Borgia (TV Series 2011–2014) Poster

(2011–2014)

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Better than the Showtime series
reefer42021 November 2011
This show is probably confusing a lot of people. Showtime just did "The Borgias" with Jeremy Irons, but this isn't it. It is an original production by Canal+, which appears to be like a European version of HBO.

Despite being made by a French company, the show is totally in English, and stars an American. What's most surprising, though, is how tame the Showtime series seems in comparison to this.

Despite being on "Premium Cable" in America, the Showtime series is very TV-14. The violence is tame, the sex is mainly suggested, and there is very little foul language. A few cuts and it could easily air on any network in the US.

"Borgia", on the other hand, feels much more like HBO's groundbreaking series "Rome". The violence is brutal, graphic and unflinching. Sex is frequent, full frontal nudity a matter of fact. I suspect this is an authentic depiction of life in Rome around 1500.

Speaking of "Rome", the first thing I noticed, besides visual similarities, is that Anne Thomopolous is an executive producer. That name seemed very familiar, and sure enough, she was one of the producers of "Rome". I'd call that a good sign.

She's not alone in the behind the scenes talent, two other noteworthy names pop up: Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson. Levinson is a well known Hollywood director, with credits like "Rain Man" and "Sleepers". Fontana is the creator of HBO's "OZ", the first hour long drama produced by that company. One might argue that Fontana invented the "R-rated premium cable TV series" that is so popular now. He paved the way for stuff like The Wire, Rome, Dexter, and The Sopranos.

That's a pretty big talent line up for a European TV series. In terms of name actors, however, this show unfortunately can't compete with Showtime. They have Jeremy Irons playing Borgia, where this show has John Doman.

Doman is a good character actor, and his performance as the sarcastic, mean-spirited police captain in "The Wire" is legendary. That said, he feels very out of place in this otherwise extremely authentic looking show, mainly due to his unapologetic American accent. It's like Kevin Costner as Robin Hood, the producers apparently just decided to suspend disbelief and dump a modern American accent in the middle of the Vatican. You get used to it, but it's a little off-putting at the start.

The kid playing Cesare Borgia is capable, but there are times he seems to be pushing into melodrama territory, particularly any time he gets angry. The guy in the Showtime series was cool as a cucumber, yet viscous and brooding at the same time.

The men at least aren't up to Showtimes standards, but the women are a different story. Lucrezia and Julia Farnese are both much better in this show than Showtime's. Julia is a total sex goddess in this, someone who is used to getting her way by any means necessary. And Lucrezia is her young counterpart, inexperienced but curious. The two women both nail the parts and are totally convincing, more so than the depictions of these characters on Showtime.

I recognized a few other actors, most notably the actor who plays Samwell Tarly in HBO's "Game of Thrones" as a young Cardinal. The "bit parts" are played by unknown Europeans, and are usually great.

I won't spoil the plot, but it is basically the same as "The Borgias": The rise to power of a corrupt pope and his family. Of course, is it based on actual history, so spoilers are easy to come by if you want them. The main difference between the plotting of this show and the Showtime version is that this show manages to remain interesting all the time, where I felt it was somewhat of a struggle to get through the Showtime series. I just didn't care about anyone except Cesare and Rodrigo in the Showtime version, all the other characters were boring.

This version places lesser characters like Julia Farnese and Juan Borgia in the limelight as well, so we actually spend time with them away from the Pope. Additionally, the Showtime series concentrated on the Pope's arch enemy Della Rovre to a much greater degree, where this show seems focused on the family and their friends. I find that to be much more effective, since the enemy is now viewed through their eyes only, the audience is essentially placed on the Borgia side of the table permanently. It's like you're part of the family.

I would highly recommend this to any fan of historical drama, with a special emphasis on HBO's "Rome". This is almost like an unofficial successor to it, it has the same feel of authenticity.

"Borgia" is available on Netflix instant watch, and as far as I know this is currently the only way to see it in the US.
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9/10
A very good show, clever, raw, full of life.
LuciaRenoir17 September 2014
Is it perfect? No. The accents and some displays of over the top drama bothered me at first, but I soon forgot I was watching TV, as I was engrossed in the fascinating politics of the conclave and the presentation of the amazing Spanish family.

