When Shakespeare, Kemp, Burbage and the other “moderately historically accurate” characters are on screen, I am enraptured. I could watch it all day. I’ve been telling people it reminds me of the recent “Jobs” movie starring Michael Fassbender, which was basically two plus hours of a universe centered on Steve Jobs. To the degree that this show will be a universe centered on Shakespeare and his circle, you won’t be able to tear me away from the television.
Alas, television producers don’t have nearly enough faith in modern audiences to allow for that. Instead it’s set against a backdrop of such gratuitous language, sex and violence that I’d be embarrassed to share it with anybody, and almost turned it off fifteen minutes into the show. Think I’m exaggerating?
- We watch a man’s intestines pulled out. Another has what I believe was some sort of hot poker shoved down his throat. Great, we get it, we live in a world where to go against the crown is to risk torture. But you could just as easily have said “you risk losing your head” and had the same effect. Unless you want an audience turned on instead of off by that sort of thing. If I wanted that I know what channel Game of Thrones is on.
- I’m not a prude and I realize that the later the hour, the more sex is allowed in these shows. But as I told one friend, “I didn’t realize that people were allowed to get that naked for that long.” Seriously, it made me wonder whether they were going in and digitally erasing bits, because there’s literally nothing for them to strategically hide anything behind.
- If that’s not awkward enough for you, there’s a side plot involving a prostitute and her little brother who is desperately trying to make enough money to get her out of that life. Just to hammer the point home, we’re treated to a scene of him hiding under her bed while she services a client. The icing on the cake is when he takes out his knife and starts cutting himself, so we’re quite sure of how emotionally messed up he is. Tell me again what the show is called and how any of that has anything to do with Shakespeare?
We could get into the details about the storylines and characters, how much they’re playing up the Catholic/Protestant thing, and whether or not we’re supposed to like Marlowe (I don’t). But that’s my summary for now. When it’s about Shakespeare, it’s got me. Just about everything else, I’m disappointed and embarrassed for the people that made it.