The Borgias
The Borgias.jpg
GenreHistorical fiction
Created byNeil Jordan
Written byNeil Jordan
David Leland
Guy Burt
Theme music composerTrevor Morris
Country of origin
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes29 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Neil Jordan
  • Jack Rapke
  • Darryl Frank
  • John Weber
  • Sheila Hockin
  • James Flynn
  • David Leland (second season)
  • Michael Hirst (first season)
Production locationHungary[1]
CinematographyPaul Sarossy
Running time48–58 minutes
Production companies
Original network
Picture format1080i (HDTV)
Audio formatDolby Digital 5.1
Original releaseApril 3, 2011 (2011-04-03) –
June 16, 2013 (2013-06-16)

The Borgias is a historical-fiction drama television series created by Neil Jordan; it debuted in 2011 and was canceled in 2013.

The series is set in Renaissance-era Italy and follows the Borgia family in their scandalous ascension to the papacy. Mercilessly cruel and defiantly decadent, the Borgias use bribery, simony, intimidation and murder in their relentless quest for wealth and power that make them history's most infamous crime family. It stars Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI with François Arnaud as Cesare, Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia and David Oakes as Juan. Colm Feore also stars as Cardinal della Rovere (later Pope Julius II).[2]

It premiered on April 3, 2011, at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime in the United States and 10 p.m. Eastern (UTC−04:00) on Bravo! in Canada,[1][3] and received its first major television network premiere on June 21, 2011, on Canada's CTV Television Network.[4] The second season premiered on April 8, 2012. On May 4, 2012, Showtime ordered a third season of 10 episodes, which premiered on April 14, 2013.[5][6]

On June 5, 2013, Showtime canceled the series, a season short of Jordan's planned four-season arc for the series. The cancellation was implied to be due to the expense of production, with plans for a two-hour wrap-up finale also scrapped.[7][8] A fan campaign was started in an attempt to convince Showtime to revive the series.[8] On August 12, 2013, it was announced that the two-hour series finale script would be released as an e-book, after it was determined that a movie would be too expensive to produce.[9]

Plot overview

The series follows the rise of the Borgia family to the pinnacle of the Catholic Church and their struggles to maintain their grip on power. The beginning of the first season depicts the election of Rodrigo Borgia to the papacy through simony and bribery, with the help of his sons, Cesare and Juan. Upon winning the election, Rodrigo Borgia becomes Pope Alexander VI, which then thrusts him and his family deep into the murky heart of politics in fifteenth-century Europe: from shifting loyalties within the College of Cardinals to the ambitions of the kings of Europe to the venomous rivalries between the noble families of Italy at the time.

Meanwhile, enraged by his loss of the election to Borgia, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere travels across Italy and France, seeking allies to depose or kill Alexander: this would force another papal conclave and race for Pope which della Rovere is convinced he would win without Borgia to oppose him.

The series also follows the complicated sibling relationships between Cesare, Juan, and Lucrezia. Between Cesare and Juan, there is deep rivalry, with jealousy and resentment on Cesare's side; inferiority and aggression on Juan's. Juan's descent into addiction, illness, malice, and madness in the second season leads to a shocking confrontation between him and Cesare which forever changes the family. Between Cesare and Lucrezia, there is an abiding intimacy and closeness which finally delves into incest in Season 3, as the show's take on the persistent rumors about the real-life siblings. Their youngest sibling, Gioffre, is a minor player in the first season, not seen at all in the second, and does not become a major plot point until the third and final season.

The show also addressed Lucrezia's first and second marriage, her illegitimate child, the affair between Alexander VI and Giulia "La Bella" Farnese, the rise of Girolamo Savonarola in Florence, his Bonfire of the Vanities and eventual burning for heresy.

The series cancellation prevented the death of Pope Alexander VI and the succession of Pope Julius II from being explored, and the downfall of Cesare Borgia.


Main cast

Supporting cast

Pinturicchio is mentioned as a painter of Giulia Farnese in season 1, episode 2.


