Two epic series about famous historical families premiere this week: Showtime’s The Borgias (premieres April 3, 9 p.m.) stars Jeremy Irons as the patriarch of the 15th century Roman family that used murder, bribery and coercion to rule the Vatican. Reelz Channel’s controversial miniseries The Kennedys (premieres April 3, 8 p.m.) stars Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes in the story of the American political dynasty, from a sometimes unflattering perspective. Which series stirs up more intrigue in its first two episodes? Here’s a look.
Sexual deviance The Borgias: The first sex scene happens only four minutes into the show; adultery, orgies and implied incest abound. The Kennedys: JFK is frequently unfaithful to Jackie, who threatens to divorce him before his father essentially buys her off.
Taking down opponents The Borgias: Cesare poisons a cardinal who poses a threat to his father’s papacy. The Kennedys: JFK ends up running for Congress against two men with the same name after his father registers a ringer to cause confusion.
Bribery The Borgias: Irons’ Rodrigo Borgia literally buys himself a papacy with land, gold and political appointments. The Kennedys: Tom Wilkinson’s Joseph P. Kennedy heavily influences Congressional and presidential elections with his vast wealth.
Sibling rivalry The Borgias: Brothers Cesare and Juan Borgia seem perpetually on the verge of slitting each other’s throats. The Kennedys: JFK is his father’s second choice to run for president after his older brother dies during World War II.
Accents The Borgias: Mostly stately British accents, in keeping with period-drama tradition. The Kennedys: Various disastrous attempts at the distinctive aristocratic Massachusetts inflection.