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
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,
"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
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.
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 ...
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