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Series premiere — Spartacus: Blood and Sand

In television on 01/24/2010 at 10:27 am

Series name
Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Debuts
Monday, Jan. 25, at 9 p.m. ET on The Movie Network

Regularly airs
Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on The Movie Network

Premise
Around about 73 BC or so, a man from Thrace, Greece fighting alongside the Roman-invaders defies an order and is sentenced to death, as chum for the famed gladiator battles. But this Thracian won’t die, so he is sent to Capua’s ludus, or gladiator school, so he can win with more flair. His motivation? To find his woman, also taken by the Romans and hopefully still alive… History and a certain Kirk Douglas movie suggests he will make friends at the ludus and finally get some respect.

Primary cast and crew
Andy Whitfield (McLeod’s Daughters) is Spartacus. Or at least that’s the name the Romans have foisted upon him.
John Hannah (Four Weddings and a Funeral, the Mummy movies) is Batiatus, a cash-strapped gladiator-school owner who gambles that the new fighter Spartacus will earn big.
Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess, The L Word, Battlestar Galactica) is Lucretia, ambitious wife of Batiatus.
Peter Mensah (300, Hidalgo, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) is Doctore, former gladiator who now teaches gladiators to fight at Batiatus’s ludus.
Manu Bennett (Xena: Warrior Princess, Lantana, 30 Days of Night) is Crixus, the top gladiator in Batiatus’s ludus.
Viva Bianca (Bad Bush, Accidents Happen) Ilithyia, daughter of Senator Albinius and wife of Legatus Claudius Glaber. Ruthless climber who is soon brought under the wing of Lawless’s Lucretia.
Craig Parker (Xena: Warrior Princess, Young Hercules) is Glaber, weak leader who is desperate to make an impression on his wife and father-in-law.
Jai Courtney (Packed to the Rafters, To Hell and Bourke) is Varro, a Roman citizen who sold himself into the gladiator game to pay off debts and provide for his family. Spartacus’s only friend at the ludus.
Erin Cummings (Dollhouse, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins) is Sura, Spartacus’s wife.
Nick E. Tarabay (The Sopranos, Crash) is Ashur, former gladiator turned bookie and fixer for the gladiators.
Anotonio Te Maioha (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) is Barca, No. 2 gladiator at the ludus.
Joshua Donen (Drag Me to Hell, Legend of the Seeker), Sam Raimi (Drag Me to Hell, Evil Dead movies, Legend of the Seeker, Xena: Warrior Princess), Robert Tapert (Evil Dead series, Legend of the Seeker, Xena) are exec producers.

Buzz buzz
This series has been described as 300 for TV, referring to the blockbuster hit graphic-novel adaptation, starring Gerad Butler’s musculature and employing a similar animation technique used here, which features torrential splashes of blood and a lot of slow-motion fighting scenes.

But what do I know anyway? After having seen the pilot I predict…
Well, you have to be able to tolerate a lot of blood. And to be very keen on fighting. And sex — you have to like watching a lot of nudity and sex. If these three qualities describe you, Spartacus is your show. If you like your TV stories well-told, you’ll have to be patient. The first two episodes are, outside of the fighting scenes, a little plodding and the dialogue is as stiff as the corpses piled everywhere. But it does start moving at a better clip. Bottom line though? I realize getting lanced to death in front of a crowd of cheering Romans is not the stuff of sitcoms, but any project involving the visual excesses usually associated with Sam Raimi (Xena, Legend of the Seeker) that does not also employ at least a touch of humour? Meh.

Other reviews
Cinemablend says, “It’s all ridiculous, but in a deliciously enjoyable way.”

zap2it observes “the series makes way for just enough plot to give our poor, overstimulated eyes a rest.”

Official website
This is the Movie Network website, but it’s just basics, including episode guide and schedule (and a link to watch the first episode online on Tuesday, Jan. 26). But the site put together for Starz, the U.S. cable outlet for whom the series was created? Bloodthirstily brilliant. I lived to fight another day as a gladiator in the interactive section called The Arena. The blog is a one-entry affair so far, with lots of comments good and bad after the show’s U.S. premiere Jan. 22. The Downloads section includes the usual wallpaper and icons, but also the gladiator workout.

Twitter
842 followers so far. Lots of links to media coverage and retweeting of fan chatter.

Facebook
7,753 fans so far. Lots of fan chatter (“Boobage and blood; gotta love this show”). Links to photos and videos also.

Wondering when the other new series and returning series are kicking off?
Click here for my select list of fall 2010 premieres and other important dates. Who am I to tell you what to do, but you could consider bookmarking it…

— Denise Duguay

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