Sam Neill has an extraordinary face. His Wolsey in The Tudors looks like the Machiavellian lovechild of a world-weary pug and an old woman sucking a sherbert lemon. He's definitely channelling Tim Curry's Cardinal Richelieu, which makes sense when Henry VIII and his posse (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Henry Cavill, Kris Holden-Reid) seem to think they are The Three Musketeers.
HBO's sister production Rome was a banana - a funny, dirty, solid, instant sugar-hit. The Tudors is more like the pomegranate upon which Rhys-Myers performs cunnilingus in the first episode: messy, rich, a bit insubstantial and distinctly unEnglish, despite repeating Rome's winning formula of casting the cream of British character acting.
Incongruously, Rome's visceral, lusty-limbed rowdiness had a stronger Tudor flavour than this rather dusty, hollow show. This is mainly down to the clever-clever miscasting of the usually wonderful Rhys-Meyers; despite the bumfluff beard budding in episode one, his shiny, hard eel-body quite simply doesn't fit with the hirsute bear-bulk of HRH The Eighth. Now just imagine Rome's Pullo, Ray Stevenson, as the monarch. Ah yes. Imagine regularly throughout the day, in short bursts. That would have been a modern, virile, surprising Henry - but a Henry, not a callow Hal.
There is so much potential here that it may well gel going forwards, but the debut just doesn't quite cohere. Steve Waddington plays Buckingham as a tantrumy four-year-old with, despite bone fide Yorkshire ancestry, t'strangest northun accent ah've ever 'erd. Anne Boleyn looks like a ferret. Poor Jeremy Northam plays Sir Thomas More beautifully, with quiet conviction, a slight sense of superiority, and a definite sense of confusion about what the hell he is doing there. Let's hope that when Peter O'Toole turns up as the Pope, it'll all stop feeling so surreal.
Oh, of course I'll watch it, a-sighing and a-fluttering, with a platter of cakes and ale. If there's one thing I like, it's watching good-looking actors in good-looking costumes, even if they are indulging in a lot of this.