I Am Spartacus.

Spartacus starts back up tonight if you’re lucky enough to have Starz.

If you’ve ever spoken to me, or looked at more than two of my posts on here you probably realize that the show, Spartacus: Blood and Sand is exactly in my wheelhouse.
What you may not realize is that it might be in your wheelhouse.

Sort of like my Sons of Anarchy post a couple months ago, this me trying to sell you on a show because I can’t think of anything else to write. So this will be both a post about stuff I watch on TV AND a list. If that’s not bad enough, I’m proofing this at 5am. Cut me some slack.

Chad, seriously, we need to find another weekly contributor to the blog.

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1.) It’s a Prequel – I know, nerds, I know. Prequels almost always suck, but here’s the thing. This one in no way defies any sort of established canon. This isn’t midichlorians and it’s not a bunch of space politics. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena is showing the ludus, or gladiatorial school’s rise, along with Spartacus’ main rival, Crixus, arriving there.

Gangster. Batiatus don' scare.

Deciding to do a prequel came up for a couple of reasons. One being that John Hannah, AKA the brother from the Mummy, absolutely murdered as the owner of the Ludus, the vile, scheming, sympathetic, relatable, all too human Batiatus. I know: I was shocked, too. Furthermore, I think the writers and producers were shocked as well, since Hannah’s character got more and more screen time and a lot more to do as the first season progressed.

Clevah girl...

The second surprise was Lucy Lawless, Xena for you old school trash TV fans, who, after showing she could actually act on Battlestar Galactica, really brings it as Lucretia, Batiatus’ wife and constant co-conspirator. While her husband schemes around the arena and organized crime, Lucretia plays the upper echelons of Roman society against each other.

So, yes, it’s a prequel, but unlike other prequels, you don’t need to have a working knowledge of the previous work. You can come in clean, enjoy the story, and the acting from some people who came out of nowhere.

2.) What are You, Pro-Cancer? – That stuff I said about John Hannah wowing everyone? Secondary. The real reason they’re doing this prequel season is because Spartacus himself, actor Andy Whitfield, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and he had a good chance to beat it. The producers didn’t want to go on without him, so while he underwent his treatments, they filmed a prequel to keep the series in people’s minds until he came back for season 2.

Which he did.

Then the cancer came back, and sadly they had to move forward, but with Whitfield’s blessing on both moving forward AND with the new guy, who looks so much like Whitfield, it’s kind of scary.

It’s a prequel to a great show and was done for a good cause.

3.) Violence – This is rated TV-MA because they can’t actually go any higher.  There is violence galore.

Limbs are severed. Decapitations abound. A lot of people get stabbed in the throat. One guy gets his face cut off and then the cutter wears it and makes a pun.

Good...

You know in movies when someone gets pushed off of something high, and they show the person falling with the camera either looking down on them (the Hans Gruber) or from the ground, and right before the victim hits, they cut away to the rest of the cast grimacing and sharply avert their eyes? Spartacus doesn’t cut away.

There’s no need to manufacture drama or tension on this show because every aspect of the gladiator’s life is life-or-death.

...BETTER.

More than the visceral thrill of watching people get fucked up, the show actually does a decent job of exploring what happens to people whose jobs are violence. We meet the guy who’s seen too much blood. The husband who gambles his life to pay off his debts. The walking wounded who misses the glory of winning. The champion who defines himself by his success in combat. The man who is so good at his job, it bleeds into every other aspect of his life until it consumes him.

This isn’t a probing or in-depth psychological drama, but it’s not the shallow 300 clone it’s being advertised as either.

4.) Bewbs – As I pointed out in my TV Year in Review blog, there’s a lot of nudity in this show of both sexes. It’s an equal-opportunity giddy little thrill.

If you can hang with that other premium channel monster, True Blood, you can hang with this. I was only able to  watch Blood for about four episodes before I checked out, but this is built around decaying republic in its death throes and the other’s about magic underwear models in a diner.

*spoiler*I look like that without my shirt on. /spoiler

Like everything else in the ludus, sex is a weapon, and the show revels in showing how it can wreak havoc on our lives and all our carefully machinations. The appetites of the various characters is never shied away from and we  see sex used as a scalpel and a cudgel.

It helps immensely that everyone in the cast is very, very, very good looking, but if anyone ask I’m here for the crisp characterization first, and the boobs second.

Seeing Xena naked is a close third.

5.) It Gets Better – The first two episodes of Spartacus: Blood and Sand weren’t great. They weren’t irredeemable or anything, but they aren’t as good as later episodes. There were some growing pains. Having episode one and two both being ridiculously violent and filled with sex helped forgive many, many sins.

However with episode three, it really picked up, and never faltered.

All that awkwardness is out of the way with Gods of the Arena. A huge chunk of the cast returns and most of the creative teams, so there’s no reason this won’t come out of the gate swinging.

Unless they pulled a the Walking Dead and fired all the writers, but let’s be serious for a second: the novelty of a serial drama about zombies aside, that first season was batting about .500.

But I don’t think Spartacus had a mass culling, but IMDb could be lying to me.

6.) Feeling Lazy – The entire first season is on Netflix streaming.

Except for the Chicago contingent of our readers, your favorite football team is out and it’s college basketball in January so no one even remotely cares. All your favorite shows are slowly getting back to the business of releasing new episodes, and is there anything ever good on Saturdays?

No, there’s not.

So kill a weekend getting caught up if you want, or if you get really into Gods of the Arena, you have 12 episodes of Blood and Sand to look forward to after this mini-series finishes.

I know it’s on a Friday, and that sucks for it, but DVR it and so you have something to watch while you’re eating greasy hangover stoppers on Saturday or Sunday morning.

If there’s a better way to kill a weekend on the couch watching beautiful people fuck and brutalize each other, it’s called the Wire, but that’s about it.
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There you go, six reasons to watch arguably the most ambitious piece of trash TV ever made. Does it ever get past the CG blood and smattering of faux-Shakespearian dialogue?

I think so, but even if it doesn’t for you, it’s a lot of fun to watch it try.

See you guys next week on Tuesday as Chad takes over the hated Monday-Wednesday-Friday shift.

Matt

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Posted on January 21, 2011, in Lists, Matt Loman, Pop Culture, Television and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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