The BBC’s Sunday night dramas are getting raunchier by the week; what started with Aidan Turner taking his top off in Poldark has lead to raunchy affairs in War and Peace, Tom Hiddleston showing off his body in The Night Manager and now what one headline has called "the most graphic sex scenes ever on British TV".
Costume drama Versailles - which depicts the lavish life of France's Louis XIV and was recently aquired from Canal+ by the broadcaster - has been accused of being ‘porn dressed up in a cravat and tights’ by MPs and family rights campaigners.
In the first episode alone - which has already aired in France - “gay sex, a cross-dressing prince, and a queen with a penchant for dwarves” are all shown. To The Daily Mail’s horror, there’s also a scene in which “the king, played by English actor George Blagden, is seen burying his head between his mistress’s thighs”.
According to the paper’s report, while the French were annoyed that the producers ‘dumbed down’ Louis’ lifestyle, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen is outraged by the series.
“There are channels where, if you wish to view this sort of material, you would have to pay for it," he said. “BBC viewers don’t have a choice. They have to pay for it whether they approve or not.
“Is this an example of the BBC dumbing down and seeking more sensationalised programming? That’s an arms race to the bottom – quite literally in this case.”
As well as the numerous sex scenes, there is also reportedly ‘gratuitous violence’ depicted on the show, including scenes of torture. Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: “Public service broadcasting is meant to be for the public benefit, but it is very difficult to see whose benefit is being served by showing such highly graphic and explicit scenes on TV.”
Ironically, Culture secretary John Whittindale has previously stated that he would rather see the BBC producing more “high-end shows like Game of Thrones” than talent contests like The Voice, Game of Thrones, of course, being best known for primarily being about “tits and dragons” as one cast member recently said.
The BBC's Head of Programme Acquisitions, Sue Deeks, believes Versailles will be a “delicious treat” for viewers, adding: "the historical setting is magnificent, the costumes are stunning and the series tells a fascinating story with intelligence, wit and stylish Gallic flair". The show has yet to receive a release date but will air on BBC 2 past the watershed. A second series has already been comissioned by Canal+.
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