How Accurate Is: Manhattan (TV Show, 2014-2016) S1E1

Hello everyone! Today’s post will focus on the first episode of Manhattan, a television show which aired from 2014-2016 on WGN America. The show focuses on the Manhattan Project, which produced the world’s first nuclear weapons from a secretive base in the New Mexican desert during the Second World War. It is an interesting show, one which covers fascinating topics; it is not, however, especially historically accurate. In a slight mitigating factor, the producers of the show were not aiming for full accuracy, only trying to bring to life the atmosphere which the scientists at Los Alamos would have experienced.[1] However, it is nonetheless important to discuss the inaccuracies in the show to avoid any confusion.

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One-Year Anniversary Post

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Hello everyone! Today’s post is a special post, because two weeks ago (tomorrow) was the one-year anniversary of the very first post on ButISawItOnTv! On this occasion (the special qualities of which are up for debate) I would like to thank all of those who have read the approximately 50 posts which have made their way onto this site, or nearly one a week, in the past year. I would also like to say that I look forward to another exciting year of posts, and already have some ideas for topics: however, if any of you have ideas of your own or would like me to continue reviewing a television show I have already begun, it would be wonderful if you sent them in via the comments or social media.

If you truly love history, I cannot recommend enough that you enjoy some form of historical media during the following year. Whether this includes reading history books, listening to historical podcasts (during lunch is a good time, I have found), watching movies or television shows, or playing video games, it will enrich your life, I assure you. On that topic, I firmly hope that ButISawItOnTv has enriched yours during its year of existence thus far. Thank you all for reading as always, and I hope you have a wonderful day.

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How Accurate Is: Marco Polo (TV Show, 2014-, S1E1) Post 2

Kublai Khan
Kublai Khan

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be, as promised, on the first episode of Marco Polo, from the Mongol and Chinese point of view rather than that of Polo. In the previous post, it was discussed that the show was fairly faithful to the life of Polo principally because the surviving accounts of his life (including his own) were not especially detailed. The same cannot be said of Mongol and Chinese life during this period, however, so how does the show measure up in this respect? Before entering into a discussion of this subject, it should be noted that there are less personal details on the Mongol or Chinese characters than Polo, so a direct comparison between the treatment of the two cannot truly be made.

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How Accurate Is: Marco Polo (TV Show, 2014-, S1E1) Post 1

Marco POlo

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be on the first episode of the Netflix show Marco Polo, released in 2014. My personal opinion on this show was that it was a promising historical drama derailed by numerous and wholly unnecessary graphic scenes; however, for the sake of this review, that is neither here nor there. In terms of historical accuracy, the show was significantly more accurate than expected, with some caveats. The first is that nearly the only source on the life of the historical Marco Polo is his own book, Il Miliones, which he published upon his return; the second is that this book does not relate his life in great detail, giving the creators of the show significant leeway with their interpretation of events. In many ways, this makes Marco Polo the perfect historical drama from the perspective of television producers; they are permitted to tell a compelling historical story without having to worry too much about getting the details right.

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How Accurate Is: Rome, S1E2 (TV Show, HBO, 2005-7)

Mark Antony
Mark Antony

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be another post on Rome, this time Rome Season 1 Episode 2. There will be less to say about the episode this time, but as always there were certainly some inconsistencies present. I will add before I begin that, once again, the show has the potential to be enjoyable; however, it wastes that potential.

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How Accurate Is: Rome S1E1 (TV Show, HBO, 2005-7) Part 2

Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus

Hello everyone! Today’s post is part 2 of my post on Rome Episode 1. The topic of this post will be the Fact-Based Omissions in this episode of Rome. Although these were fairly common in this episode, they were much less common than the errors covered in the previous post.

One of the most important errors was the fact that Caesar was not consul when he and Pompey split, as depicted in the episode; rather, though he had been consul in 59 BCE, Pompey had just been elected as “consul without a colleague” for the first time in Roman history in 53 BCE.[1] This omission is fairly significant. It is possible that the writers of the show had wanted the alliance between Pompey and Caesar to be obvious without having to explain the circumstances of the First Triumvirate (which would also explain the complete absence of Crassus, who despite having died the same year this episode took place goes unmentioned[2]), and decided that the co-consulship was the easiest way to accomplish this.

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How Accurate Is: Rome S1E1 (Tv Show, HBO, 2005-7) Part 1

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be on Season 1, Episode 1, of the HBO show Rome. I know that it has been a while since anything appeared here, and I apologize; from now on, I will try to get posts up more often. Rome is in itself not a new show, but nonetheless made a significant impact on the world of historical dramas. The question, as always, however, is how rooted in history it actually is.

