2005, TV Show


Tasty Imports
Savoring a British TV invasion

Stiff upper lips? Hardly. The best of British TV is anything but stuffy. From the guilty pleasure of the trashy Footballers' Wives (returning for a third season in February) to hauntingly dark mysteries and wacky comedies, BBC America has become one of my top cable destinations for the range of its bold and unpredictable programming. But the fun doesn't stop there. PBS still turns to England for classy drama, HBO has developed a crush on shows with an accent (Rome and Extras) and A&E will air a fourth season of gritty spy drama MI-5 in 2006. Here's a roundup of some recent arrivals. Bad GirlsTuesdays at 9 pm/ET, BBC AmericaThink: "Oz with Estrogen"The Lowdown: read more

Well, you certainly can't say...

Well, you certainly can't say nothing happened this week, huh? Caesar, in Egypt, has to deal with boy-king Ptolemy, Cleopatra's brother. ("I think I can handle a small boy and an eunuch," he says when asked if sticking around to "settle things" is a good idea after being presented with Pompey's head as a gift.) Of course he can, and how bad do we want to see him give that annoying little gnat a good slap, kick or series of both? But we get something better — a brilliantly done fight scene when Lucius and Pullo are sent to rescue Cleo from the assassins her little brother hired, followed by a hilarious sex scene and its aftermath when she demands Lucius sleep with her, and he sends Pullo in to do the deed. And it doesn't slow down from there. She manages to look amazing when dumped out of a piece of burlap and onto the floor. And it's clear that Caesar, and read more

When last we saw Pullo and Lucius,...

When last we saw Pullo and Lucius, their ship's mast had broken in a storm, and now they're dragging themselves onto a beach after a great deal of suffering — although it's nothing compared to the suffering of Caesar's screaming, wounded men (and the 2000 dead ones). Pompey intends to keep Caesar's forces bottled up, but Cato and the other senators insist he finish him off, which is yet another example (there are so many these days) of what happens when politicians play soldier. Later, Pompey remarks that the decisive battle is about to begin, and Caesar points out that he and his own forces — who are outnumbered by between three to one and five to one  — must win or die, which gives them an advantage, since Pompey's men have other choices. Good point, but I have to say that as much as I like this show, the big battle scene was a letdown. I'm not a blood-and-guts guy, as regular readers who suffer my squeamishn read more

I've really been enjoying ...

Question: I've really been enjoying Extras, but it seems like I never hear anything about the show. Why has HBO put so little effort into promoting it? Do you think it's because it's not their own production? Or because there aren't that many episodes? I saw ads for Unscripted and The Comeback all over the place and neither of those shows was nearly as good as this one. Whenever a network attempts to remake a British show, there are always scores of people complaining because they don't just air the U.K. originals. Now that a network finally is, it seems like the show is going completely unnoticed. Answer: It would make sense to me if HBO, as I expect, spent most of its promotional energy this fall, once Rome was up and running, to trumpet the long-awaited return of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I'm loving Extras and agree HBO had some real opportunities to exploit the hilarious cameos by Kate Winslet and Ben Stiller, but much like Ricky Gervais' original The Office, it's still something of a ... read more

Starting off with a surprise,...

Starting off with a surprise, Pompey dictates a letter offering Caesar a truce. We cut from flies buzzing around Pompey and his crew to a comfortable Caesar getting a shave. "Judicious use of mercy is worth 10,000 men," Caesar says when told he's being a spendthrift. Then the intrigue begins in earnest, with Octavian spilling to his mom that Caesar's cursed with an affliction; Lucius buying Pullo's girl back from a stranger and giving her to Niobe as a slave (and spy); Caesar refusing Pompey's offer of a truce (and not following Antony's advice to immediately head south and kill him)  and Lucius finding his business dead before he's started it. Now, all the ugliness of that last one aside, it's setting up his return to soldiering, which is good for us since he's a lot more entertaining as a fighter than he was as an entrepreneur and a cuckold.

