It's "better to leave people wanting more than to risk repeating ourselves and diminish" the power of the Spartacus franchise, Starz president Chris Albrecht told the Television Critics Association at Thursday's fall previews.
In June, the cable network announced that the upcoming third season of Spartacus would be the series' last. Albrecht noted that going into Season 2, when "the rebels were in the hills and the Romans were in the towns" the show had to tell "two distinct stories, which is not the best." So instead of detailing another battle, another argument ad nauseum, it was decided the series would end in a big way with one more season: Spartacus: War of the Damned, which premieres in January 2013.
After the sword-and-sandal series ends, however, Starz has programming planned that could fill fans' need for period pieces, big, cinematic-style action or genre drama. Here's a sampling of what's to come:
Incursion: Spartacus creator Steven S. DeKnight has an overall deal with the network and had just returned from Hawaii where he shot a proof of concept piece, which Albrecht described as "a sci-fi piece. It's Band of Brothers meets Halo... with a lot of creature work."
Black Sails: Epic action filmmaker Michael Bay has teamed up with Starz for the eight-episode series focusing on a pirate adventures that take place 20 years prior to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Unlike Spartacus, Black Sails will not be shot purely indoors, in front of green screens. Standing sets have been constructed in South Africa. "We have the opportunity to create an actual water set outside that will allow us to build a boat and another part of a boat," Albrecht said. The series will debut sometime in 2014, possibly in the Friday night Spartacus slot.
Da Vinci's Demons: The series stars Tom Riley as a young Leonardo Da Vinci, a passionate artist, inventor, swordsman, lover, dreamer and idealist during the Renaissance in Florence, Italy. The network is aiming for a Spring 2013 premiere.
Marco Polo: Starz teams up with Weinstein Company to once again go back in time and examine the life of a young Marco Polo during the early years in the court of Kublai Khan. The series promises action, espionage, politics, romance and even martial arts. "The scripts are absolutely fantastic," Albrecht said, adding that there's been a bit of a delay because the challenges of shooting in China were "as formidable as we feared... to capture something that hopefully feels like a feature film."
Noir: Robert Tapert, Josh Donen and Sam Raimi are making a live-action adaptation of the popular anime series. They have run into "creative challenges on the script, but it's absolutely in our zone," Albrecht said. In the original 2001 series, a pair of female assassins embark on a personal journey while a mysterious organization called Les Soldats try to take them down. "I'm very confident Noir will be on, but I can't tell you when," Albrecht added.