A year ago some gay guy couldn’t believe I hadn’t been watching Spartacus. I rolled my eyes and ignored him. But then it happened again. And again. Suddenly it was like I hadn’t heard of Barbra Streisand. I continued to resist out of sheer obstinacy. But then when I was in bed with someone, post-orgasm when I’m especially amenable, I was offered a cuddle and a show. Sure. Spartacus? Sure. And so I opened my mind to it.
Let me say that it took awhile to warm up to it. It’s cartoonish. It’s gory, in a cartoonish way. But it has charms and not all of them are the beefcake. But, yeah, there’s the beefcake. Pound for pound, more man muscle than anything on TV.
It’s the story of some gladiator slaves who rebel. Like a longer, gayer version of the Kubrick film. It has plenty of political maneuvering, like Falcon Studios doing I Claudius. It has very literate dialogue, like Treasure Island Studios doing Julius Caesar. It even has fully realized gay couples, completely accepted by their colleagues, like no-one from no-where doing nothing-real. But you gotta like that. If you’re gonna have cartoonish violence why not have utopian sexuality? The thesis being that ancient Rome had few sexual hang-ups. There’s some historical truth to that, of course, but the hallmark of the show isn’t academic integrity. My secret thrill is thinking about the meatheads and wrestling fans who can’t stop themselves watching and are getting a stealth lesson in LGBTQ+ acceptance.
Originally, Spartacus was played by Andy Whitfield, but, sadly, he died of cancer after the first season. They did a prequel season and then found a suitable replacement in Liam McIntyre (sent first to the gym to muscle up). Of course, if you were an Andy-fan no one’s gonna cut it. Me, I started watching in the third season and back-tracked, so Liam’s my first Sparta-crush and he’s all I ever want in a slave.
The good news: If you can stomach the early episodes it gets better and better. The production values increased as the show became a hit and the budget went up. The writers found their way after a shaky start. And now, we have the return of the show for Season Four. Which is sometimes called Season Three because of the prequel being non-numbered, or sometimes called Season Two because of people only starting from the Liam days, or sometimes called Season One by people with short-term memory problems, but best called Spartacus: War of the Damned since that’s less confusing.
Did I mention the beefcake? They like to take long baths together, these gladiators. They are sometimes ordered to up the hotness in the crowd at the master’s orgies, and sometimes it’s just too damned humid to fight with cloths on. Naked wrestle much? Why were they rebelling exactly?
Is the new season any good? I don’t know. I can only watch it in eight-minute spurts. You’ll have to let me know. But I’ll retroactively give season three (or two, or Vengeance) an A-, and hope this season’s plot gets brewing well enough to take my mind off the scenery. They’re about to have another bath, so I’ve gotta run.