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Featured TV on DVD Review: Borgia Faith and Fear: Season One

February 19th, 2012

Borgia Faith and Fear: Season One - Buy from Amazon

In 2011, two shows about the Borgia family were created. The Borgias is a Showtime series starring Jeremy Irons as the head of the titular Borgia family. At the same time, Borgia Faith and Fear was created for Canal+, a cable network in France. Obviously most people here will be more aware of The Borgias, but is Borgia Faith and Fear the better show?

The Show

John Doman stars as Rodrigo Borgia the leader of the Borgia family, whom some say were the inspiration for Machiavelli's The Prince. In the beginning of the series, he is a vice chancellor of the College of Cardinals, which is almost as powerful as you can be within the Catholic church without being the Pope. The Pope, Innocent VIII, is ill and Rodrigo Borgia is already building support to become the new pope. His main rival is Della Rovere (Dejan Cukic) and neither man is above bribery or violence to get their way.

Not only does Rodrigo Borgia have to deal with the politics and war involved in papal succession, but he has to deal with a dysfunctional family. Yes, Catholic priests are supposed to be celibate, but as his wife / mistress Vannozza Cattanei (Assumpta Serna) explains, even Pope Innocent VIII has bastard kids. His eldest daughter past away before the show began, while his eldest son was killed by Moorish assassins as revenge for his military victories in Spain. He has four surviving children. Juan (Stanley Weber) is his oldest remaining child, but he seems to lack talent, except where it comes to attracting women and violence. Cesare (Mark Ryder) is being groomed to be a bishop, but he feels he's unfit for holy title. He's got a point, as his talents are also more militant than theological. (While his passion for woman is also decidedly unholy.) Lucrezia (Isolda Dychauk) is his only daughter, whom he betroths to the son of a politically important family. Finally there's Goffredo (Adam Mis�k) his youngest son, whom he doesn't even recognize as his son.

Through the 12 episodes of the first season, we watch the political machinations as Rodrigo Borgia fights to become pope and the effects that has on the church, the divided states of Italy, and his own family.

When comparing and contrasting Borgia Faith and Fear and The Borgias, the word that comes up most frequently to describe the latter is "tame". There's no way you can use that word to describe this show. This is the perfect show to give someone who complains about the lack of morals in today's society. There's infidelity, murder, rape, incest, backstabbing, bribery, war, etc. It does create an intriguing show, but there are a couple problems that keep it from being a wholly successful show. First of all, the lack of sympathetic characters is a problem. Vannozza Cattanei and Lucrezia Borgia are the only members of the Borgia family that are sympathetic, while there are a couple of side characters that are also likeable (John Bradley as Giovanni De Medici, for instance).

There is also one other serious problem. John Doman is American and he sounds American. Too often, he sounds like a modern American and that is a huge contrast to the rest of international cast. This can really hurt your immersion at times, as he sounds like a tough New York cop more than a Renaissance cardinal.

On a side note, is it just me, or is Isolda Dychauk a spitting image for Molly C. Quinn? I think Isolda Dychauk might have a slightly rounder face.

The Extras

The extras are all on Disc Three. The menu only has two items; a making of featurette and some interviews. However, that is deceptive, as the making of featurette is a multi-part featurette with a running time of 37 minutes. While the interview featurette is over 100 minutes of interviews, mostly with members of the cast, but also with a few of the crew members. Maybe a few audio commentary tracks would have been nice, but you can't argue that this three-disc set is devoid of extras.

The Verdict

If you are a fan of historical dramas, especially those that focuses on the more salacious aspects of history, you should enjoy Borgia Faith and Fear: Season One. There are more than enough extras on the DVD to make it worth picking up.

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