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Renaissance plot thickens as Medicis get their TV series
People visit the MIPTV, one of the world's largest TV and digital content market, on April 04, 2016 in Cannes, southeastern France. VALERY HACHE / AFP.

By: Fiachra Gibbons

CANNES (AFP).- After the bed-hopping Borgias and the head-chopping Tudors, it is now the turn of another Renaissance dynasty, the Medicis, to get the television series treatment.

The Florentine family, which spawned no fewer than three popes and two queens of France, have now got their own period drama starring Dustin Hoffman. 

The Hollywood star plays Giovanni de Medici the patriarch of the banking family, who like many in the Machiavellian clan came to a nasty end.

His charismatic son Cosimo is played by "Game of Thrones" heart-throb Richard Madden, who was Rob Stark in the dwarves and dragons epic.

The first of its 50-minute episodes are being premiered as part of the official selection of the world's best new series at the MIPTV festival in Cannes, France, which runs until Thursday.

While sexual intrigue and power were driving forces for the Borgias and the Tudors, the series producers say money was what made the Medicis tick.

"The Medici came to power at a time of great social and economic inequality," said writer Frank Spotnitz, one of the key people behind "The X-Files".

"They were great disrupters. Their banking practises led to the creation of a middle class, making them unimaginably wealthy."

He said they used that wealth to "challenge traditional thinking" as arguably the greatest patrons of the arts of their age, commissioning work from Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. 

"They ushered in a new era of revolutionary art and science such as the world had never seen. It is a powerful story that resonates even now," Spotnitz added.

Dark drama
A second series has already been commissioned from Italy's Lux Vide and Britain's Big Light Productions, with the first to air in Italy at the end of the year.

But despite its star power, "Medici: Master of Florence" was beaten to the inaugural Coup de Coeur award late Sunday at the festival by the dark Belgian drama "Public Enemy".

It tells the story of the controversial release of a reviled child killer, who is released on parole to live in a monastery only for a young girl to soon go missing.

Over ten one-hour episodes, the show "questions what we do with people we consider monsters", according to the makers, Playtime Films and Entre Chien Et Loup.

Four other dark or dystopian dramas were among the remaining ten high-end series selected for the competition that was dominated by European productions.

"Bordertown" follows a serial killer on the Russian-Finnish border, while Britain's ITV took inspiration from a real-life "perfect murder" case for "The Secret", where two lovers got away with killing their partners so they could be together until the burden of guilt led one to confess.

Only after one of the church-going Northern Irish pair, played by James Nesbitt, is hit by a series of disasters which he considers to be God's vengeance, does the truth come out.

The same broadcaster also hopes to find a more family-friendly audiences for its eight-part costume drama "Victoria", which follows in the train of the 2009 film "The Young Victoria", portraying the early life of the British monarch until her marriage to the German prince, Albert. 

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

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