Borgia (canal +) a very good show. Ambitious, clever, dark, and yet funny, shocking and entertaining. I think it captures really well what it was like to live in these violent times without "modernizing" the characters. It never judges, simply exposing theirs lives and minds, so similar and yet so different from ours. I love Doman's Rodrigo as much as I hate Irons's one in The Borgias (he's more a Della Rovere). Domans portrayal is raw and full of life. Lucrecia, Juan, Vanozza, Gulia, Alessandro, Della Rovere are very well cast and nuanced and complex characters. Mark Ryder is simply incredible as Cesare Borgia,growing from a stubborn, tormented and insecure teenager to the megalomaniac and ruthless genius Machiavel wrote about. The history is very well researched, and never dumbed down to the audience. I find the costumes and the grim settings very appropriate. The show is punctuated by violent scenes which remind us how uncertain personal fortunes were, how lives were easily crushed without remorse. The nudity and the love scenes are very well filmed and feel natural.

I've tried watching The Borgia, but I stopped after the end of the first season. It was pretty but empty, silly (the incest obsession). Like the Kardashians but with people who happened to bear the name of Borgia (the real history is much more interesting). The characters were going nowhere :Irons a sad ghost without will, Cesare plotting his way to his sister bed with no other ambition, Lucrezia was like a annoying kitten and Juan a brainless fool.

Borgia is a very superior show, in my opinion.
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9/10
Flawed, but still amazing
natalie040731 July 2013
Give it a chance! This show takes some getting used to (especially if you come after more lavish Showtime production). The first few episodes are heavy with exposition, the mishmash of accents can be jarring and the young Borgia are immature and not very likable. However, it quickly becomes obvious that this is done on purpose: after all, the brothers, Cesare and Juan, are still hot-headed teenagers eager to prove themselves while Lucrezia is just a child. During the course of two seasons, through trials and tribulations, they grow and mature, and Cesare is very believable as a flawed character with conflicting motivations, and the force to be reckoned with, just like his legend suggests. Cesare and Lucrezia not only do they look like their portraits, they are doing a terrific job bring their complex characters to life.

Other cast is superb, too, even Doman, who might lack Irons' expressive voice but brings commanding presence necessary for the most influential man in the Christian world. All in all, the character development is one of the best I've seen on TV (worthy of anything on HBO), even the minor characters seem like real people with their own agendas rather than just the talking heads. This show is also truer to showing life and times: St. Peter is run down, just like it was, in all the night scenes it actually looks like the world lit only by fire.

As far as historical accuracy goes: remember, most of the dark deeds attributed to Borgias are due to the smear campaign of their enemies. I doubt that the real Borgia were really much worse than any other noble family squabbling over Italy at the time. I think Fontana successfully combines some of the legend with the actual historical events, not without some dramatic license, as expected. There's a wealth of details that makes Showtime's show look like Dallas in period costumes. After a somewhat shaky start, it became my favorite adult historic show since Rome.
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10/10
Overall, recommendable
mjahnl12 June 2013
I read reviews complaining about the historical accuracy and actor's accents. Keep the following in mind:

If I wanted to watch a show based on historical facts, produced with utmost accuracy, I'd watch a documentary. Borgia has a historical base, but otherwise, it is just a dramatical account of a time period. Credit to the film crew, though; I do find the majority of the set decorations to blend very well with the storyline, giving the viewer a sense of accuracy.

The actor's accents: I don't have a problem with any accent. If I expected the delivery of each individual's accent based on their historical origin, in keeping with the English spoken at that time, which was also not a world language as it is today, 99% of the viewers wouldn't understand but 25% of the verbal interaction. Frankly, the differences in accents do stand out, but they are not distracting. I rather have an actor stay with his/her natural accent, than pretending to be from somewhere else, and then receiving criticism for their inaccuracies.

