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Friday, May 11, 2012

Spartacus, a Roman gladiator TV show for mature audiences

While previous historical dramas covered in this blog series have been geared towards female viewers (or at least mixed audiences), Spartacus: Blood and Sand is a show that goes all-out for the male demographic.

It’s a grisly business, charting the slave revolt in ancient Rome made famous by the 1960 Kirk Douglas film in which a number of gladiators rose up against their masters and formed an army. The producers of Spartacus fill every episode with sex, explicit violence, and the kind of slow-motion action that we saw in 300.

Only strong stomachs need apply: a plot point in one episode involves a man having his penis removed. Rarely an episode passes without blood awash the screen. Yet, despite the unpalatable subject matter, something about this show’s writing really hits home.

There’s a strong mix of male camaraderie and political scheming, with John Hannah playing a particularly entertaining villain. The characters and their relationships grow on you as the show goes on, so that by the final episode both Sue and I were completely hooked.

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, a six-part prequel miniseries, came next, followed by season two proper, Spartacus: Vengeance.

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