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DVD Shopping Bag: Spartacus: Blood and Sand - The Complete First Season

Boobies, Blood and Sand

By Robert T. Trate     September 21, 2010

Andy Whitfield is Spartacus
© Starz


Not having Starz made it easy to skip Spartacus: Blood and Sand. I was tempted to watch the show as it was easily available on Netflix. The temptations were great indeed, as each and every week we here at Mania would review the show and not give it a stellar rating. How bad was his show, really? What amazed me as well was that Starz renewed it for another season right away despite the universal bashing it took. Now I heard that it was a “Skinamax” type show. That it is nothing but boobs, blood, swords, and more boobs. I also heard it called soft core porn. When Starz offered me the first season to review, I thought now is as good as time as any to discover Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
The quick run down of the show is that Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) gives his word to help the Romans and his village by fighting some invading barbarian hordes. After a double cross by an ambitious Roman commander, Spartacus is wanted for treason and then captured. Spartacus and his woman, Sura (Erin Cummings) are then taken into slavery. Before we know it, he is standing in an arena as a gladiator. All this happens in fifty-four minutes. There was some sex, boobies and a whole lot of blood. On the flip side there was also a ton of bad acting, underdeveloped characters and more slow motion than I’ve ever seen before (in anything). Spartacus: Blood and Sand tries to be so many things in that first episode that it loses sight of the title character and the world in which he lives. Most of the time, I felt as if I was watching three movies rolled into a cable TV show that really didn’t have any rules. Well it did have one, no penetration.
“Spartacus” It is Not:
This is not Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus from 1960. Whitfield’s character isn’t even really named Spartacus. It is a name given to him to invoke some sort of emotion of a long ago king that the people loved. In the same respect, it is supposed to suck the audience in along the same lines. We hear Spartacus and think back to that classic film or at the very least a man who fought and died for what he believed it. In fifty-four minutes I felt nothing for Whitfield’s character. He was as bland as his make shift wig and terrible accent. If anything I kept thinking back to Kubrick’s incredible film (see review) and felt that epic was worth watching again and not the next episode.
“Gladiator” This Wants to Be:
Much of Spartacus: Blood and Sand came from Ridley Scott’s film. Spartacus is a good man who was wronged. He loves his woman dearly and wishes to get back to her. The show has none of the heart of Gladiator nor does it invoke the spiritual side of a man on journey. It is just incredibly dumbed down. There is a brief scene, not involving sex, between Whitfield and Cummings where she tells him to “kill them all”. This is to be his mantra and his inspiration for surviving in the first gladiatorial game. In Scott’s Gladiator we had Russell Crowe’s acting, albeit limited, to convey his love for his wife and what he was fighting to avenge. Sex scenes and crappy one-liners just don’t cut it. I need to feel Spartacus’ heart ache. His longing for Sura or perhaps how betrayed he felt by the Romans. All I got was boobs, sex, and Lucy Lawless naked. Okay well the last one was all right.
“300” On the Fly:
With every slow motion shot and enormous splattering of blood, you can see Zack Snyder’s 300 on a weekly basis. 300 was an incredible film the first time around and a visual treat for the eyes. Upon a second viewing, it does seem a little too macho and full of itself. It has incredible action sequences slowed down and sped up to give it a unique style. The creators of Blood and Sand beat this style to death in the first episode. They evoke a great visual with cheap special effects, but as the politics and scheming come into play the show really slows down. Thankfully they throw in some naked babes and put the show back on track again. Yes, back on track by showing boobs.
“Spartacus Blood and Sand” The Maniac’s Take:
I went right into the second episode with a lot of trepidation. Before I knew it, Sura was grinding on Spartacus and we were off and running. I quickly turned it off. Is this all this show really is? It gets better right? I’ve often heard you have to drag yourself through the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer before it actually gets good. How many episodes do I have to watch to get why Starz renewed this for a second season? I open the forum up to you, Maniacs. Convince me right now, why I should continue to watch Spartacus: Blood and Sand? For the life of me I can’t find a reason.
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Robert Trate writes two weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Robert also participates in a pod cast that reviews movies, comics and celebrates all things geek. Check it out at You’ve Got Geek on You.com.