I should begin by saying that I am on the fence as to whether I enjoyed Rome. On the one hand, it presents a fascinating and complex picture of Roman history during the period of the Civil War and the Second Triumvirate; on the other, its mistakes (so far) are many, and it oversimplifies or flat out alters beyond recognition many of the leading players in the drama. The production values of the show are certainly excellent (which was an important factor in the cancellation of the well-received show after only two seasons); similarly, most of the actors do a wonderful job. It is the writing which, perhaps, could have stood improvement. In the vein of my recent posts on Troy, I am going to split my initial impressions of this episode into several categories, the first two of which will appear in this post. These categories are:

  1. Condensation.
  2. Hollywood (un)Romanticism
  3. Fact-Based Omissions.

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How Accurate Is: The Tudors (TV Show, 2007-2010) S1E3

Charles V (and a dog).
Charles V (and a dog).

Hello everyone! Today I am going to do another post on The Tudors, this time on the third episode of the first season. There is less to discuss in this post than the previous one because it appears that the show is going to continue willfully changing history, as mentioned in my previous post. This episode, incidentally, took place directly after the previous one, which is evident because Charles V visited England to sign the Treaty of Windsor in 1522, while the Duke of Buckingham was executed in 1521.[1] Here, then, are some of the changes made by this episode.

  • For one thing, no sister of Henry VIII married or was intended to marry the King of Portugal, as depicted in this episode. In real life, Margaret spent most of her life in Scotland, having been the Queen of Scotland during the life of James IV, her husband, and the Queen Regent during the childhood of James V, her son.[2]
  • Charles Brandon was indeed made the Duke of Suffolk, as shown in this episode, but in 1514 after the successful war with Scotland, not in 1522 as depicted in this episode.[3]
  • While Henry did write a pamphlet denouncing Luther, it was published in 1521 and written even earlier; this would place the writing outside the scope of this episode. This is a fairly minor error but is an error nonetheless.[4]
  • Anne Boleyn only caught the eye of Henry in 1526, not 1522 as was depicted in this episode.[5]

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How Accurate Is: The Tudors (TV Show, 2007-2010) S1E2

The Field of the Cloth of Gold
The Field of Cloth of Gold

Hello! Today, I am going to do a second post on The Tudors, this time on episode two of the first season. This was quite a strong episode; the costumes in the treaty scene were well done in particular. The plot also moved along at a nice pace, and continued several of the key storylines begun in the last episode, including the downfall of Edward Stafford, the Third Duke of Buckingham. However, this episode was also over reliant on purposefully confusing the timeline; the result being that it was difficult to ascertain the year at any point in the show, a strategy that was also utilized in the previous episode. Therefore, there are quite a few things to discuss regarding the historical accuracy of this episode.

  • First of all, while the episode opened with the signing of the Treaty of London (which historically took place in 1518), the Treaty should have been signed in London, as the name suggests; the location in the show is Calais.[1] This is because the show is merging the original signing of the treaty in 1518 with the more famous meeting of the two kings (Henry VIII of England and Fran├žois I of France) at the Field of Cloth of Gold in Calais in 1520. This second meeting was designed to repair the original treaty, which was already in danger of falling apart.[2]
  • This leads into the second point; if one assumes the meeting took place in 1518, as the first meeting did historically, then the execution of the Duke of Buckingham in what is apparently the following year is inaccurate, because he was executed in 1521; however, if one assumes the meeting was in 1520, accuracy is maintained.[3] Therefore, it can be seen how these inaccuracies aid the showrunners, somewhat ironically, to maintain some semblance accuracy in the end.
  • To look at something that is accurate, the wrestling match between Henry VIII and Francis I did actually take place at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520.

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How Accurate Is: The Tudors (TV Show, 2007-2010) S1E1

Henry VIII, by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Henry VIII, by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Hello everyone! Today, I will be posting about the show The Tudors, which aired 2007-2010 on Showtime. As has been said by just about everyone who reviews this show, the true standout is the costuming; it is brilliantly done and appears (based on the many paintings of Henry VIII, I am no expert on court fashion) to convey the style of the period accurately. The actors are also impressive, and the storyline, at least as of the very first episode, is fairly compelling. Historically, as always, there are several things to discuss.

  • First of all, the opening event of the episode, the murder of the King’s Uncle, the English Ambassador to Urbino, by French soldiers, does not appear to have occurred historically; the Treaty of London of 1518 was not signed in response to a direct threat of war between France and England, and in fact was signed four years after a conflict between the two ended.[1]
  • Mary appears to be between five and ten in this episode; historically, she was born in 1516 and so could not have been older than two when the Treaty of London was signed in 1518.[2]
  • In a similar note, while Henry says in the episode that they have had five stillborn children (though in fact only one of Henry’s children was actually stillborn; the others all lived at least a few days), the fifth has yet to be born at the point the show has reached.

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