Hey TV.com, Should I Watch Starz's The White Queen?

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Sigh, another costume drama about kings and queens. Anyone who's ever had to sit through a history course focusing on British succession knows very well that A) it's confusing, B) everyone has the same name, and C) everyone hated everyone way back when. Seriously, I needed a color-coded flowchart to keep everything organized, and by exam time I pretty much just threw out the names Edward, George, Henry or James and hoped for the best. And those memories came flooding back during my screening of the first few episodes of Starz's new period drama The White Queen, which will curtsy across your TV screen starting this weekend. Should you bow in return? Read on to find out.

White Queen? Is this another Once Upon a Time spin-off?

Definitely not. The most obvious comparison I can make for those who prefer TV over musty old textbooks is Showtime's The Tudors, which focused on one of the most well-known monarchies in British history (that of King Henry VIII, who was infamous for his inability to keep it in his pants). The White Queen is about another well-known period of British history, the War of the Roses, which was fought between two houses, the House of York and the House of Lancaster. But while most people rightfully associate that time with the men who would be king, the series focuses heavily on three influential women from the period—Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville—and their scheming for the throne. But because this is Starz and not the History Channel, Elizabeth and her mother, Jaquetta of Luxembourg, have the Sight, meaning they can see the future. Of course if that were a real thing, you'd think they would have seen the Earl of Warwick's betrayal coming. Ouch, historical burn!

Who's the kingmaker? And who are the ladies in waiting?

The White Queen is based on a series of novels by Philippa Gregory that are rooted in historical fact. The books were adapted for TV by Emma Frost, who wrote for the original U.K. version of Shameless and is not to be confused with the X-Men character Emma Frost, even though, oddly enough, the X-Men character was formerly called White Queen. The series stars Swedish newcomer Rebecca Ferguson as the titular figurehead, Elizabeth Woodville, who becomes the Queen of England after marrying King Edward IV (played by Jeremy Irons' son Max). Ferguson is joined by Amanda Hale (Ripper Street) as Lady Margaret Beaufort and Faye Marsay as Anne Neville. Rounding out the cast are James Frain (The Tudors) as the scheming Earl of Warwick, Janet McTeer (Parade's EndDamages) as Jaquetta of Luxembourg, and Caroline Goodall as the king's icy mother, Duchess Cecily

When does the reign begin?

The White Queen premieres this Saturday, August 10 at 8pm on Starz.

Who will like The White Queen?

Good question. I've devised this simple quiz for you:

What elements do you like you TV shows to have?

A. British succession history

B. Backstabbings and beheadings

C. Elements of the supernatural

D. James Frain

E. All of the above

If you answered E, then Starz's new period drama The White Queen is probably for you. If you don't like any of those options, you might want to pass on this one.

What makes The White Queen worthy of royalty?

It's refreshing to see a historical drama focusing on the women of British history, and not just as they pertain to Henry VIII's sex life. The series does a fairly decent job of introducing historical figures, so viewers with no knowledge of the War of the Roses and its important players can still follow along quite easily from the start (the one exception to this is the young Henry VII; until Lady Margaret Beaufort mentions the name Tudor, it's not clear who her son is or why she's so upset about King Edward IV stripping him of his title at age 5). Also, Janet McTeer is deserving of praise for her role as Jaquetta of Luxembourg, but she's Janet McTeer so that could have probably gone without saying.

And why should we rebel against it?

The most frustrating thing about this series is the way it deals with the passage of time. Because it must cover several decades' worth of plot in hour-long chunks, it has to move quickly. But there are no references or touchstones to help viewers keep track of the pace. In the pilot, it appears that King Edward meets, falls in love with, marries, and impregnates Elizabeth in the span of 36 hours, but in TV reality it's longer than that, and in actual reality it's even longer. While lots of TV series signal the passage of time with seasonal or wardrobe changes, The White Queen does neither. Instead, it adds throwaway lines like "It's been four months," or a "three years later" caption will appear on screen. The most confusing part is that some characters are recast as the show goes on with older actors and actresses, while others are not. The young Henry VII is played by the same actor at age 5 as he is at age 8, and the aging of the adult characters is confusing as well.

Elsewhere, Amanda Hale is particularly grating as Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII and paternal grandmother of the infamous Henry VIII. I'm not sure whether to blame this on the character's constant whining about her son, her insistence on God having a plan, or the actress herself. For Hale's sake, I hope it's the character.

So... should I watch it?

If you're looking for an interesting costume drama with excessive nudity and strong female characters fighting for a throne, you should stick with HBO's Game of Thrones. Sure, that show's not based on historical events, but The White Queen doesn't exactly stick to the facts. Plus, there is no equivalent to Tywin Lannister in historical Great Britain, and that's a damn shame. 

Can I see a preview?

Here you go!

What should I drink while watching The White Queen?

I recommend a glass of your majesty's best wine.


 The White Queen premieres this Saturday, August 10 at 8pm on Starz.