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Caveat Spectator! "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" Goes for The Hard "R"

If you like soft porn and and/or splatter films - bare breasts of all types, shots of decapitated heads and dismembered forearms and legs (in slomo, with fountains of spurting blood) - then Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Starz latest foray into scripted drama, is the show for you.

Yeah, the series will probably be HUGE when it premieres tomorrow, January 22 at 10 ET/PT.

Spartacus is Gladiator meets The 300.  The stylized, comic-book feel of the series is derivative of The 300. That’s all I’m going to say about the matter because it’s so…bloody obvious.

(Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator who led a slave revolt in 73 bc. Background here.)

The sex scenes have been called some of the steamiest ever filmed for television.  Perhaps so. But it’s also true that the producers have been whipping up interest in the sex and violence since the series was introduced to television critics in 2009.  Last year, the press was told that the first draft of the script was initially an NC-17, but was dropped back to an “R-rated, hard, hard show.”

The producers have asserted that the violence in Spartacus is “operatic” and “artistic.” Be forewarned: there is frequent use of slow motion and close-ups of the carnage.

Some of the superfluous shots are annoying.  In one, Erin Cummings (who plays Sura, Spartacus’ wife) looks directly into the camera after a sex scene and smiles seductively while doing the lower lip-nibble thing.  The shot was just a tad sleazy.

Occasionally, the dialog is tepid, and the acting listless.  Maybe the latter problem can be attributed to the green screens, and the fact that actors at times are probably interacting with the dreaded tennis ball.

Nevertheless, Andy Whitfield as Spartacus is intense and believable in this physically demanding role.

But even the uber-talented Lucy Lawless (as the manipulative Lucretia) seems a little flat, at first.

Still, did I mention Spartacus stars the uber-talented Lucy Lawless?  Lawless alone is reason enough to follow this series, at least for awhile.

There’s even a bromance of sorts.  AfterElton’s Michael Jensen has details.

Fans won’t have to worry about cancellation.  Starz ordered another season of Spartacus in advance of the premiere.

In spite of all the weaknesses out of the gate,  it seems only right to give Spartacus a fair shot by screening more episodes on a big screen in (gulp!) HD.   I just have to make sure not to eat dinner beforehand.

With all the sex and blood splatter, audiences will likely tune in to Spartacus: Blood and Sand.  Whether the series will eventually offer more than that – compelling dialog, and complex storylines and character development - remains to be seen.

A few clips, including Gladiator Camp: