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Mike Furches

Spartacus on Starz

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Anyone seen this series? I was surprised that I couldn't find a discussion of it here. I have been rather pleased with the series, and while many adult themes in it, I enjoy the way it is filmed, and the story line has been rather impressive. On the second shortened season now, but for those who haven't seen this, one of the better offerings for cable television in the last few years.

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Anyone seen this series? I was surprised that I couldn't find a discussion of it here. I have been rather pleased with the series, and while many adult themes in it, I enjoy the way it is filmed, and the story line has been rather impressive. On the second shortened season now, but for those who haven't seen this, one of the better offerings for cable television in the last few years.

Have you seen Rome? Or, for that matter, have you seen Boardwalk Empire, Treme, The Pacific, Terriers, Mad Men, True Blood, John Adams, Deadwood, Carnivale, The Wire, Band of Brothers, or The Sopranos? I can defend the use of adult themes, nudity, profanity, graphic violence, etc. on some occasions, particularly when the artist weaving this together, with other redemptive themes, has the skill of David Simon, David Milch, Bruno Heller, David Chase, Mattthew Weiner or Terence Winter. Spartacus does not fit in this category.

Hmmmm ... but at least some of the reviews are really fun to read -

Brian Lowry, Variety -

Presumably the title “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” was chosen for Starz’s latest dramatic foray because “300: Blood and Sand” or “Gladiator: Sand and Blood” wouldn’t clear legal. In any event, there’s scant resemblance between this dreadful blend of those recent movies and the program’s ostensible namesake, as the show tries to adopt “300's” visual style and – despite spilling buckets of gore – proves woefully pale by comparison. Indeed, when the smoke clears from this blood-splattered battle, the survivors will likely stand and sheepishly plead, “I’m not ‘Spartacus!’ Please, don’t confuse me with ‘Spartacus!’”

... What ensues, alas, is the gladiator’s life as filtered through the gauzy lens of a Calvin Klein ad. Sure, there’s some graphic sex and modest court intrigue among the haughty Romans, but nothing to approach the worst moments in HBO’s “Rome” ... Written by “Smallville” alum Steven S. DeKnight, lines of dialogue at times appear to uncomfortably echo those earlier movies, which is less irksome that it would be otherwise, because the less-familiar exchanges (“My boot will find your ass in the afterlife”) are frequently risible ...

To be fair, the program does improve marginally after the premiere, but by then the bar’s set so low a three-legged horse could clear it ... Thus far, Starz has relied on presold titles (first “Crash,” now this) to ease the marketing burden in launching original drams, but if the pay channel wants to become a serious presence under just-installed CEO Chris Albrecht, future endeavors will need to exhibit a few brains to augment the brawn.

Tim Goodman, San Francisco Chronicle -

"Spartacus" is spectacularly awful - and not in a way that you'll want to rubberneck at for laughs or drinking-game derision. How the creators managed to mess up three known winners - gladiators, full-frontal nudity (both sexes) and stylized violence - is almost incomprehensible. If you were thinking this might be a cousin to "Rome" on HBO, think again. "Spartacus" even makes the vapid but visually intriguing "300" seem like Shakespeare ... Starring the bodies of a mostly unknown cast, plus Lucy Lawless ("BSG," "Xena") and ubiquitous Brit actor John Hannah, "Spartacus" is an exercise in some of the worst writing, acting and directing you'll ever see (or not). Imagine watching a boring porn movie with swords, sandals, CGI, buckets and buckets of blood, and excessive slow-motion "action" scenes, all while Satan pulls your soul out of your backside. That's "Spartacus: Blood and Sand."

Matthew Gilbert, The Boston Globe -

The show ... is either a fabulous spoof whose expert actors have perfected the art of amateur line delivery or employment for an epic cast of shockingly wooden thespians. It was written either by master satirists hoping to inspire viewer drinking games each time blood drops sail in slo-mo or by teen boys. My vote is for the latter in each case, especially the one where the writers are teen boys. This attempt to milk the success of the 2008 movie “300’’ is a major dud, from the C-level production values and shoddy green-screen technology to the horrible makeup that turns star Lucy Lawless into a Raggedy Ann doll. You can laugh at “Spartacus’’ for a few minutes; it is so bad, it’s good. But eventually tedium settles in, as all the indistinct men with pumped-up bodies and wrestlers’ hair grunt their stupid lines and the swords swish endlessly as they lop off limbs. It all blurs into a dull steroid rush.

The story has no layers, the dialogue has no subtext. The scenes are like panels in the worst of graphic novels ... Every few minutes, it seems, muscular flesh is ripped, blood spews, and the camera freezes the flow, like a bottle of splattered ketchup in midair. During one gladiatorial scene, Spartacus cuts off a foe's legs and we see the poor legless guy dragging himself desperately through the sand to get away - but he's not so lucky. Spartacus digs a four-pronged weapon into the guy's behind, and a splash of red rises up behind him like a tidal wave of blood. The scene is so profoundly fake, it has no gag factor, no awe to it. It's as emotionally inert as a video game, and far less engaging.

Edited by Persiflage

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I saw this on NetFlix streaming and gave one episode a try. In my opinion it's one of the sorriest excuses for soft porn I've encountered. I'm not sure it's worth the time to write a review.

Edited by Pax

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What Pax said. I thought maybe the new season of this show might be better than the earlier version, which I had tried before (because I like Roman history) but it's still soft porn, without any real drama.

Rome, on the other hand, was a serious show, and there the sex was not gratuitous, but dramatically justified.

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I saw this on NetFlix streaming and gave one episode a try. In my opinion it's one of the sorriest excuses for soft porn I've encountered. I'm not sure it's worth the time to write a review.

Also my experience.

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Now you guys are making me rethink having skipped this. ;)

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Now you guys are making me rethink having skipped this. ;)

If you only saw the first episode or two, then you are totally justified in hating the show. The first few episodes were a mess. The show was sloppy, poorly developed, and indulgent. Honestly though, it got a lot better. The writers of the show eventually improved the dramatic elements of the show and by the end of the first season it had a pretty captivating story line. I don't think it is in the same conversation as Rome, but you could do worse. Also, let's not pretend that Rome only used sex and nudity in completely necessary situations. That show pushed the sexual content every chance it had.

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If you only saw the first episode or two, then you are totally justified in hating the show. The first few episodes were a mess. The show was sloppy, poorly developed, and indulgent. Honestly though, it got a lot better. The writers of the show eventually improved the dramatic elements of the show and by the end of the first season it had a pretty captivating story line. I don't think it is in the same conversation as Rome, but you could do worse. Also, let's not pretend that Rome only used sex and nudity in completely necessary situations. That show pushed the sexual content every chance it had.

I saw the first couple episodes, and then a couple of the last episodes. I shouldn't have.

Political intrigue/dramatic elements on Spartacus (well past the first 2 episodes, btw) ...

Political intrigue on Rome ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8vwmdLFWmE

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I'm not trying to be rude or ignorant, but what's your point? Posting those two videos proves nothing. No one is arguing that Spartacus is better than Rome. That scene you posted from Rome is one of the better scenes in the series. It's a great moment between two great characters. It's a very important moment in the plot as well - for both characters. The Spartacus scene you posted is just a scene...not really that important in the overall story that they are telling. It's an entirely different dynamic at work there, and it makes no sense to try to present the two scenes as some sort of compare and contrast. We get it: You don't like Spartacus. Fine. No one is forcing you to like it or to discuss it. As far as I am concerned, it's a deeply flawed show that has improved considerably since it's premiere. That doesn't mean it is better than Rome, but in my opinion, not many shows are.

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Last night, we watched the Angel episode "Inside Out," written and directed by Spartacus head honcho Steve DeKnight. Though DeKnight has worked extensively with Joss Whedon before, this episode might've been the first real step toward what he would do with Blood and Sand, especially all of the completely, completely unnecessarily slow-motion fighting. "Inside Out" was actually a good episode, but could've been, like, three minutes longer if there were less epic shots of backflips or whatever.

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I'm not trying to be rude or ignorant, but what's your point? Posting those two videos proves nothing. No one is arguing that Spartacus is better than Rome.

You caught me. I'll confess that posting one clip from each show side by side was purely making fun. I find a comparison between shows funny, and it's a comparison that only exists because there's a high probability Spartacus would never have existed without HBO making Rome first. AND, it's a comparison I make because more than half of my friends who have seen Spartacus have NOT seen Rome.

The more interesting question is what should I do with TV shows that represent, to me, all that is wrong, and dumb, and time-wasting, and mind-numbing, and lowest-common-denominator pandering in the majority of all TV shows that, in fact, exist? Particularly, what do I do when some of my closest friends and family members are watching this crap? There is only so much time in a day and in a lifetime. I already know that I don't have enough time to read every great book, listen to all the best music, or see every great film. There is so much that is good and beautiful and thought-provoking out there on God's green earth, that I have to ask, why waste time with the bottom of the garbage can?

Again, to be clear, I don't think less of anyone for watching or liking TV shows that I consider to be garbage. My own family watches these shows. My problem is to figure out how to persuade them not to.

Edited by Persiflage

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