Showtime is getting the jump on HBO in launching a Medieval tale of crime and revenge with the debut of "The Borgias" on Sunday night.
HBO's "Game of Thrones,' written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, a similar period series in which "kings, queens, knights and renegades use schemes and swords to battle for the throne," won't get going until the end of April.
That gives Showtime a leg up on what very much sounds like a cross between the epic HBO hit series"The Sopranos" and Showtime's own Henry VIII-era-based "The Tudors." The latter series wound down after four seasons last year.
Showtime has promoted "The Borgias" as the "original crime family," playing up such successful pay-cable themes as corruption, murder, greed, robbery, incest, bribery, adultry, torture, assasination, revenge and betrayal.
Created by Neil Jordan, the series stars Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia -- the man who, in the words of the New York Times, would become Pope Alexander VI "the way Richard Hatch won the first 'Survivor.'"
At the very least, Showtime -- which also has a cadre of Bob Greenblatt-era shows like "Dexter" and "Weeds" in their latter life stages -- is hoping to keep its viewers hooked before they get interested in HBO's "Game of Thrones" which debuts on April 17. "Thrones" stars veteran British actor Charles Dance.
"The Borgias" is currently scoring a 70 on Metacritic.