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Blood, sex and the occasional glimpse of sand

When someone eventually gets around to writing a history of violence on television, a few pages won't be sufficient for Spartacus: Blood And Sand. It will require a full chapter -- perhaps even two full chapters -- dotted with blobs of red ink, to simulate blood, and featuring detailed illustrations of various human organs, including the naughtier ones.

Anything less could never do full justice to what is far and away THE MOST VIOLENT TV SERIES EVER!!

Forgive the typographical melodramatics. I felt compelled to type that last bit in big, bold capital letters with double exclamation marks because this, I suspect, is how the writers of Spartacus: Blood And Sand type their scripts.

Know now that there is nothing muted about Spartacus: Blood And Sand, aside from the muddy, gloriously artificial CGI backgrounds against which the action unfolds. Restraint is a stranger in this series' lexicon.


Everything about SBAS is big and bold, and comes with implicit exclamation marks.

The male stars, including Andy Whitfield, who plays the titular Thracian slave who becomes a gladiator and leads a rebellion against the Romans, are big and bold.

Most of them, in fact, seem to be made up largely of beards and pectorals the size of coconuts. There are no wimps in SBAS. You'll see more six-packs here than on a supermarket checkout queue on Christmas Eve.

Actually, there is one wimp: the scheming, sneering baddie Lentulus Batiatus, played by John Hannah, who gives the series a veneer of proper, respectable, actorly acting amid the violence.

Ah, yes, the violence ... this, too, is big and bold. Bigger and bolder and more spectacularly gory than anything else you've ever seen on television and possibly at the movies as well.

Whenever Spartacus steps into the gladiatorial arena, which is regularly, the blood -- some of it computer-generated, some of it the old-fashioned special effects type -- sprays like water from a burst pipe.

Limbs and heads are lopped off, faces are caved in with axes, throats are slit in close-up, often in loving, lingering slow motion.

In a memorable scene near the end of the first episode, Spartacus slices both an opponent's legs off in the kind of smooth, back-and-forth motion that most Wimbledon champions would give their non-serving arm to have ... although perhaps not both their legs.

At another point, our hero rams his sword into an ailing foe's back, unleashing a volcanic eruption of blood that fills the entire frame and gives a whole new meaning to the term plasma screen.

It's like putting a ripe tomato in a microwave and watching it explode, only much, much more fun. It's so ridiculously over the top, it's hilarious.

Also big and bold -- in the sense an Irish mother implies when she barks "Don't be bold!" at an errant child -- is the language, which is riper than that tomato you've just microwaved and runs the gamut from C to F.

Which brings us to the final, biggest and boldest ingredient of the series, and the one that would have clean-up TV busybody Mary Whitehouse spinning in her grave so fast she'd burrow her way to the Earth's core in a week.

I'm talking about the sex. There's loads of sex. In addition to being THE MOST VIOLENT TV SERIES EVER!! it also happens to be THE SEXIEST TV SERIES EVER!!

In fact, between the violence, the swearing and the bonking, Spartacus: Blood And Sand should really be called Sparta-cuss: Blood And Sex because frankly, the sand barely gets a look in. And let's be honest: who wants to look at sand anyway when you can look at naked bodies writhing their way through countless soft-core sex scenes?

By the way, the words "soft core" don't imply that SBAS is in anyway coy. Far from it. There are orgies and full-frontal nudity a plenty here, and the men get their kit off just as much as the women.


In the US it has been tagged with an onscreen TV-MA rating, meaning it's unsuitable for anyone under 17. TV3, which began showing it last week, and Bravo, where it's been running since May, both screen it at 10pm.

The funny thing, though, is that for all the supposedly adult content, Spartacus: Blood And Sand's natural audience are teenage males. With its potent mixture of graphic novel-style visuals, cartoonishly over-the-top bloodletting and impossibly beautiful women, it's a 15-year-old boy's wet dream made real.

Sadly, from their point of view, most of them will probably never be allowed to see it. It's the role of the responsible parents to watch such programmes, just to make sure their children's minds aren't being polluted. Isn't that right, dads?

Spartacus: Blood And Sand is on Thursdays, 10pm, TV3 and Tuesdays, 10pm, Bravo