27 May 2008

Heads Did Roll

I feel a bit like Irwin in The History Boys (in the play, anyway) but if you want to learn about (Sir) Alan Sugar, study Henry VIII, except Siralan is a pussycat compared to Good King Hal, and yet The Apprentice isn't a million miles apart from the back-stabbing, double-crossing court of Henry VIII either.

  • The Apprentice candidates must lower themselves by referring to the boss as "Siralan." Subjects must refer to Henry as Yuhmajesty (Yurmajesty in the case of the American actors who can't quite manage the non-rhotic accent) - although hot young things are occasionally excused from this, until it's pretty much too late to save themselves and they resort to begging.
  • Siralan has his favourites that are beyond comprehension to any objective party. Hal has his favourites that are beyond comprehension to any objective party (yeah, so, Anne was hot but marrying her?).
  • Candidates will quite happily drop one another in the firing line in order to move up in Siralan's appreciate and (more often) to save their own neck. Henry's subjects will quite happily betray one another to win his favour, to promote their family's interests and to (literally) save their own neck.
  • Siralan has to keep on firing candidates because he has only ten (?) episodes in the series and needs to end up with one winner. Henry has to keep on executing people because if he trusts anyone for too long, they're bound to betray him eventually. No one seems to realise that while being in his favour is wonderful, the flipside of the manic depressive coin is that you might end up one head shorter. Ah, Anne, Cromwell, More...you all thought you would be different... How naive.
  • There are some real idiots on The Apprentice (especially those with Ancient Greek and double-barrelled surnames) and some very unlucky people (salt of the earth army chaps and those for whom "the spoken language is their tool" maybe). There are some real idiots in the Tudor court (Mark Smeaton, bless him, although in the TV show, he's more of a fabulous queen than an unsubtle, careless idiot) and some who just picked the wrong side at the wrong time (Thomas More).

Still, the characters in Henry's court are far more interesting than pretty much everyone on The Apprentice, although in this week's episode, heads really did roll in The Tudors: Smeaton, George Boleyn, Brereton and Sir Henry Norris all confess to sleeping with Queen A. After a good racking, anyway. Brereton is working for the Emperor and the Pope and confessed willingly as his death would contribute to the downfall of "the whore." Poor old Smeaton only screwed Anne's brother (although Henry generously allowed him to be beheaded rather than the hanging, drawing and quartering a commoner would normally have been dealt). George B himself probably wouldn't have been executed had a) his lovely, jealous wife not dropped him in it with Henry in the first place and failed to defend him and b) he hadn't emasculated Henners during the trial, saying he was a bad lover. Handsome poet Thomas Wyatt (senior) was saved, ironically, given that after Inquisitioner in Chief Thomas Cromwell that he was the only one who was guilty of sleeping with the queen (pre-Henry). His son, of course, goes on to be executed for plotting to overthrow Mary and to put Anne's daughter on the throne instead.

For all the beheadings in this episode, though, it was a bit of a letdown as Anne is still standing (season finale next week must be suitably dramatic, of course). Henry was devastated to "find out" about all of her "lovers" and sobs into Charles, Duke of Hotness's lap, cursing her, and pretending that he really believes Cromwell's fabricated charges and that Anne hurt and betrayed him.

Just like The Apprentice, though, replenishing its supply of candidates once a year, once Henry has killed off all of one family or one generation at court, the time will come for another to shine. As the Boleyn's star falls, so that of the Seymours begins to shine (and Seymour Junior 1 and 2 end up wreaking havoc long into Mary's reign), and just as Cromwell shot to brilliance allowing him to push Anne out of the way, so too his own decisions as to suitable brides for Henry end him up in the Tower. No one is safe, no matter how good a friend, and being Siralan's favourite will only get you so far if you keep on making mistakes and, worse, make the wrong decisions at the wrong time. Still, Siralan could really learn from a biography of Henry VIII (I'm not suggesting he could learn from Jonathan Rhys-Meyers - the most Irish Henry ever).

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