The series is an international co-production, filmed in Hungary, and produced in Canada.[1] Filming in Hungary mainly took place at the Korda Studios in Etyek, just west of Budapest.[20]

Jordan had tried to direct a film about the Borgia reign for over a decade, and the project had many times come close to fruition, with stars such as Colin Farrell and Scarlett Johansson attached to it. In 2010, Steven Spielberg, the head of DreamWorks Pictures (now a producer of The Borgias), suggested the film be turned into a cable drama, and Jordan took the idea over to Showtime executives who, wanting to fill the void historical series The Tudors would leave after its final season, commissioned the series. Jordan has stated that the ideal would be a series of four seasons so he could span at least the period of Rodrigo Borgia's papacy (1492–1503).[citation needed]

For the role of Rodrigo Borgia, Jordan turned to Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, known for playing villains and anti-heroes. The actor initially had second thoughts about his suitability to play someone historically described as an obese, dark-complexioned Spaniard, but Jordan wanted him to focus on the aspects of the character's obsession with power and life, which the actor could play to the hilt.[citation needed]


Main article: List of The Borgias episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
19April 3, 2011 (2011-04-03)May 22, 2011 (2011-05-22)
210April 8, 2012 (2012-04-08)June 17, 2012 (2012-06-17)
310April 14, 2013 (2013-04-14)June 16, 2013 (2013-06-16)

The first season consists of nine episodes; the premiere encompassed two episodes, with the remaining seven episodes being first-aired each week following. The second season consisted of ten episodes, the first half of which were written by show creator Neil Jordan, whereas the latter half was written by noted English writer-director David Leland, who joined the series' staff as co-showrunner and producer and directed its last two episodes.[21] The finale of season 2 was written by Guy Burt, who also helped storyline the season. Season 3, the show's final season, again consists of ten episodes, four of which were written by Burt, while the other six, including the final episode, were again written by Jordan.


The show's first season received generally favorable reviews in the United States, scoring 66 out of 100 based on 25 critics on Metacritic.[22] Robert Bianco of USA Today said, "... seen from a safe distance, captured by a sterling cast led in marvelous high style by Jeremy Irons, and presented with all the brio, flair and sumptuous design TV can muster, the infamous family is almost addictively entertaining".[23] Linda Stasi of the New York Post gave the season a 3.5/4 rating, remarking "'The Borgias' (the series) makes The Tudors look like a bunch of amateurs with bigger lips."[24]

However, it was met with a more mixed reception in the United Kingdom. Rachel Ray of The Daily Telegraph called Irons' performance "disappointingly undiabolical". She added that the show is "for history buffs, not for viewers looking for another Godfather".[25] Sarah Dempster of The Guardian mocked the show's dialogue and visual style: "The ridiculousness mounts. The opening double bill features impromptu palazzo brawls between priapic gadabouts in bejewelled codpieces ("Back to Spain, Borgia!") and flocks of miffed cardinals gliding along darkened corridors like motorised pepperpots".[26] Sam Wollaston recalled the 1981 BBC miniseries of the same name, which had been widely panned, and said there was "more thought to this [2011] version, and attention to character. And Irons is proper".[27] The Independent's Holly Williams praised Irons, but said elsewhere, "the acting and script feel about as substantial as a communion wafer. With power struggles, sex, assassinations and sibling rivalries, it should, at least, be racy and fun. Yet the storyline often feels curiously ungripping".[28]

The second season's premiere was met with much more positive reviews, and holds a Metacritic score of 81/100, based on six reviews.[29] Curt Wagner of RedEye has stated, "Based on the first four episodes of the new season, I'd say Jordan has figured things out. The Borgias still overflows with delicious intrigues, sex and deadly politics, but it now has an energy and constant forward momentum the first season lacked."[30] Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter has stated, "Borgias retains the intrigue and conniving family politics that made season one such a pleasure ride, but it all has more snap now, with Jordan spinning the plates with aplomb."[31]

Awards and nominations

The Borgias garnered 16 different Emmy nominations throughout its run, and won three: twice for Outstanding Costumes for a Series (2011 & 2013) and once for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music (2011).[32] The excellence of the costume design on the series was further recognized by the Costume Designers Guild, which twice nominated The Borgias for the Excellence in Period Television award (2011 & 2013).[33][34]

