Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Vade in pace, Rome.

I know, I know. It's a couple of days late. But there are members of my family that I will miss less than I'll miss Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus, so I was in no hurry to say goodbye.

There will be no more "Rome". Anything that is as expensive to film as that was is doomed. HBO, in conjunction with the BBC, literally rebuilt ancient Rome on a vast sound stage and used it as a platform for some of the most compelling TV to ever grace the tube. I've not read a budget estimate on the second season, but the first cost over $200 million.

In terms of historical accuracy, it was a hit and miss. Pullo and Vorenus were actually based on two soldiers mentioned in Caesar's account of the Gallic Wars, yet the writers never referred to the future Augustus by his proper name (Octavianus, not Octavian). And the timeline was anything but consistent. The entire war between Augustus and Mark Antony (Played masterfully by James Purefoy) spanned roughly nine years, yet the Vorenus children didn't age a day.

But at the end of the day, HBO set out to make an interesting TV show--- Not a historical reenactment. And this is where the show excelled.

It certainly suffered in its second season. You knew as you sat down to watch the first episode of the first season that it would culminate in the assassination of Julius Caesar. You knew that the most logical story for the second season would be the war between Octavian and Antony, but it took forever to get there. The stories seemed without focus. I can honestly say I would have written it quite differently.

But the end was satisfactory, and I'm certain I'm far from the only person mourning the fact that there will be no third season that involves Octavian building up the Roman Empire.

Farewell, Pullo. Farewll, Vorenus.


bob said...

I never watched this. But I can't imagine that it could be better than "I, Claudius" -- another BBC production of years ago.

Freedonian said...

I've seen both, and I prefer "Rome". As magnificent as "I, Claudius" was, Rome created another dimension.

"I, Claudius" tells the story of an emperor. "Rome" tells the story of two Roman soldiers trying to stay alive through the political upheaval between the end of the Gallic wars to the foundation of the Empire. You can't tell Rome's story without telling their story--- And it created a much more human element.

One of the things that made the second season suffer (Besides deserting the very tight storytelling of season one) was that it focused as much on the patricians as the plebes. Season two could have been much more effective had they kept their focus a little better.

Lucius Vorenus goes from a cold, unfeeling brute to a loving, devoted husband and father, as well as a close confidant of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony over the course of season one. Titus Pullo goes from a drunken whoremonger and a brute to the confidant of the future Augustus during the same season, which would seem to create some natural tension as Antony and Octavian tried to pick up the pieces after Caesar.

Instead, they spent half the season running a vice operation in the Aventine in season 2. It just didn't fit.

Season 2 isn't in the "I, Claudius" league--- But Season 1, in my opinion, surpassed it.