The acting abilities: Unless your name is Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) or you're some other high end Hollywood hotshot, I don't expect anyone to deliver Oscar worthy performances. Small inaccuracies are to be expected, especially given that this is a comparatively small production that works on a shoestring budget. Hollywood has deeper coffers and more A-listers. A few things do stand out, though: Doman's portrayal of Pope Alexander is well done. A man caught up in his own desire to rise above and finding the ability to do so at all cost. He is caught between being a man, while having to be a pope. Who wouldn't struggle? He does well, just as long as he doesn't have to reach too deep into the character tool chest, and draw from deep emotions. He plays the sexual deviant better than the irate villain, and the irate villain better than a person who finds his own physical limitations. (You'll get what I mean, once you see it)

Ryder's performance on Cesare is rather consistent. He's consistently acting well, especially when the performance comes to showing the higher-than-though attitude. He's also consistently overly dramatic when it comes to displaying deep rooted anger. Overall, I think he does well, and I'm having fun watching him move through the show.

The ladies are all very well played. However, with the exception of Isolda Dychauk (Lucrezia), none of the female cast has to reach too deep into the emotional side of acting. Dychauk is a pleasure to watch, though. She's coming across rather believable.

Sex: Being European, I do find it amusing that some of the American viewers get offended by breasts and genitalia. Newsflash, folks. It's human nature. If you don't like to see it, just don't watch the show, or turn your head. I have yet to see an overabundance of skin on this show. The moments when sexual acts were displayed was in keeping with the storyline, and never gave me the impression as if the writers thought: "Well, we're losing momentum here, let's show some breasts...".

Church/Religion: What I find most amusing, is that the Catholic Church is portrayed as corrupt, self serving, political, war mongering, sexually deviant and utterly repulsive; especially when it comes to the matter of portraying itself as pure, innocent and true. Following the books of history, one can only conclude that not much has changed over the centuries. (Side note; by denomination, I am Roman Catholic myself)

Overall, I find Borgia to be quite entertaining and worthy of one's time. Watch it with a grain of salt and don't take the show as a historically accurate account of the people of Rome. However, do watch the show with an underlying interest in inter-Church politics, greed and capitalistic tendencies. Then, transpose your findings onto the church(es) of today. See what your findings are...
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10/10
Excellent Mini Series
sdeguzman595 May 2013
"Borgia" by Tom Fontana is Excellent. It is the type of series that draws you in and keeps you wanting more.I can't wait for season 3. In the USA you can watch it on NetFlix. Do not confuse this with the series on Showtime. This Borgia is much better. The actors are brilliant in bringing the characters to life..the story line follows the Borgia family. I never knew much about them until this series. they are quite an interesting group of people.If you are a history buff, I am sure you will enjoy this series. The scenery is beautiful and it gives one a look as to how folks lived back in that time period. Do yourself a favor and watch the series.
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9/10
A good series
rodriguez-debra14 May 2013
John Doman was a very poor Pope Alexander VI. I cannot call someone a good actor who does not at least try to match the accents of his contemporaries. It was very noticeable.

Other than that, the program is not historically accurate as far as dates go, but that does not matter since it inspires one to look into these events.

Others have said that Mark Ryder overacted, I did not see that. I thought him a very believable & sympathetic Cesare.

I enjoyed this series. Watched it on Netflix and wish I could see more of it. The acting, costumes & locations were lovely. I liked it much more than the Showtime version.
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10/10
Much better than others
cmradu24 December 2011
It's difficult to make straight-face judgment about such big movies, but I loved it. For someone trying to understand Machiavelli, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Spanish Reconquista, the atrocities of conquistadors in the New World, the Xenophobia of the Italian Wars coexisting with the globalization of Politics (Avignon, Holy Roman Empire, America) and even a little of the soft underbelly of Catholic Faith, this is really good. Compared to others' sensationalism, this show is more like a loving son's explanation of a disreputable mother.. "yes, she was what you say, but look at the choices; and how did things change?"

