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On 'The Tudors,’ It’s Good To Be The King!

Henry VIII has suffered decades of being best-known for his many wives, big church battles and kingly appetite. But in Showtime’s The Tudors, the series that counts among its executive producers hitmaker Ben Silverman, Henry spends less time making hay than rolling in it.

Given all the nookie in the pilot, the series (premiering April 1) seems better-suited for Cinemax. Tudors stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers (a Golden Globe winner for playing that other king, Elvis) as a very young (and able) king. Five minutes into the premiere, Henry declares war on France—and marks the occasion by playing a little “divide and conquer” with a leggy blonde. Before long, finding the Queen absent, the rakish ruler invites her buxom servant into his pantaloons.

Contrary to the typical depictions of Henry VIII, Rhys Meyers cuts a virile figure. Silverman, who has a history degree from Tufts, admits to the edgy, contemporary feel of the period piece but insists writer Michael Hirst pored over reference books— “first-personal archival material”—to offer up the hard facts.

But won’t this cloud our view of the megalomaniacal monarch? Silverman explains he was looking to spice up the stodgy costume-drama genre. “A little skin goes a long way,” he says, adding, “Henry was a very passionate kind of guy.” And how.

'Sopranos’ Party

HBO’s affiliate marketing team is pushing the envelope in enticing viewers to watch the final season of The Sopranos when the drama returns in April. The company has paired with affiliate partners around the country for Sopranos-focused contests, giving prizes ramging from signed scripts of the show to vacations.

But New York-area Cablevision subscribers and Time Warner broadband customers are getting a shot at the ultimate prize: two VIP tickets to the show’s velvet roped-off star-filled premiere party March 27. A grand-prize winner for contests at each of the companies will win tickets to the Radio City Music Hall screening and passes to the after-party, with limo service to and from the event.

Cablevision ran the contest for its high-paying “Optimum Rewards” subscribers, some of whom were alerted by prerecorded messages on their answering machines. Time Warner’s Road Runner broadband subscribers were additionally required to prove their fandom by answering 30 Sopranos trivia questions, such as “Where does Vito have cash hidden?” (Answer: In the elliptical trainer.)

While HBO typically crafts fun affiliate campaigns to promote originals, this one is “unprecedented” in its level of cachet, says Lynn Ciccarelli, the company’s director of affiliate marketing.

She said, “These being the final episodes, we wanted something special.”

Her Honor’s At Stake

The jury’s still out, but after picking up her 11th nomination last week—without a win—Judge Judy Sheindlin is closing in on a dubious distinction: longest losing streak in Daytime Emmys history.

The 64-year-old TV jurist is looking strong to surpass All My Children’s Susan Lucci, who had to put on the loser’s frozen smile 18 times before scoring a win in 1999. And Sheindlin won’t have it easy: Her nods are not for performance, and in order to hoist the hardware, her show will have to beat out newborns and wounded puppies.

Vying again in the oddball category of Outstanding Special Class Series, the Judge Judy show this year is up against the syndicated Animal Rescue, TLC’s A Baby Story, MTV’s Made and the cancelled syndicated strip Starting Over. Awards are handed out June 15.

In years past, Judy has lost to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Linda Ellerbee’s special When I Was a Girl and those Baby Story infants.

The good-humored Sheindlin won’t comment on Emmy deliberations, but no doubt she’s holding out hope that, one day, court shows will have their own category. Maybe then “I’d like to thank the Academy” will be a sentence she can hand out.

With Michael Malone, Anne Becker and Jim Benson