better scripts to compensate.

    I was very surprised by your entry about The White Queen. I loved it. Richard III getting it on with Elizabeth of York in his tent before Bosworth? That certainly wasn’t on my disk, and I have watched it three times. Perhaps the US release has some different scenes to the UK release? That has happened many times in the past. I did agree with you in that Anuerin Barnard’s performance as Richard was fantastic. I thought the series captured one the things I like most about Philippa Gregory’s books, that there are no goodies or baddies, just people.

  2. Brigitte says:

    You will absolutely *love* Outlander! I’m a long time fan of the books and part of the online fan community, which as a whole is thrilled with the casting and just about everything else. It’s being filmed in Scotland so it’s just breathtaking and hey, who doesn’t love a man in a kilt? 😉 The EP and head writer is Ron D. Moore, who also does a podcast after each episode explaining how and why the episode was filmed. Both Ron and Diana G. have been very active in social media and kept the fans updated along the journey to the premiere episode.

  3. Bonnie says:

    Deanna,

    You don’t want to miss “Outlander”!! I got Starz just to see it. I have been a fan of the books for many years and I was so impressed by the writing of episodes that stayed so true to the book and the way they are not pushing forward to plot too fast, so you can see why Claire fell in love with Jamie and with her present day husband Frank. You can tell that by the scripts that they really care about the characters and are giving the fans a series that they have always longed for. Perfect casting and what can I say about Scotland “beautiful”!!! Makes me want to get a plane and visit! I also like the way they have lighted the scenes. They are dark, as what they would have been and not as other series where they light up the room. These scenes are done by candlelight and very muted light. There is so much more to say, but I will stop for now, in that I could fill up an entire page. All I can say is, DON’T MISS IT!! Thank goodness we also have a second season!!!!!

  4. Alleyne Dickens says:

    I don’t think I’ve watched a complete season of any one you’re caught up on.

    Gave up on GoT after 2 episodes – you don’t kill puppies and expect me to keep watching. People, ok. Puppies — even direwolf puppies — no.

    Gave up on WQ after about 3. Just couldn’t care. I do agree with you about JANET MCTEER. I’d watch a show she was the star of!

    Blacksails, must try that again.

    The Musketeers is completely lovely. I really enjoy it, although we haven’t gotten to the end of the season.

    Penny Dreadful is brilliant – but plenty of gory, bloody scenes, with full on nudity. Eva Green is Very Thin! The twists and turns, though…

    The Knick is not as bloody as you would suppose for a show about a turn of the century surgeon. It is wonderfully acted with lovingly detailed setting.

    I think the reason I stop watching so many series is partly because my husband is from home during the week and I wait to catch up when he comes home. But there are just so many hours in a weekend and always new things to watch.

    Outlander is being recorded for our next weekend binge!

  5. Amy says:

    I would HIGHLY recommend Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Australian tv series, available on Netflix or Acorn, 2 seasons with a third to come!). It’s SO good. I want ALL of Phryne’s wardrobe.

    1. Amy, I JUST finished the second season of Miss Fisher today! And besides Phryne’s wardrobe, I’ll be moving into the house they used for the Christmas episode…

      1. Lynne says:

        Suzanne has recommended Miss Fisher, as well, Deanna. I have it on my Netflix queue.

      2. Suzanne says:

        Amy, I live in Melbourne which is of course Phrynne Fisher territory. Sadly the ABC have announced that the series hasn’t been renewed for a third season. I have signed a partition which was going around earlier in the year to ask for a third season but nothing has happened.

        Deanna, the Christmas episode was filmed at Monsolvat (I have probably spelled that wrong) which is located in Eltham, one of Melbourne’s outer north eastern suburbs. It was built in the 1930s by an artist called Jorgensen and was an artist’s colony until about 25 years ago. It is now a reception centre. One of my friends had her wedding there. There is an exhibition room there which regularly has art exhibitions and the Melbourne Jazz Festival is held there. There is also a coffee shop so you can just go there for afternoon tea and a tour of the complex on weekends. It is more like a very small village than a house. My great Aunt used to live over the road from it , so I know it well. When I was a child the locals took a rather dim view of having an artists colony on their doorstep and I was always being told about the “scandalous goings on up there,” most of which was probably invented by the old biddies themselves. Aunt Nettie went up there for painting lessons late in her life and she said they were a nice bunch and not scandalous at all.

