Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Starz)
Premiered January 22 at 10pm
If you haven’t watched this show yet, please don’t. You’ll regret it, I promise. It may well be that season-defining series that stands out as the worst of all the new shows, where it’s impossible to follow along with the characters but you wouldn’t possibly want to because it’s such a despicable show. Imagine a show like “The Sopranos” or “Rome” where minutes feel like hours, but not in a good way. It’s based on the “300” model of historical-epic-to-film translation, discarding backgrounds and sets for extended shots of blood and guts spilling graphically for supposed dramatic effect. In the course of all of this nonstop gratuitous violence, there’s little room for plot, and what thin story remains is unsurprisingly trite and uninteresting. When characters aren’t spouting silly dialogue that’s trying hopelessly to fit in with the times, swearing profusely, or cutting off people’s heads for sport, they’re engaging in extremely graphic sex. The emphasis on bloody violence and overly visual sex makes it clear that this show doesn’t have anything else to offer, and that becomes painfully obvious when, after fifty-five minutes of unbearable gore and intimate relations, nothing has really transpired. Even the presence of spectacular actors John Hannah and Lucy Lawless comes far too late in the episode, when the show is already beyond saving. Unsurprisingly, their parts are not well-written, and their considerable talents can’t do much to make their characters seem like they’re worth watching. If you think this show might appeal to you, ask yourself whether you’d like to sit through half of “300” again. Over and over again. If the answer is yes, try out this show. If not, stay far, far away.
How will it work as a series? I was far too bored to try and keep up with where the story was trying to go to really get into what was going on and take an active interest in it. Dragging out one slave’s story that make for a compelling movie in 1960 into a lengthy series seems tiring and likely unbearable to me, but presumably new characters will be introduced and the show can remain dynamic. I don’t know, however, since I will definitely not be watching.
How long will it last? It appears someone was considerably more impressed than I when they got a peek at this show, and Starz renewed it for a second season before this one even started back in December. That’s a bold move on their part, but Starz hasn’t done much in the way of original programming, so maybe this is what can attract a new audience for them. Still, keep in mind that HBO’s critically-praised “Rome” only lasted two seasons because it was just too expensive to keep producing, and while this one doesn’t bother with lavish sets, I’m sure it’s not cheap. It could be blindly renewed for a third season too, but I doubt it. That’s a long way away, however, so you never know.
Pilot grade: F-