It's also difficult to compare once immersed in one version of the Borgia story. But I thought the choice of Doman, and his accent, and all other actors well thought out. Narration by the Vatican Historian Burquardt puts it all into proper perspective, especially through the choice of Schefe's delivery. The comic is introspective and subtle and coated with the gut feeling one gets watching men executed by slow sawing in half, upside-down. Other productions seemed more careless to me, like casting the Three Stooges in an elaborate Hi-Def slapstick porno movie.

It's probably difficult to maintain the intensity, but there should be a season two.
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10/10
Netflix Borgia way better than Showtime version
freyafae-164477 January 2017
I definitely enjoyed Netflix version of Borgia so much better than the Showtime version. I already watched all three seasons of Netflix version and it was phenomenal as were the actors. I also found the actors more diverse, accurate and aesthetically pleasing than the Showtime version. Netflix version was more believable and historically accurate. I loved the different accents as it made the atmosphere and overall characters more realistic. I'm just starting the 2nd season of the Showtime version and it's such a different world all together from Netflix's Borgia. The Showtime version is just too Hollywood, fake and almost comical at times. I expected more of Showtime considering I love most of their shows i.e. loved The Tudors, Dexter, Weeds, Camelot and White Queen. Netflix is definitely a great competitor since they have a few pretty cool shows of their own. Sorry Showtime, have to go with the Netflix Borgia on this one. :-) Such an amazing show and cast especially Mark Ryder(Cesare), John Doman(Rodrigo Borgia) and Isolda Dychauk(Lucrezia). Mark Ryder was nice to look at and I loved every moment of Isolda's beautiful accent. (was quite pleasant)
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9/10
This version is a Very addictive show! Much better than the Showtime one.
I first started watching The Borgias made by Showtime; I quickly lost interest. They spent no time on the give and take negotiating and within an hour you see a very corrupt new pope already in and out of bed running around with several whores. It was kind of ridiculous the way Pope Alexander was introduced.

Borgia, a multi-country collaboration, starts off slower and we are introduced to a real man that is shrewd at bargaining. We watch a character arch that becomes more and more powerful, thus ruthless. The arch is shown with all the characters. This production is more engrossing, the writing is so much better.
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6/10
Good and bad.
tpaladino14 October 2011
I just watched this first season on Netflix, and I do believe that it is at least equal to the Showtime production in most ways, with a few very notable exceptions.

Mind you, it's not a carbon copy; the story lines follow the same basic historical themes, but the two shows choose somewhat different avenues to explore, which is interesting. This show does seem to hew closer to historical truth (although at times it's more simplistic), but also falls short in a few places.

First off, the choice of John Doman as Rodrigo Borgia was a bad one. He's not a bad actor, but the part was clearly not written for him. When you have an entire cast that share appropriate period/regional accents, it becomes jarring and downright bizarre to hear the lead character speak in unvarnished American tones.

Further, the writing does nothing to accommodate for this. See, most Americans can't pull off long lines of casual conversational dialog that include full proper English like 'will not' or 'does not', as the British can. Instead we rely on contractions like 'won't' or 'doesn't' unless we're giving particular emphasis to the subject (or giving a speech). Its an adaptive peculiarity to be sure, but one which we employ for good reason; it just sounds odd otherwise.

The writers completely failed to account for this reality, and instead wrote Doman's lines as though they were to be read by a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The result is dialog which comes out unbelievably clunky and difficult to listen to. Every time Doman opened his mouth, it pulled me right out of the show. It was clear that he just didn't know how to deliver these lines. Bad bad bad, and in a show with such high overall production values, it should never have been allowed to remain so.

The other issue is that this show clearly didn't have to same budget as its Showtime counterpart, and that comes through in the quality of some of the CGI as well as the smallness of some of the sets. It just doesn't feel as grand.