        The episode is set in the Victorian Alps where we have lots of skiing in winter, but it couldn’t be filmed there as there are no suitable old buildings. Sadly the Alps regularly have bad bushfires in summer so the buildings never seem to last that long.

        1. Suzanne, I looked up the setting as soon as the episode was over–what a glorious place! And how lovely your friend was married there. I am delighted to know there’s delicious gossip about the place too. 😉

          I had no idea you could ski in Australia, so I’ve learned much from watching Miss Fisher–confused though about the fate of a third season. Their own Facebook page announced it’s on and they’ve been plotting episodes!

  6. erin says:

    i am adding the musketeers to my netflix queue now! thanks!

    as for historical dramas, it is not nearly so historical, but it is gorgeous, costume-wise: The House of Eliott. it has been finished for ages. but it is set in the 20’s, and it is soapy and melodramatic. but the clothes. The Clothes! they are couturiers, and it is the 20’s. enough said.

  7. Valerie Ward says:

    Oh yes Outlander. Men in Kilts how can you miss. A strong female character for once.

  8. Katie says:

    I want to see Outlander, but I don’t even have basic cable, let alone premium, so that has to wait.

    I’ve been watching HELL ON WHEELS on Netflix. I usually go for the historical dramas set it Europe, but my father is a big American history buff, and he really likes the show, so I started on it over the weekend. It’s a good western. And it’s AMC, so the blood isn’t excessive, although there is a VERY high body count. The protagonist is an ex-Confederate, and the closest thing he has to a friend is a freed slave who also works for the railroad- it’s an interesting relationship. I say “closest thing” because these are not warm and cuddly people; that just makes them more interesting. The only thing that worries me is that I’ve been warned about a couple of deaths, so I’m trying not to get too attached to some people. I’d recommend it.

    1. Betty Strohecker says:

      This one eventually gets really graphic. I stopped watching in the middle of season 2, but we picked it up again this season. Don’t know how the railroad ever got finished in this country with anyone left to ride it!

      Don’t have any of the premium channels, so I wait until series come out on DVD. Haven’t read Outlander, but my husband has – woud really like to since it has many elements I love – historical fiction, time travel, Scotland – but the books are so longggg, and I have so many others I want to read. Maybe one day….

  9. Laura R. says:

    I still need to catch up on THREE MUSKATEERS. I loved the first 4 episodes I watched though. Capaldi as the Cardinal was a delight to watch as were all the other characters. ALSO- love that they didn’t go for the gore.

    Been trying to catch up on historical documentaries. Liking Tudor Monestary right now.

  10. Lytania says:

    Loving Sherlock. Also watched entire season 1 & 2 of Verinica Mars via Amazon Prime and then watched the movie. Fantastic. Nary a nipple in either show! Just clever, witty, thoughtful prose!

  11. Kristy says:

    I have to weigh in too. Outlander!! Oh, goodness! I LOVE these books and have reread them many times. The series is wonderful! But there is definitely some violence and there is some boobage already. I’m not really into that myself either, so I count that in the ‘drawbacks’ column. But the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Scotland looks amazing and is wearing both the 18th century and the 1940’s very well. Jamie and Claire are just brilliant! Inspired casting and inspired acting. I am completely enthralled, and I didn’t really expect to be. One week is way too long to wait between episodes though, so waiting a bit before you start is a good idea. It gives the episodes some time to stockpile when you’re not chomping at the bit for the next installment. 🙂

  12. Lynne says:

    Great summaries and suggestions…thanks a million. I love your comment about boobs – they seem to be everywhere in every movie or series. And thanks for the recommendation on Musketeers – I like the sound of it.

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