Did someone say fighter? Here's an interesting twist: Pullo is working as a read more

I love the new HBO series ...

Question: I love the new HBO series Rome and I know you like it also. I just read that it has been picked up for a second season. How is it doing in the ratings? Has all HBO's advertising paid off? Answer: The ratings, from what I gather, are a lot less spectacular than Rome's production design, but I'm not that surprised. The show is a slow build, and my advice to anyone who's resisted its lure is to let a few episodes build up, then watch several at once — On Demand, if you have it — as if you were digging into a good novel. (Many HBO series, in particular The Wire, play much better this way than in hourlong weekly increments.) I'm also not surprised that HBO gave the show a green light for next season. Only four episodes have aired so far, and I'll continue to argue that it gets better as it goes. But even if HBO's masterful and exhaustive marketing hasn't paid off yet in ratings, it at least has put the message out there that Rome isn't like anything you'd find on network TV. (Well, ... read more


Shirley Temple Black will receive the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award at the SAG awards Jan. 29.... HBO has renewed Rome for a second season.... The Big Three of TV news — Tom Brokaw, the late Peter Jennings and Dan Rather — will be honored in a special tribute at Sunday's Emmy Awards. read more

"It's a crime if we lose," Antony...

"It's a crime if we lose," Antony says of Caesar's rebellion. "If we win, it isn't." Nice to see how little has changed in the world in all this time, huh? Then we're right into the sex, blood and intrigue, with Atia telling Timon she'll see that he's "properly rewarded" if he does what he's asked. And the sucker thanks her. Guess he's not watching this show, since her idea of "properly" could mean any number of awful things. "All will be well, I assure you," Pompey tells his wife as they abandon Rome before Caesar's forces arrive. Lotsa lying in the air, no? Me, I'm happiest when we stick with Pullo and Lucius, both of whom are as likable as you get on this show full of schemers and louts. In fact, grading on a bell curve, they're out-and-out heroes. And what a great scene in Atia's household, with the wealthy and spoiled quarreling over who shall kill whom and who shall kill themselves (and in what order) before the rabbl read more

I noticed that Rome has eight ...

Question: I noticed that Rome has eight executive producers and six producers. Was it so expensive they needed to give out those credits like candy, or do all these people actually contribute? And is this a record? I imagine some of the great '80s miniseries might beat this, but has any series ever come close to 14 producers and executive producers?
Answer: I'm sure this is no record. Study the credits for almost any show, even a run-of-the-mill sitcom, and you'll see a laundry list of executive/supervising/coproducer titles. Compounding the situation with Rome is not only its extraordinary expense (estimated at $100 million), but also the fact that it's an international coproduction. That old "It takes a village" saying applies to TV as well, it seems ... read more

SUNDAY NIGHTRome Let's start off...


Let's start off with lessons-from-ancient-history time, shall we? A huffy Caesar tells his consigliere that "the business of motivating men to fight is a tricky business," adding that he "would not expect a slave to understand the subtleties." So the guy's intelligence quotient drops as soon as he disagrees with your leadership? Nice to see that practice died with the Roman empire. Oh, wait.... Anyway, poor Lucius returns from years of battle only to find his wife holding another man's baby, which she says is his grandson, even though his daughter is only 13. One thing I can say on her behalf, though, is that for all the happiness his spoils should bring her, I can understand why she might not be thrilled when he throws the phallus on the table. And between that and all the copulation, this sure as heck ain't the History Channel, is it?

Now, I w read more

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Premiered: August 28, 2005, on HBO
Rating: TV-MA
User Rating: (49 ratings)
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Premise: The Roman Empire's rise gets a royal treatment in this sprawling drama, which begins in 52 B.C., when Julius Caesar finally conquers Gaul, after years of war. Back in Rome, however, the Senate seeks to undermine Caesar's power, setting the stage for inevitable civil war. The HBO-BBC co-production took more than a year to make on acres of sets at Italy's legendary Cinecitta studios.



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