TV Review: Spartacus: Blood and Sand

Introducing 300 2—Revenge of the Six-pack.

Clothed Lucy Lawless. You won't see much of this.

Actually, they call it Spartacus: Blood and Sand, but don’t worry, that’s really not important, so we won’t be using that name again.

300 2.0 is the latest from STARZ: a dramatic action piece following the life of the legendary Spartacus. But this isn’t Kubrick’s tale of revolution. This features a much more brawny tale, following the future revolutionary leader from his early days as an irritatingly innocent Thracian killing machine/chieftain, through his time as a lovesick gladiator simply pining for his long-lost love.

Except by pining, I mean lots of massacring interrupted by the occasional bout of whining. Plot-wise, this show doesn’t really have it. It’s about as thin as paper—paper that’s been smeared in Kentucky-fried chicken grease. A strong script and an engaging plot is not what you’ll find and every episode is pretty consistent, even in its twists. You’re not going to be surprised.

Of course not, though—I did tell you this was 300 2.0! Seriously. The two could be brothers, if Spartacus were the brother that was dropped repeatedly on his head when he was little, then left at an Indiana Truck Stop for good measure. We have the slow-mo in every form of action. Killing or sexing, everything slows so we can see it in very elaborate detail. It has the same grotesquely fit cast of main characters (seriously, how many swords have simply broken on those things!?), constantly grunting forth crude witticisms to dazzle your mind with. The art and graphic setting are identical as well—if much, much lower budget. The show even features the infamous messenger (Peter Mensah) from 300! This time, however, he manages to not get booted into a bottomless pit (though they do have one of those, too).

Seriously, where’s Gerard Butler when we need ‘em? Seven episodes in and he’s still kicking. Maybe they’re just trying to make it up to him, though. After all, now he’s the guy training a host of other people that get to die. Good times.

The show itself is a continuous stream of violence, sex and vulgarity, and in many instances, all three at once. With the blood spilled in this show, they could fill the Red Sea and make it look proper. Also: I had no idea how often Romans made use of the word Cock, but apparently those Italians are very naughty people, because that or “fuck” can’t seem to go more than ten seconds without making a surprise appearance or two. Seriously, it’s like watching Lewis Black on crack.

Also, STARZ is apparently not worried about the whole nudity business because my goodness is there a lot flesh going around here. While this means things like, “Hey look, Lucy Lawless is getting naked again!”—and she does, frequently—it also has led to me seeing more penises in five minutes than a party at Andy Dick’s house. While this doesn’t send me screaming for the hilltops, it does leave me with the troubling feeling that these fellas are using sheer shock value to cover up their show’s inadequacies. Shock is good, but you should match it with some writing. You shouldn’t use it as an excuse to cop out on the rest of your show.

All glamor and no substance does not a good story make!

Regardless, the sheer carnal delights of the show make it entertaining enough, and you can usually get a pretty good laugh out of the situations and the characters themselves, at the show’s expense. It will keep you amused, barring the squeamish. If you’re not “mature,” well, they’re pretty serious—you should probably just take a step back. If you’re looking for serious quality, though, than this one is going to leave you wanting.

Rating: 3 out 5 stars

~ by Chris G. on March 5, 2010.

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