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Rome

I watched a bit of Rome the other night. I say a bit, because, after about half an hour of it, I just got bored and switched it off.

It was just bad. Everything about Rome circled the whole Hercules and Xena styled show of Ye-Old-Stupidity-That-Is-Camp, except that there was a bit more money in the set design and costume of Rome, and everyone seemed unaware that riding round as Romans with American accents is just downright stupid (apparently they're British, and I can't pick an accent to save my life, heh.). Sure, it looked nice, and it did have one neat little scene where a guy gets the back of his head replaced with a piece of metal, after being attacked. Even this, though, was fairly suspect, since a few days later (or so it seems), he's back up, looking like nothing happened, and cutting the throats of men in an angry mob.

I don't know--maybe it's just me, but if you're going to have a surgeon cut into the back of your head, you should at least portray this as a major event. Since it's a HBO show, comparisons to Deadwood are inevitable for me, and here I'd like to draw your attention to the way the show has injuries slowly heal, and how the latter show manages to take one of the major characters out with a case of gallstones. But I don't even need to go to Deadwood--I can go to any show with a bit of thought in it to show how they wouldn't do what Rome did.

I really can't comment a lot on the show, since I only watched thirty minutes of it, including commercials, and maybe I'm being unjust in my opinion, but who cares? Certainly not me. What lingers with me from Rome is this sense of slowly rising badness, like the hint of decay, coming from beneath the floorboards. Soon, that smell will overpower everything.

Comments

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girliejones
Sep. 29th, 2006 01:34 am (UTC)
I thought it was just me - I gave up after the first episode thinking I just wasn't into this period of history.
homonculus
Sep. 29th, 2006 01:53 am (UTC)
That could be the issue. I know a fair few Classics students (myself included) who have got a real kick out of this programme.

Each to their own.
girliejones
Sep. 29th, 2006 04:33 am (UTC)
Yeah, I might just not be interested in it at all.
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 01:57 am (UTC)
roman history isn't my favourite peroid, but i don't mind it, so it wasn't that aspect for me.
mattdoyle
Sep. 29th, 2006 01:57 am (UTC)
Accents?
What accents would you like them to have, Ben? Cockney? Australian? (oh, that's been done by mr crowe) Aren't they just as ridiculous? I've never watched it myself, but I must admit I would love to see a show/movie about Rome done entirely in Latin (subtitled of course, for us heathens)...that'd be cool!
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 01:59 am (UTC)
Re: Accents?
i dunno--anything but the put on movie american accents they're all running round with. most of the actors in it are british, or irish or something, and it just sounds like a whole bunch of people pretend to be yanks while riding round pretending to be romans.
homonculus
Sep. 29th, 2006 02:07 am (UTC)
Re: Accents?
I didn't notice any American accents. They all sounded British to me. According to one of the writers of the programme the actors were chosen at least in part because their British accents could act as some sort of proxy for the Roman class-differences.

(But then I watched it on DVD not TV, so maybe they had it overdubbed or something?)

benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 02:14 am (UTC)
Re: Accents?
well, they all sounded that trashy fake movie american to me (maybe with a hint of british in the main character). i certainly didn't pick any for being over british...

but to each their own on the accent thing, i guess. could be i'm wrong.
wheeler
Sep. 29th, 2006 08:14 am (UTC)
They do all have British accents. English accents, in fact. I have absolutely no idea what Ben is talking about in this regard. Many of them are using their own accents. Some of them are Irish or Scottish, but they're also doing faultless English accents.
bodhichitta0
Sep. 29th, 2006 02:12 am (UTC)
I think we saw the same episode. Overblown tripe and they cancelled Deadwood because it was so effing expensive. It would make Jesus weep. (And I *like* the time period.)
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 02:14 am (UTC)
maybe jesus will appear and weep for us ;)
mariness
Sep. 29th, 2006 02:17 am (UTC)
Huh. I saw one of the later episodes -- I never saw the first one -- and really liked it. Perhpas I caught it on a good evening, and you caught it on a bad?

But I shouldn't make judgements myself based on only one episode. I don't remember the accents bothering me, but I'll pay attention once I get the collection from the library.
bodhichitta0
Sep. 29th, 2006 02:32 am (UTC)
I'm too bitter about them canceling Deadwood in its favor to ever watch it again. But yes, I just did one epi and said that's it for me... so maybe it really improves.
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 03:43 am (UTC)
well, a lot of people here seem to like it. maybe it's just not my thing... or maybe it's not for tv with commercials.
paulhaines
Sep. 29th, 2006 02:18 am (UTC)
I enjoyed the first episode. They were British accents, not a drop of American to be heard I thought. It's complex enough, doesn't seem safe (unlike the bleeding hearts that soak "Jericho") and looks and feels sumptuous.

