Fox, Friday

TV review: Da Vinci's Demons - Raffish romp through the Renaissance


The genius of Leonardo da Vinci is disguised somewhat in this cheerfully anachronistic tale of his encounters with the Medicis

Did you know Leonardo da Vinci loved getting high on a bong now and then? And was, like, a totally ripped hottie? There he was, on the Fox channel's new series Da Vinci's Demons on Friday night, checking out the sweet babes of Florence and all but fist-bumping Lorenzo de' Medici. This is probably not the maestro you're familiar with, or any artist, as it happens. You might have seen Jack Vettriano on What Do Artists Do All Day? a couple of weeks ago, and if he's anything to go by, the artistic type grumps about in his vest, smoking and ignoring the phone.

Da Vinci's Demons's pedigree is not promising. It's one of those complicated co-productions that turns end credits into a logo bunfight: an American cable channel, Starz, and BBC Worldwide are putting the money up. (Why is it on the Fox channel?) The man who is writing the new Superman film is behind it. You can feel the crackle of all that Very Serious Money, not least in the lavish sets and disorientingly smooth computer-generated backdrops. Which makes it surprising that Da Vinci's Demons is actually a bit of a giggle.

The plot needn't detain any of us. It's the Medicis vs the Vatican, and Leonardo, in Florence, has an eye for two chances: to appoint himself Lorenzo's military engineer and show his etchings to his new employer's mistress. At the same time, a mysterious Turk, whom Leonardo rescues from the Night Watch, exhorts Leonardo to drop out of this whole Renaissance thing, tune in to his inner Mithras, and get to grips with his true, troubled destiny. (These, we understand, are the demons of the title.)

Tom Riley, you assume, has been asked to play Leonardo like Doctor Who in a leather blouson, which he does, with raffish enthusiasm, though possibly not much historical accuracy: within 20 minutes, he has built a working hang-glider and a flying robot dove. The artist kicks about with a grave-robber and an assistant from his studio, where he occasionally creates in that way that film-makers wish was true: by candlelight, off his nut. The script is cheerfully anachronistic, and by the looks of it, there's a bet among the production team to ensure that something is on fire in every other scene.

Da Vinci's Demons also represents an alarming new low for the representation of the Pope. The upper echelons of the Vatican these days have a standing somewhere between senior bankers and very senior bankers, but His Holiness outdoes himself here: we meet him canoodling naked with a young boy in a large pool beneath the dome of St Peter's, using a dagger as some sort of sex toy. Where can he go from here? Heaven only knows.

We can guess at Prince Charles's demons, but they weren't immediately apparent in Royal Paintbox (ITV1, Tuesday **). This was a trawl through the Royal Family's archive of its members' artistic output. They varied, from the rather good – Prince Rupert of the Rhine's mezzotints – to the rather bad – Prince Albert's Boys' Own cavalry charge scenes. Charles's own landscapes, of Greece, Tuscany, Scotland, anywhere our taxes have taken him over the years, were pleasant enough. As were his vague comments on his ancestors' daubings: "Eye to hand to paper … the scale of it … exercise in observation." And so on.

But given the Royal Family's history, where was the batshit stuff? The scary, oil-clogged reflections of Saxe-Coburg family horrors? Queen Victoria's work was at least moving. Before Albert's death it was sweet sketches of chubby toddlers; after, dark, empty landscapes. You ended up wondering about the one subject the family's artistic gaze seemed to avoid: us, the royal subjects.

Following House of Cards, the online streaming website Netflix released its next series of original drama on Friday, Hemlock Grove (**), 13 episodes to consume as you see fit. In the opener, there was blood, teen flesh, at least one possible werewolf and perhaps a vampire. So far, so Twilight, with the odd gothic comic book touch.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?