Showtime must really like period pieces. After a mediocre attempt with "The Tudors," it's back with "The Borgias."

Showtime must really like period pieces. After a mediocre attempt with "The Tudors," it's back with "The Borgias."

The new series - a political/religious drama about the corruption of the papacy in the late 15th century - improves on "The Tudors'" storytelling and overall atmosphere, and it has even more opulent sets and costumes than its period predecessor.

After Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons) bribes, bullies and manipulates his way into becoming Pope Alexander VI, the Borgias begin their reign as a powerful family during a monumental period in history - the Renaissance and discovery of the New World.

I'm not a huge fan of the historical genre, but with Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game") at the helm as showrunner, "The Borgias" is well-crafted.

The spectacular sets are expertly shot, Irons is perfect as the slimy, amoral Pope and stuff I usually find sleep-inducing - overwrought and overextended dialogue - is punched up with excitement.

Also pleasing is the lack of ridiculously gratuitous sex. Yes, there's sex, but it mostly has a purpose - it isn't there just because it's Showtime and so it can be.

Don't expect to be absolutely riveted by "The Borgias," but its strong aesthetic and energetic drama make it a period piece even I could enjoy.