I had no commercials as I watched it on DVD (I bought it on the strength of being it being HBO alone, and most likely as explicit as Deadwood and not going to be on free-to-air tv and then about a month later saw Channel 9 advertising it) and was wondering how they could show all the nudity and violence at a 9:30 timeslot on tv.

BTW, I enjoy all the HBO shows. This was no exception.
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 03:41 am (UTC)
well, clearly i'm losing the battle of the accent here, so i'll bow to being wrong to that. but i still say they spoke like modern day americans--they were all one step away from saying, 'dude.'

i don't know how edited the show is on tv--a lot, probably, but i've heard a lot of mixed things about the show, and based off what i've seen, i think i can put it into the no pile.
chrisbarnes
Sep. 29th, 2006 02:37 am (UTC)
I have to disagree on this one. I watched both episodes shown on channel 9(which, by the way, reminded me why I prefer watching stuff on DVD).

The accents were British, I thought, as the actors (as far as I know) are mainly British. I've read they initially experimented with using broader, regional British accents to denote different classes/regions of Rome, but American test audiences found that too hard to understand so they toned it down. Anyway, how can ancient history be portrayed any better? Accents can't be avoided, and to me, British accents are less intrusive somehow in this sort of show - probably a cultural bias on my part.

The show looks very historically accurate - the soldiers are wearing the correct armour for the late Republican period etc, instead of the usual standard Hollywood generic Roman look. However, even with that accuracy , I don't think you can escape a certain connection to Xena etc - there've been so many "sword 'n sandal" movies over the years, and they all draw on the same cultural references; some just do it better than others.

So I don't think the series can fairly be faulted on its look and feel. As for story, that's possibly a fairer target, though again the overall story is based on actual events - though I accept that's not in itself a guarantee of quality. But as for some of the fictional stuff, maybe there's room to complain there. Like you, I thought the legionary Pullo seemed to recover too quickly from his head surgery. I'm going to watch the rest of the show anyway (hopefully on DVD - god I hate watching commercial TV now, with ads not just between scenes but superimposed over the top of the damn show as well! Grr.)

Deadwood, though, is just plain excellent. I'm nearly through season 2 and every single episode so far has impressed me mightily.
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 03:42 am (UTC)
Anyway, how can ancient history be portrayed any better?

it could be well acted.

it could actually have a sense of storytelling.

it could have a sense of style.

:)
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 03:51 am (UTC)
oh, and i can think of plenty of shows that didn't pull the XENA reference for me. there's a tone to this one that does it. i'm not sure what it is, but it's there. and generally speaking i like the sandals and swords kind o stuff--but clearly this one isn't pulling me.
abigail_n
Sep. 29th, 2006 07:34 am (UTC)
Rome is one of those shows that offend me with their mediocrity. It had everything going for it - a permissive network eager for the transgressive and the challenging; a talented (and, yeah, just to chime in along with everyone else, British) cast; production values up the wazoo and enough money to throw at any given problem. And yet the result was so painfully pedestrian, the storylines veering between Forrest Gump-ish, man-on-the-ground-influences-history stories and embarrassing Melrose Place-esque bedroom shenanigans. When I think about how better shows could have used the kind of money and support Rome got to create something truly exceptional, I just get so mad.

Watching Rome, I can't escape the impression that its producers truly believed that quality is the product of set and costume design, not writing.
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 07:55 am (UTC)
yeah, i'm not winning anyone over with that they sound american thing, am i? ah well. win some, lose some.

i did get the MELROSE PLACE vibe, however, with the main characters wife, ex lover, daughter, and some child thing. i thought: yeah, nah, that's not going to work for me.
wheeler
Sep. 29th, 2006 08:08 am (UTC)
Nah, Rome is great, but it is a soap opera, so you have to be open to a little trashy extremism, with bitter, venomous women and proud, pompous men. It's really exactly what a show about ancient Rome should be.

I don't think it's fair for people to make it shoulder the blame for Deadwood's cancellation - blame HBO, not Rome - but I can see how that would colour people's perceptions. You should note, by the way, that a series of Deadwood generally covers a period of less than two weeks. The first series of Rome covers a period of many years. So, yeah, the injuries in Rome clear up a little faster. And in a show about the overthrow of a republic, getting your head cut into really isn't a major event.
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 10:38 am (UTC)
nah, i don't blame ROME for DEADWOOD'S cancellation. by all acounts, DEADWOOD wasn't rating terribly well...

and yes, accents, apparently i can't pick one from a hole in the wall ;)
hollowpoint
Sep. 29th, 2006 12:27 pm (UTC)
Aaaargh, I'm still watching season 2 of Deadwood and I didn't know what happened with the stones! Curse thee, Peek!

