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What Make The Critics

I am – Hercules!!
A new low-budget look at the Thracian soldier turned slave gladiator who eventually led a revolt against the Roman Republic (when Gaius Julius Caesar was maybe only 27 years old), “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is one of two new series launching tonight overseen by a former “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” writer-producer. Syfy has “Caprica” from Jane Espenson (though Espenson’s oversight of the show didn’t begin until next week’s second episode). And Starz has “Spartacus,” from Steven S. DeKnight, whose post-“Buffy” career includes stints on “Angel,” “Smallville” and “Dollhouse.” “Spartacus” marks DeKnight’s debut as a showrunner. Big-screen director Sam Raimi is an executive producer, as he was on “Hercules” and “Xena” and is on “Legend of the Seeker.” Obscure Welsh/Australian actor Andy Whitfield plays the title role. Bigger names like John Hannah (“The Mummy”) and Lucy Lawless (“Xena”) are among the supporting cast. There are loads of pay-cable nudity and “300”-style gore, and Lawless was good enough to bare her nipples for the first time anywhere. Starz ordered a second season of the series a month before audiences saw its first episode – demonstrating perhaps how irrelevant ratings are to pay cable programmers. Variety says:
… dreadful … What ensues, alas, is the gladiator's life as filtered through the gauzy lens of a Calvin Klein ad. Sure, there's some graphic sex and modest court intrigue among the haughty Romans, but nothing to approach the worst moments in HBO's "Rome." … earns a big, very bloody thumbs down.
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… With such thin stories each week, it's small wonder that sex and violence are used to take up the slack. … Andy Whitfield has the requisite physicality for the title role. Beyond that, it's hard to assess his performance because his character is so consistently two-dimensional. …
USA Today says:
… proof of TV's ever-expanding boundaries and ever-plummeting tastes. You've never seen anything quite like it on TV and, with luck, will never again anytime soon … Still, there's no denying that Spartacus does what it sets out to do fairly well — and in a way that doesn't duplicate anything else now on TV. …
Entertainment Weekly says:
… might prove to be the not-at-all-guilty pleasure of the season. …
The Los Angeles Times says:
… If the show's concerns do not rise far above the level of pulp -- and there is nothing wrong with that -- it does what it does with a sure hand. … Given that "Spartacus" does not stumble in what it sets out to do, one's objections to the show, if objections one has, will be moral, or simple matters of taste, to the extent that those two concerns can actually be separated. It is a little bloody for my taste, personally. …
The Chicago Tribune says:
… The quick way to describe "Spartacus" would be to call it an attempt to re-make the movie "300" as a TV show with a (much) smaller budget. That description is especially apt in the first episode, which is somewhat clunky, derivative and humorless. There's lots of slo-mo blood and gore, lots of sex, a washed-out color palette and some groan-inducing acting from the supporting cast. But the poetic and evocative dialogue works, amazingly enough (it's almost Shakespearean at times), and as the world of Spartacus is fleshed out (in more ways than one), the show develops momentum and the intrigues become more interesting. …
The Washington Post says:
… It's deliciously, marvelously bad, and I was helpless in its grip. … you can't help but laugh at the dialogue. Of course, with all these sweaty gladiators in loincloths, the whole thing can be viewed through a homoerotic prism, and "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" works extra hard to deflect that -- too hard, judging from the fact that all the men in it derisively refer to one another in epithets for a certain female body part. We get it guys, we get it. You are men and you kill. You slay me, Spartacus, that's for sure.
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… An early - and leading - candidate for worst series of the decade … spectacularly awful - and not in a way that you'll want to rubberneck at for laughs or drinking-game derision. … Imagine watching a boring porn movie with swords, sandals, CGI, buckets and buckets of blood, and excessive slow-motion "action" scenes, all while Satan pulls your soul out of your backside. …
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… There's not much room for character development in [Friday’s] battle-filled premiere. Next week's episode offers slightly more promise on that front, and episodes three and four show marked improvement. It's no "Rome," but at least it appears headed more in that direction. …
The Boston Herald says:
… How many times can you watch blood and teeth spew from a man’s mouth? How long do you want to linger on a man getting his throat sliced, his blood erupting in a shower of red that nearly covers the camera lens? Don’t get me thinking about what happens to one gladiator’s face in the fourth episode.
The Boston Globe says:
… either a fabulous spoof whose expert actors have perfected the art of amateur line delivery or employment for an epic cast of shockingly wooden thespians. It was written either by master satirists hoping to inspire viewer drinking games each time blood drops sail in slo-mo or by teen boys. My vote is for the latter in each case, especially the one where the writers are teen boys. …
10 p.m. Friday. Starz.

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