There's been precious little in the way of quality new TV recently. One reviewer mentions Tru Blood, but in my opinion, that promised a lot, yet didn't deliver. That's something this show could never be accused of. Because not since Battle Star Galactica has there been a show on TV this good. I am of course talking about the new series of Battle Star - but in actual fact - that last statement might be true even if I were talking about the original 70's series: Blood & Sand my friends, is that good!
I eyed Spartacus with anticipation long before it came on TV. I'd read about it in a 'lads mag' I picked up for a long distance train journey, and being a fan of films like this - of films like 300, Sword & Sorcery flicks, Viking Films, and the like - it looked right up my street. The screen shots looked amazing and the write up it got said it was packed with blood & guts, gore, graphic fight scenes and beautiful naked women... awesome! Of course magazines aren't always that accurate in reporting these things, and I don't really consider myself the 'lads mag' target audience, so I didn't get my hopes up too high.
Anyway, 6 or so months later, and after seeing it advertised on Bravo for weeks - the first episode arrived... by this time I'd told my flat mate all about it and we were both looking forward to it, got the beers in, and sat down in anticipation; hoping this new series would be as good as I'd read. And boy, was it... From the word go, from the very first episode, it was amazing.
It had it all. Just as promised. Sword fights, hot chicks, nudity, and to top it all off - a great look. The story set off at a fast pace and by the end of the first episode it was well underway. And what followed each week was an hourly delight that stuck to a stunningly simple - yet very effective - formula. Each episode fed you intrigue, suspense, beautiful women, sex, breasts and cliff-hangers - before rounding it all off with a good old bit of mindless violence. Delivered, of course, in a spectacularly over the top gladiatorial showdown. And I must say, it's a formula that works.
But that makes this series sound shallow. And that's far from the truth. You see (and here's why I drew parallels with, or at least mentioned, at the start of this review, the new Battle Star series), the main crux of this series, at least so far it seems (and in true Roman style), is politics. Politics within the gladiator school - both between the gladiators and within its higher echelons. Politics within the Senate. Politics between women and their lovers. Politics between - well - the politicians, and politics between senators and families, between slaves and so on and so forth. And it made for a great story line as people constantly plan, plot, scheme and generally double cross each other as they jostle for position. Or in some cases just to stay alive.
The whole series - visually - was a joy to watch too. The whole thing looked great; with both costumes and sets, convincing and beautiful. And as I briefly touched on before, the use - or rather over use - of CGI added to the whole stylised look of the show. To say it borrowed from 300 would be an understatement. And the CGI blood, guts and gore, well, the show revelled in it; with droplets of blood - nay - fountains of the stuff, splattering the camera lens after each beheading or disembowelment.
The gladiators were cool too. A hobby of mine is fighting - or rather martial arts- and I train 3 or 4 times a week in various systems. I can tell you the brawls were well rehearsed and convincing, with no one looking ill at ease when they threw down and let slip the dogs of war (listen to me! just writing about this stuff I'm slipping into Spartacus mode, as it brings it all back!!!), and the story and fights threw up more than one or two surprises, with main characters being killed off; falling in spectacular style in the arena and leaving you thinking: 'What the?... But he can't die!'.
As a working writer myself, the dialogue too I found a delight. I really enjoyed the language and phrasing with, much to my embarrassment, one of two of their exclamations finding their way into my everyday vernacular (Jupiter's co*k!!!). There were such gems as things like: "By the gods! The nerve of the man! He greets with one hand only to part cheek with the other, and thrust his... into my....", well, you get the idea. I shan't elaborate for fear of sending Amazons' review filters into melt-down.
After the first episode I read one or two reviews of it in papers - The Times and the Guardian I think - and they kind of sniffed at it a bit. But, reading between the lines, you could tell that the reviewers had enjoyed it just as much as anyone else, even if their superior stance wouldn't let them admit it; you could just tell. It's a shame they didn't dare give the show the praise it deserved then, but that might have changed now the show's progressed. And I hope so, because Blood & Sand honestly deserves it.
Spartacus himself makes a very likeable character. And the guy who plays him is very watchable and I'm going to miss my Tuesday-nights-in now; Tuesday, until this came along, seemed to be particularly void of anything to watch on TV - and the faster the next season arrives the better!!! Now all we have to do is pray it doesn't get pulled.
And also pray for the lead character - Andy Whitfield - who has fallen ill with cancer. So ill in fact, that the second season has been put on hold, and they've had to write a prequel to the series, which comes out in the new year. Fingers crossed guys. Fingers crossed.
I'll be buying this Blu Ray the moment it's out and it'll positively shine on the format. It's the type of series made for High-Def. The CGI and warm colours will look amazing, I just know it! And it'll be nice to get rid of the silly Bravo logo that got in the way of the flying droplets of blood and the odd nipple on TV.
Every episode of series 1 was amazing and the final episode was simply off the hook! I won't spoil it for you. Just buy Spartacus now and find out what happens for yourself. So if you're thinking about pre-ordering this, I say go for it! It's man TV at it's finest! Spartacus... Gladiators... I salute you.
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