Forget those stodgy portraits of England's portly King Henry VIII hanging in museums. This Showtime series introduces viewers to a young, hunky and lustful Henry. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is all dash and panache as the star of the historical soap opera, which bursts at the seams with sex, political intrigue, sex, dangerous court liaisons and sex. In the inaugural season, Henry craves a male heir that Queen Katherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy) has been unable to deliver (but his mistress Elizabeth has given birth to an illegitimate son). With his interest in Katherine waning, Henry turns his attentions toward a stunning young beauty named Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer) and makes overtures to her to become his new mistress. Putting aside affairs of the heart to tend to affairs of state and religion, Henry welcomes his wife's nephew Charles V of Spain to court and dutifully tries to hide his lack of affection for his wife. After denouncing Martin Luther and his upstart theology, Pope Clement christens Henry a defender of the faith. With pressure from Anne to get a divorce, Henry sends the devious and opportunistic Cardinal Wolsey (Sam Neill) to Rome to petition His Excellency. Amid all the political, personal and religious goings-on, the stage is set for a monumental showdown between Henry, Rome, Spain and France, and all those involved do their best to keep their heads.
by Ray Stackhouse synopsis