Regarding injuries healing slowly - yes, mostly true, but Bullock heals from his beatin' at the start of scene 2 astoundingly quickly. By his next morning, he's only got a few very clean, small cuts on his face. But I guess you can't have your good-looking actors looking all manky for /too/ long.
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 12:51 pm (UTC)
opps. sorry bout that :)

anyhow, yeah, Bullock did heal kinda quick, but in ROME, it was like, scene of guys head being cracked open, then scene of guy in bed, resting, then scene of him and up and fighting fit, not a scratch on him. took bout ten minutes of screen time.
hollowpoint
Oct. 1st, 2006 02:42 pm (UTC)
DEADWOOD S2 SPOILER, so don't read this innit.
Ahh, no harm done. I've watched on a bit now. I thought you were insinuating that he died as a result of the stones.

I swear that the scenes with the metal pole are amongst the most uncomfortable I've ever seen. I've never been one to cover my manhood and yell "ooooh!" if I see a bloke getting hit/kicked in the balls, but the pole was just... ooooh!

I saw a trailer for Rome at some point and thought 'ooh, looks quite authentic, and there's none of that daft Russell Crowe with two swords chopping an armoured bloke's head off nonsense'. I was considering watching it. Thanks for saving me from more bad TV!
benpeek
Oct. 1st, 2006 11:31 pm (UTC)
Re: DEADWOOD S2 SPOILER, so don't read this innit.
yeah, i got to admit,t he shoving things up your penis bit wasn't a moment where you go, 'wish that'd happen to me!'

anyhow, with ROME, obviously i didn't like it, but a lot of other people in the thread did. might be worth giving it a go for yourself and checking it out, maybe.
hollowpoint
Oct. 2nd, 2006 10:23 am (UTC)
Re: DEADWOOD S2 SPOILER, so don't read this innit.
To be fair there are very few points in Deadwood where I think "wish that was me"...

Hmm, maybe I'll give Rome a go some day... try a few episodes and see what I think. I really should watch less guff though.
nick_kaufmann
Sep. 29th, 2006 01:27 pm (UTC)
It took me a while to get into ROME, but now I think it's fantastic.
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 11:03 pm (UTC)
the TV nerd thumb of goodness, huh?
nick_kaufmann
Sep. 30th, 2006 01:15 am (UTC)
You bet. But that doesn't mean the show is everyone's cup of tea. I think it's extraordinary, but I know quite a few who, like you, don't care for it. To each their own.

Even though you're wrong. ;-)
(Anonymous)
Sep. 29th, 2006 02:22 pm (UTC)
Rome
IMO, Rome is horrid. I agree with the term "soap opera" that's been applied to it, but for me the term is a pejorative. The acting, whether British or American, is, thusly, soap opera-ish. Historically accurate? How do you know and what's it matter? I had a meal at meal that cost something like five hundred dollars for four peope (I didn't pay!) and itwas supposed to be an authentic 2cd Century Roman feast. It was tasteles, atrtrocious in every regard. Historical accuracy in armor and shot doesn't matter when the script and acting bite. Rome is so bad, a gopher died of convulsions after watching it through my picture window. A vulture upchucked after catching a glimpse of the open titles. Murderer Karl Swetowski, prior to receiving a lethal injection, was reported to say, At least I don't have to watch Rome anymore. Epsidoes are often shown to high school truants, accompanied by the admonition that they will be exposed to further episodes if they miss more school. I swear, I'm being historically accurate here.

Has there ever been a decent costume drama about the Empire? I didn't even care for I, Claudius, which every librarian in the US simply adored. I suppose Life of Brian would qualify.

All these shows have a short shelf life for me. FIrst season and a half of Deadwood, first Season of the Sopranos--those are the only ones I give a damn about.. .
benpeek
Sep. 29th, 2006 11:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Rome
Has there ever been a decent costume drama about the Empire? I didn't even care for I, Claudius, which every librarian in the US simply adored. I suppose Life of Brian would qualify.

i liked GLADIATOR when i first saw it, but i think i'd be hard pressed to call it 'decent'. i just liked that first thirty minutes. and i never liked LIFE OF BRIAN...

(i liked THE HOLY GRAIL tho)

the problem, i guess, is the films i think of are either religious or have one good moment before falling apart.
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