It's worth watching to be sure, but it could have been much better with a few very minor changes.
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10/10
BORGIA rings true
axelohman30 October 2013
If you are hesitating between watching Tom Fontana's BORGIA and Showtime's The Borgias you find your answer right there in the different titles. It is interesting how two different titles can be so well fitted to the actual quality of the show. The shows are very different in how story is developed and in how characters are portrayed. Showtime's The Borgias is to be honest a bit of a polished turd as the title of the show would suggest. It lacks depth and relies on big names with British accents (apparently British accents are important...) to cater to an American audience. It feels a bit like if they tried to just move the Tudors to Rome which makes the show feels British and fabricated. In contrast BORGIA seems very true in how it conveys the story. Much like the series ROME the show builds a world which is believable to the audience and does not seem manufactured as it does in The Borgias.

When it come to characters and performance BORGIA is wildly superior on all fronts. Although it does not have the best known cast the performances are absolutely great and there is incredible depth to each character on the show. Almost no character on BORGIA is sympathetic yet we sympathize with them. The characters on BORGIA seem true: Rodrigo Borgia, Lucrezia, Cesare, della Rovere, Farnese are all more interesting, more compelling, less polished and less sympathetic then their counterparts on The Borgias. Some criticism that could be directed to BORGIA and where The Borgias is superior is for example special effects and other production issues. I do think that BORGIA does a better job in terms of style and wardrobe but sometimes the scenery can look a bit cheap which is due to a smaller budget.

Overall BORGIA is a far superior show. The ratings on IMDb are misleading because The Borgias has a larger more active audience on this site and will therefore score higher but there is a reason why The Borgias has been canceled and BORGIA is still going strong. If you want to watch a show which is in par with shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Rome, The Walking Dead or even the Tudors watch BORGIA by Tom Fontana not The Borgias.
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10/10
Excellent Historical Saga!!
maggieorzechowski5 June 2014
I stumbled upon this show on Netflix thinking is was going to see the version with Jeremy Irons. But I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw!! This is the most exciting show of the historical Borgia family. The drama continues to rise on each episode that makes the viewer want more and more. It delivers power house performances by Mark Ryder as Caesare Borgia and John Doman as Rodrigo Borgia. The supporting cast is outstanding as well as the locations of each story line. I personally think that this version of the Borgia story is better than Showtime's version. This is more historically accurate. It draws you in to where you can't wait to see what happens next. It truly is a work of art. Although there are a variety of accents of each character, the overall show is truly thrilling to watch. You must watch "Borgia"!!!
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Will it be available on DVD?
burgosjl8 November 2011
Just curious when/if it will be available on DVD? I've watched it on Netflix and it's outstanding, well worth watching for sheer opulence and historicity. Its definitely shockingly honest about the corruption of the Papacy and the nepotism of the period, and the characters are very colorfully showcased, particularly the character of Cesare, who seems more a troubled, tormented soul than all the other characters. Lots of nudity and frank/honest sexuality. I've searched on amazon to see if its available but I cant seem to find it. The panoramic views of Rome and its environs are also lushly depicted. Definitely worth checking out for fans of historical drama.
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Much better than Showtime
hugobolso-118 April 2014
Jeremy Irons has the talent and the voice, but he is not Alexander VI. He doesn't look like Rodrigo Borja.- Showtime has success in the suntous technical aspects, the Jordan direction, and a great Cesar Borgia by Francois Arnaud.-

This one has a much better script, more historically accurate (even there some huge historical mistakes) and better actors in the supporting roles.-

Specially great are the ladies Vanossa, Julia and Lucrezia

I love all the intrigues between the cardinals, and the roman families.- People complain about the languages. but real life Rodrigo Borgia probably sound exactly like Pope Francis, speaking an intelligible Italian.

Any way all the actors looks much more the historical figures, than in the show time miniseries. And this is another point in favor.

There are good reasons why this TV was renewed and the Irons was canceled.-
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8/10
Well made
Naftulyev18 December 2011
Feels like a cousin to the shows Rome and that Blood and Sand gladiator series. Historical drama with an extra helping of violence and sex!

Like others I was a bit dismayed at hearing a NY accent surrounded by European accents by all other characters. However, after 2 episodes I didn't even notice. The role of Rodrigo was not a perfect casting, but not far off the mark.