Jeremy Irons was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama in 2012.[35]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Sex. Power. Murder. Amen. Sinful Drama The Borgias Premieres April 3 on Bravo!" (Press release). CTV. March 11, 2011. Archived from the original on March 24, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2011.
  2. ^ "Bravo! and CTV's The Borgias Lands Legendary Actor Sir Derek Jacobi" (Press release). Bell Media. June 10, 2010. Archived from the original on May 4, 2011. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  3. ^ "The Borgias Premieres April 3 on Bravo!" (Press release). CNW Group. March 14, 2011. Archived from the original on May 4, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2011.
  4. ^ "The Borgias Coming to CTV". The May 9, 2011. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
  5. ^ Seidman, Robert (January 12, 2013). "Showtime Announces Premiere Dates for 'Nurse Jackie,' 'Dexter' (Returning Early) 'Ray Donovan,' 'Homeland,' 'Masters of Sex' & More". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  6. ^ Bibel, Sara (May 4, 2012). "'The Borgias' Renewed for a Third Season by Showtime". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on May 4, 2012. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  7. ^ Ausiello, Michael (June 5, 2013). "Showtime Officially Cancels The Borgias – Find Out How It Was Supposed to End". TVLine. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  8. ^ a b Mellor, Louisa (June 20, 2013). "Save The Borgias Campaign Gains Momentum". Den of Geek. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  9. ^ Cornet, Roth (August 12, 2013). "Two-Hour Borgias Finale Script To Be Released As E-Book". IGN. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  10. ^ "Rodrigo Borgia/Pope Alexander VI". The Borgias. Bravo!. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  11. ^ "Cesare Borgia". The Borgias. Bravo!. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  12. ^ "Lucrezia Borgia". The Borgias. Bravo!. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  13. ^ "Vanozza dei Cattanei". The Borgias. Bravo!. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  14. ^ "Giulia Farnese". The Borgias. Bravo!. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  15. ^ "Juan Borgia". The Borgias. Bravo!. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  16. ^ "Micheletto". The Borgias. Showtime. Archived from the original on October 3, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  17. ^ "Gioffre Borgia". The Borgias. Showtime. Archived from the original on October 9, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  18. ^ "Cardinal Della Rovere". The Borgias. Bravo!. Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  19. ^ Björling , Sanna Torén (August 10, 2012). "'Det är inte synd om mig för att jag får etnoroller'" ['I'm Not Sorry I Get Ethnic Roles']. Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  20. ^ "The Borgias Set Visit: Hungary Hungry for Film Business". Calgary Herald. November 8, 2011.
  21. ^ Whitney, Hilary (July 2, 2011). "theartsdesk Q&A: Writer/Director David Leland: The Leading Film-maker on a Career Made in Eighties Britain". Retrieved June 16, 2012.
  22. ^ "The Borgias: Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  23. ^ Bianco, Robert (April 1, 2011). "A Scandalous Good Time with 'The Borgias'". USA Today. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  24. ^ Stasi, Linda (March 31, 2011). "Family Values". New York Post. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  25. ^ Ray, Rachel (April 4, 2011). "The Borgias, Showtime: US TV review". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  26. ^ Dempster, Sarah (August 12, 2011). "The Borgias: Epic Silliness". The Guardian. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  27. ^ "TV Review: The Borgias; Britain's Hidden Heritage". The Guardian. August 14, 2011. Retrieved December 22, 2011.
  28. ^ Williams, Holly (August 14, 2011). "The Borgias, Sky Atlantic, Saturday". The Independent. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  29. ^ "The Borgias Season 2". Metacritic.
  30. ^ Wagner, Curt (2012). "TV review: Sex, violence, schemes--'The Borgias' is back".
  31. ^ Goodman, Tim (April 4, 2012). "The Borgias: TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  32. ^ "The Borgias=Emmy Awards & Nominations". Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  33. ^ "Nominees/Winners". Costume Designers Guild. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  34. ^ "Nominees/Winners". Costume Designers Guild. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  35. ^ "Golden Globe Awards for 'Borgias, The'". Retrieved February 20, 2020.