UK: Sky One
The Spartacus franchise was clearly designed to provide the STARZ network with original programming that would instantly be recognisable to the average viewer. STARZ secured serious production experience in Sam Raimi (Hercules, Xena) and Stephen S DeKnight (Buffy, Angel) and copied the visual style of the movie 300 to further set the show apart.
The show debuted to over a million viewers which for a subscription network was a solid number. Critical opinion was clearly mixed though and the graphic sex and violence was never going to be everyone's tastes. Before season one had aired STARZ commissioned a second. However production had to be delayed when star Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with early-stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Due to the delay, STARZ produced a six-episode prequel series, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. Pre-production of season 2 began following the announcement that Whitfield was cancer free, however his cancer recurred so STARZ replaced Whitfield (with his consent) with Liam McIntyre. Andy Whitfield died on September 11, 2011.
As a fan of both Roman history and non-procedural television shows I was more than willing to give Spartacus: Blood and Sand the benefit of the doubt. And it needed it. A 300 inspired opening episode was deeply uninspiring and it wasn't until the fourth episode that I began to think that the show had any potential. However from then on I was both surprised and delighted with what I saw.
I blogged about the increasingly impressive first season (you can find those reviews in the Blogs section) and then gave full reviews and a podcast to Gods of the Arena. For simplicity's sake I call the whole show Spartacus and therefore count Gods of the Arena as the show's second season.
There was a natural structure and tension on the show when slaves and masters lived under the same roof. Spartacus now faces a significant uphill battle. First it must overcome the Prison Break dilemma of keeping the show as strong now that the gladiators are on the loose. Second it must replace John Hannah's Batiatus, arguably the show's best character. And third, Liam McIntyre has to step into the role vacated by the sad death of Andy Whitfield.
Jupiters Rooster is a Spartacus podcast hosted by Roberto and John which I enjoy a lot. They cover every episode of the show and have even explored the movies and related animated series.
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