It plays as a man between the cloth, love, ambition, and inadequacy. This is not the tragic Shakespearean archetype, but more of an Everyman struggling with life and politics in his 50s. He wants to do good, but got to where he is by doing whatever he could - good or bad. The occasional screams or fist pumps work well to illustrate the point, in my opinion.

The rest of the cast were fine with a beautiful Lolitaesque Lucrecia being a highlight. I would have proffered a more Latin looking Cesare but the actor was not horrible all said and done.

Lastly for fans of Assassins Creed video game, it's amazing to see Rome look remarkably close to the game. From the houses to the costumes, to the hills. In a scene where Cecere scales Castel Sant Angelo - it was déjà vu!
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2/10
i couldn't make it past the first episode...
playworship-play2 November 2012
I'm a lover of the time period in which the Borgia's, the Medici, the svorzas were the talk of Italy. the story of Rodrigo and his family has been more than intriguing, BUT in this particular series, i couldn't be immersed in the time period or in the characters. my reasons? the acting seems like "acting". over the top melodramatics made me feel like i was watching a Mexican soap opera. the accents were terrible and too distracting. Rodrigo had a harsh American accent that made me feel like i was waiting for a push by Smucker's jam to buy their product. his two sons, Cesare and Juan had two totally different accents as well as his daughter Lucretia and her mother. with one person speaking in a harsh American tone, another in an almost french accent, and then another sounding Spanish and another being an almost olde English, i honestly couldn't focus on the story or what was going on because everything seemed so... wrong.
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8/10
Freqking Awesome
Jay_Jay26645 June 2013
So many aspects of conflict within this movie. A constant battle of good and evil, both in man and woman. Treachery, decent, and creative genius paint a world with the battle to become and maintain the Papal Crown.

The actors dealt deep to create cringe worthy characters, so evil and yet you caught yourself cheering for them because the alternative was worse.

It is not for the faint of heart. There is lots of sex, full nudity, and gore. A huge cast of extra and authentic looking settings, clothing and design.

It left me wanting a lot more. The actor that played Chezere should receive some kind of award. You loved and despised him and felt his internal tormented struggle.
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8/10
The visual equivalent of a page-turner
prairiesunshine5519 February 2013
For a TV series, this is an excellent one. I agree with the reviewers who say that it is reminiscent of Rome. There is much more passion than in the Showtime series Borgias. The female characters are stunning. The interpretation of Lucrezia is exceptional as the actress shows all the naivety and emotion of the girl's young age but also her growing awareness of her power. The actress who played Julia was also stellar. If there is any criticism, I just wish that the writers had focused more on the women and the relationships, as this is where the show shines. I thought that Donan plays well as Rodrigo. Much better than Jeremy Irons because Irons was just plain creepy. Donan has an aura that makes it more plausible that people would agree to support him (and that so many women would fall in love with him). The depictions of Juan and Chesare are weaker. I thought that reflected more on the writing than on the actors. Jaun's appearance kind of bugged me, as I kept thinking of him as a modern Frat boy. The actor who played Chesare, if his colouring was darker, looked exactly like the famous painting of the real one! I disagree with the reviewer who quibbled about the CGI backgrounds. I thought the painting- like effect was an effective nod to the artists of the time. I found myself getting confused by all the politics but that's okay. Its a good excuse to watch it again! On a final note. It was great to see John Bradley again! I hope he gets more screen time in his next TV series or movie. I love watching that guy!
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9/10
Engrossing
targa923 November 2014
A lot of people criticize John Doman's American accent. After the first episode, you get used to it, and actually Doman is perfect for the part of a scheming, unpredictable pope: what better than an American to play the wheeler-dealer? I love Doman's bold portrayal, and his subtle facial expressions invest Rodrigo with a latent power, explosive and surprising when it surfaces.

Also, the sets, costumes, cinematography are all magnificent! I had to pause the video sometimes just to take in some of the gorgeous shots of the Castel St Angelo or the Coliseo at sunset.

