And more from our Gossip Girl: Nathan Gunn will seduce you … the evolution of a miniseries
“I WOULD much prefer to suffer from the clean incision of of an honest lancet than from a sweetened poison,” wrote Mark Twain.
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WELL, Mr. Twain would have had his choice of lancet, saber, stiletto or a dash of belladonna in his wine had he lived in the 13th century, around the time of the Borgia family — Spaniards who immigrated to Italy and forged a powerful and deadly dynasty.
Lucky as I am, I have had the opportunity to view the first two episodes of Showtime’s latest extravaganza, “The Borgias.” We have been waiting for this ever since “The Tudors” came to its inevitable end (luscious Jonathan Rhys Myers as Henry VIII had to age and die, damn it!)
I won’t tell too much of the Borgia plot, mostly because there’s a hell of a lot of plot to tell. Suffice that Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia is hot to become Pope. His children Cesare, Juan and Lucrezia are more or less for it, though his mistress and the mother of those children, Vanossa, is less amenable. (Especially after Rodrigo tells her that now he must remain above fleshly pleasures. Don’t bet the palazzo on that one!)
Rodrigo, feeling the dislike of the Italians because of his Spanish heritage, will bribe, threaten and speed to heaven those who stand in his way of becoming God’s big man on earth.
Jeremy Irons is grand, regal, malevolent, hypocritical, deadly. And he still packs a lot of appeal, even in his ecclesiastic robes. Joanne Whalley is brittle and tempestuous as The Pope’s Lady. Francois Arnaud and David Oakes are sexy in their tights, always ready for a fight, and brooding over who is daddy’s favorite? The answer to that is the delicious Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia. Blonde, nubile and innocent, this is not the Lucrezia of legend, usually thought of as a raven-haired degenerate poisoner. Actually, if you know your history, Lucrezia was much more a victim of her ambitious family, as women of her time and station tended to be. She never quite understood why people had this habit of dropping dead after lunch. Or, if she did understand, she certainly had nothing to do with it! (There was gossip that Rodrigo and Lucrezia were perhaps a bit closer than father and daughter should be. But they also said that about Lucrezia and her brothers. Boy — what those Renaissance busybodies could make out of a friendly hug!)
The production on “The Borgias” is magnificent — lush and lavish. It must have cost a pretty penny to produce the show and sure looks it. (One wonders that the “Mad Men” folks can’t get their act together.) We enjoyed six seasons of “The Tudors” and I can’t see any reason “The Borgias” won’t go on its bloody way in much the same fashion.
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A WORD here on the evolution of the television movie. The good old days of the 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s are gone forever. Network TV is too busy with reality programming and the occasional sitcom to mount expensive, glam TV epics. (Remember “Roots,” “North and South,” “A.D.” “Harem,” to name a few.)
And so the genre has fallen, spectacularly, into the hands of Showtime, HBO and even Starz. “The Borgias” are about to debut for Showtime. HBO currently has its “Mildred Pierce” with Kate Winslet as the deluded mom of all time. And Starz has given us “Pillars of the Earth,” “Spartacus” and the upcoming “Camelot.” Oh, yes, and HBO is readying the medieval fantasy, “Game of Thrones.” Two years ago we had the fabulous mini “John Adams” on HBO.
I wouldn’t mind seeing a great trashy showbiz epic produced by one of these networks. You know, Gwen Davis’ hugely entertaining and popular 1969 novel “The Pretenders” was never made into a movie. More recently, Charles Casillo’s “The Fame Game” is ripe for some cable miniseries treatment, and that one contains a role that Lindsay — no last name, anymore! — was born to play. (As George Sanders said to Marilyn’s Miss Caswell in “All About Eve” — “Your next stop, I think, should be toward television.”)
HBO, Showtime, Starz, Lindsay — everybody think on this!
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BY THE way, there’s a terrific profile on Jeremy Irons in the current New York magazine. Writer Jada Yuan describes him: “At 62, he still possesses a liquid-eyed hotness.” Wait until Jada sees “The Borgias.”
Something else is amusing in New York magazine. Recognizing the passing of Elizabeth Taylor, the mag prints a photo of Taylor with Eddie Fisher in 1959 at Leone’s restaurant in New York. She is in low-cut white, the part of her bosom not exposed is covered in diamonds. She wears white elbow-length gloves, holds a cigarette and Eddie Fisher looks besotted. The caption states “The Libertine.”
Later in the issue, the mag notes that in her last two years, Elizabeth attempted to stay current by going on Twitter. So New York magazine reprints, on one page, in miniscule type, every single one of Elizabeth Taylor’s 131 tweets.
No offense to Miss Taylor’s adventures in Twitter, but I prefer to remember her as she appeared in her photo — The Libertine.
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IT WAS LADIES’ NIGHT for the opening of the super handsome and world-renowned opera singer, Nathan Gunn, making his debut nightclub appearance at the legendary Café Carlyle. Golly, this guy is handsome! And he has a luscious baritone voice, with which he seduced the mainly female audience on opening night. Among the gals present was opera director, Francesca Zambello, who arrived on crutches having broken a bone, and the one and only Broadway diva, Barbara Cook. Nothing will stop the dames from applauding the charming Grammy winner that Nathan is. His wife Julie Jordan Gunn accompanies her hubby on the piano. Julie is passionate about songs and loves to design recitals that include Broadway classics and cabaret favorites. You have until April 16 to enjoy a very warm and sweet evening in one of my favorite nightspots. For more info www.thecarlyle.com or 212-744-1600.
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“I HAVE NO REGRETS!” No, that’s not Edith Piaf. It is Yankee baseball star Derek Jeter answering Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire. Well, I always thought Edith might have had at least one or two regrets, despite her thrilling song, which insisted otherwise. But here’s to Mr. Jeter, who is regret-free. I would love to know how he manages that!