Archive for Thursday, June 5, 2008

Historical dramas superior to ‘reality’ TV

June 5, 2008

Unfortunately, some of the best television drama series seem to exist on cable. I'm not saying this because I own stock in them, but because it seems to be true. Network television keeps getting nuttier with what I consider really stupid reality shows, while some imaginative series turn up on the cable stations. I'm not ashamed to admit I do watch television in the evenings, even though it is not turned on in the daytime. There's nothing like a good mystery, drama or comedy to relax one and make the transition to sleep earlier. If I learn something in the process, it only makes the experience better.

I have to admit the writers' strike really put a crimp in my evening television habits. I don't watch any "reality" shows. I want something written and plotted by an intelligent being. The long hiatus caused by the writers' strike, with which I sympathized, almost brought my viewing to an end - but thank heaven, television drama is back.

Some of my favorite cable series have been the historical dramas. "Rome" was a riveting series, even though I knew how it would end for the characters. The re-creation of the setting and time was spectacular, with characters that seemed as real as any I have met in my own time. Now, the series "Tudors" is coming to the end of its second season and sadly, Anne Boleyn is about to lose her head.

Of course, these historical dramas are only re-creations of what has been recorded, and the writers have to make up plenty of dialogue for their characters, but the two I've seen so far have been generally true to the framework. I'm sure the people in the television series are much cleaner and more beautiful that many of the original people in the historical time, but after all they are coming into our living rooms. Horse dung and chamber pots wouldn't exactly charm us for any length of time.

Watching the struggles of the people in Henry VIII's court has been fascinating. It makes one realize how really lucky we are to have our legal system which allows us systematic and fair justice based on real evidence. Merry old King Henry VIII was just a little bit too prone to permanently remove those who opposed him or got in the way of what he wanted. Anne Boleyn makes us understand how precarious a woman's position in 16th century England was. She was a strong woman with definite ideas about how things should happen and she began to get on her kingly husband's nerves. He totally bought the idea of an absolute monarchy with life-and-death power over his subjects. He didn't want his wife - particularly not one endowed with respect from the people and other countries for her legitimacy - telling him how to run the country. In the end, many of Henry's colleagues, friends and in-laws lost their lives because they didn't give him enough respect or were in his way. Horrific tortures sometimes inspired them to confess whatever he needed to sentence them to the head-chopping block. It gives me great satisfaction as I watch the drama play out to know that Anne Boleyn's daughter eventually became Queen Elizabeth I, one of the most successful and respected regents of history. So much for Henry VIII's demand for a male heir.

This look at historical characters from a modern perspective is a lesson in why our Constitution and our country's adherence to it are so important. Freedom of religion and the right to a fair trial are both vital to our health and well-being in this land. I hope those who enjoy watching television watch some of these historical dramas and realize just how good we now have it. At the same time, the convolutions in historical intrigue make some modern politics, both in this country and others, seem less important. Things seldom work out the way any leader, no matter how strong, wishes them to happen.

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