Historical TV shows

Jun 2017
14
UK
#1
I may have missed some of my info graphic but which historical TV show do you think is the best?

For me it is very close between Vikings and the Last Kingdom, I absolutely love Bernard Cornwell books!



Have I missed any really great historical TV shows?

Cheers!
 
Apr 2016
75
Raleigh, NC
#2
What's better than Shakespeare? It's not a fair contest. Anyway, The Hollow Crown series was outstanding from every point of view. I've always found Richard II a ghastly bore, but the series made even that one fun and interesting. Otherwise, I'd be torn between Rome and Wolf Hall.

Since I've tried Bernard Cornwell books a few times and really didn't like them, I guess I have very different tastes. I like The Tudors a lot. There's a serious problem with any portrayal of Henry VIII, in that he goes from being an extremely athletic attractive young man to a grotesque obese man. Trying to show it usually means that the actor waddles around in distractive heavy padding for the later years. I thought it worked well enough not to attempt to portray the physical deterioration. There are cliches about the characterizations of the other people, most notably embodied in the Paul Scofield film A Man for All Seasons, that The Tudors broke out of.

I also like The Medicis. And there are some good series set in America in more recent times -- Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire. I just finished season 2 of Versailles; the setting, the clothes, and the sheer outrageousness of some of the action made it still worthwhile for me, but there were too many ridiculous scenes in which characters do amateur psychoanalysis on each other. I've enjoyed Turn: Washington's Spies.
 
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Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
4,585
Netherlands
#5
Shakespeare is as historically accurate as 300.

Some other series:
Genius, Band of brothers, war and remembrance, Arn the crusader (Swedish I think), Poldark, Isabel, Marco Polo, Shogun, and North and South.

All of them better than the last kingdom and at least equal to Vikings (which was a season too long).

I have a soft spot for some of the older series like I Claudius, Ivanhoe and Robin Hood (the one with the Clannad theme song) but most are a bit dated now
 
Aug 2014
3,800
Australia
#6
The Last Kingdom was based on a series of novels, not historical events, so we can't really criticise it for not being historical. 300 is the same; it was an adaption of a comic book.
 

Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
4,585
Netherlands
#7
The Last Kingdom was based on a series of novels, not historical events, so we can't really criticise it for not being historical. 300 is the same; it was an adaption of a comic book.
I was commenting Shakespeare. However the intent is irrelevant when you are just establishing if something is historically accurate. If you make something for tv I would suspect your first aim would be to get and keep viewers. For that you would need some accuracy, but not that deep. You wouldn't want to see a lightsaber duel between Uthred and Luke Skywalker, but liberties with battles, chronology etc are to be expected.
 
Aug 2014
3,800
Australia
#8
It is an adaption of a book, not a historical event. If there was a light sabre duel between Luke Skywalker and Uhtred in the book then it should be in the scene on TV as well.
 

Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
4,585
Netherlands
#9
It is an adaption of a book, not a historical event. If there was a light sabre duel between Luke Skywalker and Uhtred in the book then it should be in the scene on TV as well.
Again, if you are assessing historical accuracy or whatever of a series it is irrelevant if it is an adaptation of a book or meant to be historically accurate. We're not in a court, the motive is irrelevant, as we are only interested in the outcome.
 
Apr 2016
75
Raleigh, NC
#10
The post asked about "the best" historical TV show. Each of us probably has criteria for a "good" historical show. I'll throw mine in. The historical accuracy and dramatic interest should be balanced. I'm probably going to lose interest if the show is dull or badly produced. However, I get really annoyed when the writers make up exotic customs because they think the unusualness is entertaining. For me, that's one difference between Rome and The Vikings. Rome was hardly historically accurate (most outrageously in the case of Cleopatra's son's real father!), but the characters' beliefs and actions seemed congruent with actual Roman culture, and the portrayal of the real historical personages seemed within reasonable interpretations of what we know about them. In The Vikings on the other hand, the lead couple's invitation to a three-way funsie with their slave, the wildly inconsistent actions of the Gabriel Byrne character, and the mixture of totally made-up rituals into invocations to the Norse gods are all examples of annoying features of bad historical dramas.

On those grounds, I find Shakespeare's history plays to be good history shows. They're coherent in character, customs, and action. The historical inaccuracies, such as making Prince Hal and Hotspur rivals of the same age, strike me as acceptable modification for dramatic purposes. The outlook is more 16th c. when written than 14th c. when set and although Shakespeare follows the chronicles, he was no doubt aware that he was often writing Tudor propaganda. He was doing what we still do today -- looking at history as "what do these events say about our world today?" We do it with series like Deadwood. We also do it with Shakespeare. Look at the difference between the Laurence Olivier Henry V (1944) and its rousing national fighting spirit in World War II, and the more recent Kenneth Branaugh version which kept in all of the war crimes scenes in our time of shall we say highly ambiguous wars.
 

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