The Tudors



9 p.m. Sunday, March 30

The 1500s gang is back, and Showtime's got 'em with the return of "The Tudors" for a second season, its bawdy sensibility, spectacular costumes and period grandeur fully intact.

Merely having the mega-intense Jonathan Rhys Meyers as everyone's favorite mercurial king, Henry VIII, and the exquisite Natalie Dormer as the ill-fated Anne Boleyn is reason to celebrate. But for this newest collection of 10 episodes, we also get no less than Peter O'Toole as Pope Paul III. Only O'Toole could portray a worldwide Catholic leader and play it as if it were beneath him. The acting here is first-rate, the details sharp and the cinematography superb. In other words, "Tudors" hasn't lost a step. If it didn't feel so much like a miniseries, it would be viewed as one of TV's finest dramas.

Season 2 spans the momentous years of 1530-36, when lots is happening in jolly old England with the Reformation. Henry is acting like it's the 20th century, frantically pushing to have his marriage to the stoic Katherine (Maria Doyle Kennedy) annulled so he can wed the beautiful, frisky Anne -- running afoul of the pope in the process. The opening episode includes the depiction of a cook being boiled alive for a poisoning incident and the queen being banished from her court.

By Episode 2, the sinister shenanigans and backstabbings already have begun in earnest, and Henry finally is able to have his way with Anne. En route to Anne's famed beheading in Episode 10, there will be plenty of figurative losing of heads and enough royal upheaval to fill a castle. "Tudors" is the kind of lusty good fun that makes down-and-dirty soap feel almost classy. The timely message: It's good to be the king -- but not so good to be his wife.