TV Review: ‘Spartacus: Blood And Sand’

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The cable movie channel Starz isn’t best known for their original programming. They’ve had mild success with the episodic spinoff of the Oscar winning Crash, starring Dennis Hopper, but outside of that, things have been pretty quiet. That’s all expected to change tonight, as Spartacus: Blood and Sand premieres on the channel, bringing in fans of all creed to enjoy this epic tale of Roman gore. Luckily, that’s exactly what the show is.

Obviously, the main focus of the show is Spartacus (played by Andy Whitfield), while there are plenty of other fan favorites to help us along the way, such as Lucy Lawless, John Hannah of the Mummy movies, and Legend Of The Seeker‘s Craig Parker. These familiar faces help us along the way, making it feel a bit more like a Raimi/Tapert production, which always helps.

Now onto the grit, which is certainly in affluence here. Of course, the show creators wanted this series to stand out above the rest, and with a name like Blood and Sand, they also wanted to deliver on the former. With that comes, in my opinion, way too much CG blood. The slow-motion fight sequences are one thing, but when you’re using buckets of computer animated blood to transition between scenes, a la a gory episode of Home Improvement, you may have gone too far.

Not many know this but Ridley Scott’s Gladiator is actually based on the story of Spatacus, among others. With that in mind, you may find yourself developing a bit of déjá vu. Luckily the overabundance of blood and nudity, and complete lack of Russell Crowe, will snap you back into the moment.

Another element that seems a bit distracting is the dialogue. I’m not one to complain about profanity in TV or film, especially when it’s coupled with plenty of boobs and gore. But when you are setting a story in ancient Rome, and the first line in the entire series is “Hold your F***ing tongues!”, you lose a bit of the realism. We all know that, much like Star Wars, nobody had a British accent back then. Our disbelief is already suspended, do we really have to isolate it further when lines like “that tickle in the back of your throat? My c*ck!” are thrown into a scene?

Like stated earlier, this only helps the show stand out, from a writer’s point of view. Unfortunately, all this does is turn your show into Deadwood meets 300, which some might find titillating, while others may cringe. Between the blood, out of place profanity, and clever use of merkins to prove historical accuracy, the show may not turn as many heads as expected.

Though Starz has already renewed the series for another season, before tonight’s premiere was even on the horizon, the pilot was a bit uninspiring. Past encounters with bad pilots have proven, though, that shows certainly have a tendency to improve greatly after the first episode. I vote to stick with Spartacus at least 3 of the 6 episodes in the season, and see where it goes.

Catch the first episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand tonight, January 22nd, at 10 PM E/P, only on Starz.

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