The reason this series works is that it is appropriately GRIM, and spares no expense to make things look realistic, and the writing moves things along and is clever. The actors are all superb. Juan is as detestable as he is charming; Mark Ryder Cesare shows his pain, want, ambition, pride and recklessness well. When his eyes got big after Alexander promoted Juan to captain of the Palace Guard, I knew this was a quality production. Lucrezia, Giulia, Vannozza are all amazing. Cardinals Sforza, Farnese and della Rovere are standouts.

Give this series a chance if you like historical dramas. It is unflinching, shocking, funny, grim, suspenseful, and a really great escape. Thanks to Doman, Ryder et al. for providing such great entertainment!
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3/10
Accents Galore
molda231 March 2013
As an Italian American with deep roots still tied to Rome, I find this show a disgrace to the history of the holy city.

Where to begin? First of all, pick an accent and stick with it. Lucrezia has a German accent, Juan is French, Cesare is British and Rodrigo is American? Are you kidding me? This is absurd. I would rather listen to an actor attempt a terrible imitation of a historically accurate accent than just sound like an idiot.

I understand that Showtime's version of the Borgias has a much larger budget with the ability to hire more profound talent, but I think the budget has nothing to do with this mess of a show. Jeremy Irons is a legend and does not simply do a good job portraying Rodrigo Borgia, but he becomes the man in the flesh. John Doman reads lines meant for a much more elegant tongue than his American accent allows. It's cringe-worthy at best to have to suffer through one of his monologues.

Mark Ryder makes it difficult to like Cesare (though maybe Cesare is not meant to be 'liked'). However, on Showtime's version Francois Arnold makes the audience both hate, pity and love Cesare all at once - a feat Mark Ryder could never accomplish. Stanley Weber lacks the ability to portray Juan as a wild, hotheaded coward as history tells. His character simply fades into the background like a wallflower. I would also have to go as far as to say Marta Gastini's portrayal as Guilia Farnese is the only actor that lives up to their character.

Don't even get me started on the historical inaccuracy of the show. If you think showing full frontal public nudity and gore makes this more historically accurate then you need to watch Showtime's The Borgias - then you will see what truly should make a show accurate.

