Versailles, the French drama about King Louis XIV and the construction of the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, will screen stateside on Ovation TV this autumn.
Arts and cultural programming network Ovation TV has acquired the US premiere rights to Versailles, the most expensive French television production ever.
Britons Simon Mirren (Criminal Minds, Waking the Dead) and David Wolstencroft (MI-5, The Escape Artist) created and wrote Versailles, which blends fact with historical and fictional characters in a unique take on a defining period of French history.
Starring George Blagden (Vikings) as King Louis XIV of France, Versailles opens in 1667, when the king is just 28 years old and in sole command of his kingdom. Well, command of the realm, yes; the nobility specifically, not so much.
It wasn’t too many years ago that the French civil wars known as the Fronde had broken out, and the young Louis is haunted by memories of French nobles rising up against his father, King Louis XIII. Determined not to allow this to happen during his reign, Louis XIV moves his court from Paris to Versailles, the site of his father’s former hunting lodge.
Thus begins the expansion and transformation of the lodge into the Château of Versailles, one of the most grand and beautiful palaces in Europe. But its magnificence belies the fact that it is a trap — a lavish gilded cage in which Le Roi Soleil, the Sun King, imposes his absolute power and control over his people, from the most prominent courtier to the humblest villager, and forces their submission to him.
Welcome to Versailles. Where power plays and political maneuvering, debauchery and betrayal, love and lies, come to light in the palace’s exquisite halls and hidden alcoves.
As fans of non-English-language Euro TV shows, you should know that Versailles, which premiered in France in November, is shown en anglais. Not subtitled but spoken in English.
“Why?” you might ask, as the French people themselves did when it was announced that the production would be in a language, any language, other than French.
The answer: global appeal, mes amis.
And it looks to be paying off, big time. Versailles has been sold to more than 135 countries, from across Western and Eastern Europe, to the Americas.
Viewers in the UK will be able to tune in to the series on BBC Two later this year, and stream it on Amazon Prime UK about a month or so later.
Another FYI: Folks ranging from government officials to family rights advocates in the UK have complained mightily about Versailles, pointing out its graphic sex scenes and calling the “pornography” an ill use of public funds.
(Hmm, reason enough, then, for the series to be on Ovation TV and not, say, PBS, in the US.)
Note: The trailer contains mature content. Viewer discretion is advised.
Season 2 of Versailles, which was commissioned before Season 1 even premiered in France, is currently in production.
A co-production of Capa Drama, Zodiak Fiction, and Incendo for Canal+, with the support of CNC, Telefilm Canada, and Region Ile de France, Versailles is executive produced by Simon Mirren, David Wolstencroft, Claude Chelli (Braquo), Anne Thomopoulos (Rome), and Jalil Lespert (Yves Saint Laurent), who also directs the series.
Ovation TV has scheduled the premiere of the hour-long, ten-episode Versailles for Saturday, 1 October 2016.