Why you should watch Channel 5’s Tut: “A Tudors-like look at Egypt’s pharaonic past”

A glossy mini-series that attempts to flesh out Tutankhamun’s life entertains Gill Crawford - despite the historical bloopers

Bored of those series with North African extras in eyeliner and torn tunics reconstructing ancient history? This shiny, no-expense-spared new miniseries (being shown in two feature-length parts) ups the stakes: as well as the extras, we have a host of terribly attractive young actors (plus Ben Kingsley and a couple of faces you’ll recognise from Game of Thrones) flashing their flesh, and some suitably grisly battle scenes.

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But this Tudors-like look at Egypt’s pharaonic past – nary a domestic scene is complete without a bevy of naked dancing girls – does try to put some flesh on the bones of the still incomplete knowledge of Tutankhamun’s life, and is actually far more entertaining than you might expect, given that every schoolchild knows that Tutankhamun died young, so we’re not exactly guaranteed a happy ending.

As the story begins, the young Tut (Avan Jogia, who does well with an occasionally leaden script) is under the thumb of his vizier Ay (Kingsley), the high priest of Amun (Alexander Siddig) and army chief Horemheb (Nonso Anozie). Can the pharaoh impose his own will and return Egypt to the glory days of his grandfather Amenhotpe III? He’s much given to nipping out into the city of Thebes unescorted, and knows that his people are unhappy. Leading his army into glorious battle might just do the trick.

His advisers all have their own motives for keeping Tut in his place, however. And there’s his sister-wife Ankhe (Sibylla Deen) to contend with, too, who’s very intent on guaranteeing the succession of the family, all the while batting her eyelashes prettily at his best friend. The scheming comes as thick and fast as the Egyptian arrows that rain down on their warring neighbours, the Mitanni. [One particular historical blooper I noticed – I’m sure there are many, but hey, who’s counting – the Mitanni were actually from the near East, which makes their African leaders here look distinctly out of place.]

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Tut is on Saturday 1st August, Channel 5 at 9pm, and concludes on Sunday 2nd August