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JarrodSarafin 9/21/2010 2:47:48 AM

Because the last few episodes of season one kicked ass, Bob? I agree with you that the first few episodes left a lot to be desired but if you stop there and never witness what went down towards the end of season one, both in writing and acting, you're going to kick yourself. Trust me. But hey...let the others sound off with their opinions. :)

makabriel 9/21/2010 6:44:20 AM

 Yeah, put aside the gratuitous violence/sex and at it's core it's a really good series.  Intrigue, scheming, combat, love, revenge, yadda and more yadda.  

Definitely worth the patience.


TheStormrider 9/21/2010 6:49:46 AM

I totally agree with you Jarrod.

After the first episode,  I thought to myself 'meh'; by the third,  I sat down for the long haul.

I only partially skimmed this review.  I though to myself:

"A jarrod Sarafin or Rob Vaux review, this is not!'

and by the end of the first paragraph I though to myself

"Is there any reason to finish this review?  Is this all I am going to get?  Come on maniacs,  sound off,  give me a reason to finish this terribly biased,  incomplete view."

Anyone unwilling or unable to complete the job they start,  does not have the rite to complain or badmouth it.  My dad taught me that when I was 5. 

A lot of insight could have been gained from reading the entire seasons review,  and further by reading the maniac comments. 

The general consensus was 'It started poorly and out of sorts,  then picked up speed and ended with a shazaam.  Your review successfully recounted the first part.

karas1 9/21/2010 9:59:49 AM

I disagree that you have to slog your way through the first 2 seasons of Buffy.  The first few episodes of the first season were a little raw, but after that it got rolling.  And season 2 really rocked, the introduction of Spike and Dru, Angel becomes Angelus, Jenny Callendar's death and what that does to Giles.  It was a great season!

djcgmcse 9/21/2010 10:37:55 AM

This show is the ultimate example of a show that started as a horrible horrible show that turned into epic gold by the end of the season.  I don't think I've ever witnessed a show change from begining to end quite like this one has.  Stick with it til the end of the season, and then judge it.  

By Jupiter's c*ck, I fuckin' loved this show.

hanso 9/21/2010 1:49:46 PM

Let me ask you this Trate, why grind through Spartacus when you can get instant satisfaction by watching Mad Men?

mikeylikesvw 9/21/2010 6:56:10 PM

Seriously, stick with it.  I'm re-watching the first season now, and after watching episode one again, I can't say your criticism is unfair...the first one is bad.   BUT...it starts improving with the second episode, and gets exponentially better as it moves along.  By about episode 5 or 6, I was hooked.  The plot becomes the main driver of the show, and they tone down the slow-mo and the blood significantly.  The really stylized violence is used more effectively, either to tell a story or to build up the most important scenes, where it feels right.  The sex continues, but as it becomes less shocking, it feels less gratuituous and part of the fun of the show. 

By the time I finished episodes 9 (Whore) and 10 (Party Favors), I was seriously considering whether it was the best drama on TV.  (In the end, I would still have to rate it behind Mad Men and Breaking Bad)  The finale is EPIC; undoubtedly the most satisfying season finale of all-time.  Unfortunately, it looks like it may also be the series finale due to Andy Whitfield's heath, but do yourself a favor and re-load your DVD player.

redhairs99 9/22/2010 10:55:11 AM

Bob, if I recall correctly it was like mikeylikesvw says.  About episode 5 or 6 was were the show really hit its stride and that finale was AWESOME!  Easily the biggest single-season turnaround for a show ever! 

Kara, firstly...SPOILER ALERTS FOR SEASON TWO , HELLO!!!  j/k lol.  I do think that first-time viewers of Buffy do have to kinda slog their way through the first season.  I enjoy it more now as I've become a fan, but at first it was tedious.  I think it really started to hit its stride in season two when they began to show us Angel's past and introduced us to Spike and Dru.  That's when the show started to click for me at least.  The only part of Spike's introduction that reall bothered me was that he kept saying that Angel was his sire/maker.  I'm glad they retconned that but it still bugs me a bit.

redhairs99 9/22/2010 11:02:42 AM

And BTW, Spartacus was renewed before the series ever premiered.  In fact, I remember reading the renewal news here on Mania in either late November or early December and thinking "What the heck is this Spartacus: Blood and Sand show?  I've never heard of this and they've even renewed it more than a month before the pilot airs?"

hanso 9/22/2010 4:33:43 PM

 You know what Starz should've renewed?  Party Down.  It's a television crime it got canceled.

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