Versailles is the BBC’s latest failed attempt at copying Game of Thrones
Too much sex is the least of its problems
Versailles is the BBC’s latest foray into “sexy” Game of Thrones-style programming. It hasn’t even started yet and many are wishing they hadn’t bothered.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen voiced his outrage this weekend over the new drama – expected to air in the UK in May – saying: “There are channels where, if you wish to view this sort of material, you would have to pay for it. “BBC viewers don’t have a choice,” he continued: “They have to pay for it whether they approve or not.”
But the problem isn’t the amount of sex – it’s the lack of anything else. From the trailer, it is clear to see that Versailles is a contrived, over-acted hamfest in which pretty men with long hair shout at each other in posh voices. It’s been billed “the most explicit show ever on TV”, but what they’ve failed to mention is that it’s also probably going to be one of the worst.
The problem with Versailles is that everyone involved seems to know how bad it is. The lines, which are delivered with all the subtlety of Brian Blessed in a low-budget panto, are laughably bad. “You pissed on your brother,” exclaims Merlin actor Alexander Vlahos at one point: “But I pissed on the king.” It’s even so painfully cynical that its French producers filmed their show about the French monarchy entirely in English, just so it could be distributed outside of France. The French were a bit pissed about it. Rightly so: it’s possibly the most offensive thing TV has done to a nation’s heritage since the American Lifetime drama about Will and Kate.
Game of Thrones actor Ian McShane decided to trash Game of Thrones this weekend, saying it was nothing but “tits and dragons” – but it’s exactly this mindset which has paved the way for cheap imitation. Ever since GoT first aired, other shows have been trying and failing to recapture the magic, mostly because they confused a genuinely good show with some sort of sword-and-sandals revival which had them dusting off every rejected medieval soft-porn script under the sun.
No-one seems to understand that Game of Thrones’ success was down to so much more than gratuitous nipple shots, beheadings and obnoxiously long wigs. Look at ITV’s most recent attempt, Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, which takes the most important poem of all time and turns it into a badly-acted melodrama in which the only thing cheaper-looking than the CGI are the main characters’ hairdos. Or Da Vinci’s Demons, the OTT Starz production in which Leonardo da Vinci is recast as a sexy swashbuckling 20-something with a penchant for deep V-necks.
It’s not like there haven’t been genuinely good sexy TV shows recently – the BBC’s brilliant The Night Manager is a perfect example of just how good a show can be while still including Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Debicki getting raunchy against a hotel room wall. The difference here, however, is that the rest of the show doesn’t make you want to claw your own eyes out. Versailles, we’re looking at you.
If Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that “tits and dragons” can make a great TV show. The problem is, you’re probably going to need a plot and some actors too.