In summation, if you want to watch a great period drama series about medieval corruption in the papacy just watch Showtime's The Borgias. You will only be disappointed watching Borgia.
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3/10
Poor cousin of the Showtime series
mczerska116 August 2014
Since watching the first episode of this show, I have been searching the web to see what people thought of this and was really surprised to find out that a lot of people thought this show to be better than "The Borgias" on Showtime. The main points in favor of Fontana's version seemed to be historical accuracy and the "European vibe". As far as the second argument, being European myself, I am not impressed with the "vibe" that consists mainly of full frontal nudity. I don't see why a sex scene can't be tastefully made and leave something to the imagination. I really don't need to see the genitals to know that people are having sex in a particular scene. As for the historical accuracy, having read a lot about the Borgia family, I see inconsistencies in both show, but one must remember that it is television and not a documentary. The Showtime series might take more liberties with history for the entertainment value, but it makes for more interesting story lines. What I can't forgive Fontana's version is the fact that the show would not invest money in props and costumes. These were supposed to be the richest people of their times, and yet Lucrezia seems to own two dresses and one set of jewelery, and the same goes with Giulia Farnese. Both women should be covered with jewels from head to toe, should wear elaborate gowns and have complicated hairdos (especially Lucrezia, who was very vain about her hair). Also, very often the set consists of white walls, a table and some chairs. Where the hell are frescoes, tapestries and golden and silver plates? For me these count as huge historical inconsistencies. The show has a small budget and is is obvious in almost every scene, whereas Showtime version had some of the most beautiful, lush sets, props and costumes in the history of television. Also, the matter of accents is a huge problem, but it was mentioned in all other reviews so I will not elaborate on this topic, and will only say that I agree that having members of the same family speak with six different accents is a ridiculous idea. As for the acting...The pope sounds like an American gangster, and John Doman is terrible in this role. There is nothing similar to the perfectly executed Rodrigo- Cesare power-play from Showtime's show. Juan Borgia looks as if they picked him up at the local gym and sticks out in the Reinessance Italy almost as much as his American dad. And Lucrezia is simply terrible. She is a far cry from Holliday Granger's spectacular performance, has no chemistry with her father and brother (truly, if they really had had that little chemistry the rumors about incest would have never been coined). And her terrible German accent ruins every line of dialogue she has. The only redeeming quality this show has is Mark Ryder as Cesare Borgia. Although I am a fan of Francois Arnaud's Cesare, I must admit that Mark Ryder does a great job. His Cesare is much more frightening and crazy, and sometimes even bipolar, which is probably historically more accurate. Especially in the second season, he really shines in this show. All in all, "Borgia" lacks all the features that made "The Borgias" so good: lavish costumes and sets, powerful Rodrigo-Cesare and Cesare- Lucrezia chemistry, and consistency in acting (and accents!). It is not a bad show, but it definitely looks like the Showtime's series' poor cousin. And if this is supposed to be the "European vibe", then I vote to go all Hollywood instead.
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4/10
Read the book to get the true story
debsig51221 May 2013
This version of Borgia is so far from historical truth with names changed, relationships rearranged for what? THE FAMILY by Mario Puzo is a 1400+ page turner. I recommend reading the book as the true story is fascinating. This is lukewarm soup in comparison. The choice of actors makes it even harder to watch. An American playing a Spanish Pope? You'd think he'd at least try to have an accent and sound Spanish! Many people, unfortunately, rely heavily on historical films as a frame of reference and expect a certain amount of accuracy. If this was titled as a fictional account of a Pope that never existed, then I would rate this higher. I find it interesting and entertaining wondering just what is going to happen next...as in how far will the writers stray from the truth to keep viewers watching. Enjoy, it for entertainment purposes.
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3/10
Acting ruins the entire show
erich-krems26 February 2013
Tom Fontana has done some great things for TV (Homicide, Oz, The Wire_. Visually speaking, Borgia is terrific. costumes, scenery even ceilings are detailed and thorough. The real story is compelling (picture the Sopranos set 500 years ago). The problem is in the casting and the acting. John Doman does such a terrible job as Rodrigo that it distracts from the narrative of the story. There are scenes in which he simply reads the lines of dialogue without inflection or emotion. It sometimes sounds like he is a casting director that is reading lines for the other actors' audition. Then there's Mark Ryder who plays Cesare. I'm sure he was cast because he is physically similar to the historical Cesare Borgia. Watching the show, Mark Ryder overacts the part to the point of being reminiscent of a high school drama production. He comes across as an amateur that is trying hard to be discovered. As a quick side note. What's with all the breasts? I find it insulting when show think that it's realistic to have boobs popping out everywhere. We get it, you're not subject to broadcast network restrictions, great. Just tell the story and leave the boobs to the teenage boys that have never seen one before. If anyone watches this show it's only because they thought they were watching the Showtime production (The Borgias not Borgia)
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4/10
Shockingly awful
zeabourne26 April 2015
I know the Borgia-story, and both this series as well as the Showtime one, definitely take their liberties when it comes to historical facts. That is something I expect and I'm not watching shows like these to get enlightened. For that we have books. However. This particular show is a grand disappointment. I'll not be wasting time describing the bad acting, silly dialog and slow progression. Instead I'll recommend the Showtime series! Jeremy Irons is brilliant as the Borgia Pope, the script is brilliant, the actors are both much better at acting and generally more beautiful to look at.

I've read a few of the reviews here, and I'm surprised at how many prefers this c**p over Showtime's. I'm pretty sure those who prefers Borgia over The Borgias does that because the former is so simple, and easy to watch, while the latter actually moves you!
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decent
Kirpianuscus14 July 2019
John Doman gives a decent Rodrigo Borgia, Mark Ryder is not exactly the expected Cesare, Isolda Dychauk is a real beautiful Lucrezia. After more ambitious series about same theme, it is difficult to say what you look for in this case. The atmosphere, the examples of cruelty, the costumes, the construction of story and tension, the intrigues and the performances are nice, seductive and good points for a reasonable serie exploring the essence of political Rennaisance.
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