6 times TV made history sexy | Virgin Media
6 times TV made history sexy

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The thing about history – proper far-away history – is that it was ugly and it stank. Every single person had carbuncles and smelt of bins. Every day was a bad hair day. It was so bad, even Lynx Africa would have been a godsend.

Luckily, TV has fixed all that for us, bravely sexing up this cesspool for our viewing pleasure. As the second series of Marco Polo comes to Netflix, let’s take a look at some other fine examples of telly tarting up our ugly past

Da Vinci’s Demons

So THAT’S what she’s smiling about.

So THAT’S what she’s smiling about.

Let’s be fair: the real Leonardo WAS renowned as a bit of a looker in his day. According to one account, he was “endowed by heaven with beauty”. But mere beauty isn’t enough for Da Vinci’s Demons, which reinvents the Renaissance genius as a swaggering cad about town, decked out with hipster facial scruff and baring his chest with Russell Brand-like abandon. This Leonardo is basically a rock star crossed with a GQ model, and it’s only the laws of physics that are stopping him from stepping out of the TV to steal everybody’s girlfriends. Thank goodness. 

The Tudors

Not the Henry VIII we remember from school.

Not the Henry VIII we remember from school.

Think “Henry VIII” and what springs to mind? A man roughly the width of a bungalow, with a face like a hairy profiterole. In other words, the exact opposite of Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who comes across more like the token rogue from a boy band than the swollen megalomaniac of legend. Yes, we know the young Henry was handsome, but in The Tudors he’s ALWAYS handsome, even when he’s meant to be old and dying. Oh, and the show also features Henry Cavill – a chap so perfect-looking we’re pretty sure he was designed on Photoshop and brought into the world Weird Science-style.

The Borgias

Naturally born sexy killers.

Naturally born sexy killers.

We’re no experts on the Renaissance, but by consulting online resources (ie, Google image search) we can confirm the real Rodrigo Borgia looked like Mr Bumble from Oliver Twist. He definitely did not look like icily handsome silver fox Jeremy Irons, who plays him in The Borgias. Then there’s Francois Arnaud rocking the sexy Jesus look as his hunky son. As for Holliday Grainger/Lucrezia Borgia – she literally, literally looks like she’s been sculpted out of peaches and cream. And they hadn’t even invented cream in those days. True fact.

Spartacus

“I am Spartacus” “You wish”

“I am Spartacus” “You wish”

Given that he died in 71BC, which is a while ago now, nobody knows what the real Spartacus looked like. But going back to what we said earlier, chances are he had running sores and teeth the colour of liquorice, in the standard BC way. Still, the Spartacus TV series isn’t having any of that, instead giving us a rebel hero with chiselled face and Chippendale body. The show isn’t just about beefy blokes scowling sexily at things, mind. We also get to see a luscious legion of female characters hot enough to make a Roman centurion weep. 

Rome

When in Rome…

When in Rome…

Sexing up the Romans isn’t too much of an ask, since they were constantly having wine-sodden orgies, right? Unless that’s a historical myth. In which case who cares because orgies are better than accuracy (words to live by, right there). Anyway, we digress. The point is, Rome the TV series was so darn decadent and debauched and filled with oiled heaving chests that it caused a minor scandal at the time. Anne Widdicombe – no prude, she – described it as “akin to a porn movie”, which we’re assuming is emblazoned all over the cover of the DVD boxset like a badge of pride. 

Marco Polo

Now we know how he got his reputation as a great explorer.

Now we know how he got his reputation as a great explorer.

When a show has “concubines”, you know it’s not the sort of show you’ll be wanting to watch with your parents. Even if your dad says “Oh, Marco Polo, that sounds interesting”, in the mistaken belief that it’ll be an adventure yarn about an Italian adventurer hanging out with Kublai Khan. When actually it’s an adventure yarn about an Italian adventurer hanging out with Kublai Khan and also having sex all the time. Not to mention the occasional freaky-weird hallucinatory orgy. Luckily, the bloke playing him is all Byronic locks and puppy dog eyes, and the women are uniformly gorgeous, so that’s OK then.

Marco Polo season 2 is now available to watch on Netflix

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