Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Overlooked TV: The White Queen (2013)


I like a good historical costume drama, and while THE WHITE QUEEN, a BBC mini-series from 2013 that ran on the cable channel Starz in the U.S., isn’t quite a top-notch entry in that genre, it’s certainly watchable.

I imagine some of the people who watched this said, “Hey, what a rip-off! They just stole the plot from GAME OF THRONES. Lancasters and Yorks? Come on!” Yep, it’s the War of the Roses again, beginning in this version with King Edward’s secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville that kicks off all sorts of intrigue and violence over the next twenty years, culminating with Henry Tudor’s defeat of Richard III to become King Henry VII. I’m no expert on British history, but I know just enough that I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen all the way through.

THE WHITE QUEEN, based on several novels by Philippa Gregory, indulges in a little historical speculation here and there, mostly about what really happened to the princes in the Tower of London. Many years ago, I read a mystery novel by Josephine Tey called THE DAUGHTER OF TIME, which features a British police inspector passing the time while he’s recuperating from an injury by trying to figure out what really happened to the princes. I remember thinking it was very good, and I ought to reread it one of these days. But to get back to THE WHITE QUEEN, I thought it did a reasonably good job of sticking to the history, but that may be because, like I said above, I’m no expert.

I didn’t recognize anybody in the cast except one of the villains, but they all do a pretty good job. There’s quite a bit of scenery-chewing, but it works in context. An apparently low budget kind of hurts this production, though. Whenever there’s a scene with the “armies” of the various contenders for the throne, the so-called army usually consists of maybe two dozen guys standing around. Then later, somebody will burst into a scene in some castle and exclaim, “There’s just been a huge battle! Their guys beat our guys!” Or vice versa. There are a couple of actual battle scenes, but they’re small-scale and not very well-staged, with a lot of that quick-cut editing to disguise the fact that there are only a couple dozen guys in the armies.

So why watch THE WHITE QUEEN? The history behind the story actually is pretty dramatic and interesting, and it’s very much a real-life soap opera. And there’s one aspect in which THE WHITE QUEEN maybe even outdoes GAME OF THRONES: gratuitous nudity. Lots and lots of gratuitious nudity. So if you watch it, you know what you’re getting into, as the actress said to the bishop.

7 comments:

Peter Brandvold said...

I was wavering until I got to "gratuitous nudity." Sign me up!

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Ah yes, Starz is known for the gratuitous nudity. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Daughter Of Time is terrific. Although I think he comes to the wrong conclusion.

Charles Gramlich said...

I saw some about this and wanted to watch it. I'll have to give it a try

Chap O'Keefe said...

The Josephine Tey mysteries, though few, are well worth that re-reading, James. DAUGHTER OF TIME is generally said to be the best, but all eight are very good. The books are readily available in digital editions (e.g. the wonderful Roy Glashan Library). A 1951 movie version of THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR takes inevitable short cuts, as is the wont with 95-minute adaptations, but is also worth watching.

James Reasoner said...

I didn't realize Josephine Tey wrote only eight mysteries. I knew she wasn't as prolific as, say, Agatha Christie, but I thought there were more than that. I'm going to read at least some of them.

Cap'n Bob said...

Nudity, gratuitous or not, is always a siren song for me.