Friday, July 23, 2010

Pillars of The Earth: Swords, Sandals and Sex

Sutherland senior: where's Jack Bauer when you need him?
What seems most jarring to these failing eyes are the sex scenes in today's modern miniseries. While The Thorn Birds seemed racy in its day, Father Ralph and that Aussie chick were merely playing patty fingers in the Holy water compared to the sword and sandal sizzle of Pillars of the Earth (premiering Friday at 10 p.m. on The Movie Network/Movie Central and Starz).
More than 30 years after Roots, there's plenty of rooting and rutting in aptly named Pillars. It's happening up against walls, in Sherwood forest, where ever.
Don't be fooled by ads showing old pros Donald Sutherland (above), Gordon Pinsent and Ian McShane as the bearded stars of this $50 million miniseries. They're all there, and excellent as usual. Much of the story, however, centres around Tom Builder, played by terrific Rufus Sewell (below). As explained in Ken Follett's bestselling novel, upon which this miniseries is based, he's the guy who wants to build a cathedral in the forest. He's brooding, and when he's not brooding, he's boinking. Shoulda called him Tom Buildup, as in sperm pressure. When he gets frisky with a witchy friend, he takes this tale from the Dark Ages to the Playboy After Dark Ages.
Ramping up the adult content is that fact that this is a cable miniseries, commissioned by premium specialty services The Movie Network/Movie Central in Canada and basic cable network Starz in the States. There are no U.S. broadcast network standards and practices to adhere to, and so let the boinking begin.
Not that I have anything against boinking, it just throws you when you pop in a screener with young family members in the room thinking harmless miniseries and out pops Caligula II. Pillars of the Earth isn't porn, but for a miniseries set in the 12th century be warned: there's more graphic sex, violence and adult language then at a candid Mel Gibson encounter. 
Think 12th century True Blood on an epic scale and hide the kids. I did a phoner with Sewell, who was in Italy playing a detective, about his role in the miniseries. He was smart and funny on the phone, and you can read that interview here in Movie Entertainment magazine.
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