Monday, April 19, 2010

A tale of two television series

In the fantasy television department there been two television series of note, the Legend of the Seeker and Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

Legend of the Seeker is a retelling of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series of novels starting with Wizard's First Rule. It is a retelling because after reading the first two there is no way those novels can be turned into a episodic tv series. The background elements and characters are fine but the novel's plot other than the fight against Darkon Rahl doesn't really work for tv.

The series itself is made by the producer of Hercules and Xena, Raimi and crew. However unlike those two it takes itself more seriously. The result is pretty much fantasy popcorn fare. Pleasant to eat but not very satisfying or filling. However I really like the characters as portrayed by the actors. Richard Cypher, Kahleen Amell, Zeddicus Zol' Zolrander, and the ex-Mord Sith Cara are what keeps me coming back week after week to watch the show.

The episodes are pretty hit or miss. Some are really good and some well are not so good. The first season's plot of going against Darkon Rahl worked pretty good and the season finale was stellar. However this season's search for the Stone of Tears goes on and on and on although the addition of the ex Mord'Sith Cara is welcomed.

One thing is that this series is definitely influenced by Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings in how it is filmed. It even located in New Zealand and uses it landscape to good effect.

Then we have Spartacus: Blood and Sand. This series also has a distinct filmed look but one taken from the 300 rather than Lord of the Rings. It is also a mature series with lots of stylized violence and full frontal nudity stopping just inches from the infamous Caligula film. It is also involves many of the same producers as Hercules, Xena, and Legend of the Seeker. It also uses a cast of unknown combined with Lucy Lawless, Craig Parker, and John Hannah all actors noted for being genre typecasted or for being supporting actors (John Hannah is the sidekick from the Mummy series.

This all has the makings of major suckatude. Certainly for many of you the initial experience of 300 style filming, bloody violence, and nudity will be a major negative.

But this is one of the best historical series I ever seen and unlike Legend of the Seeker is filled with stuff crying out to be used your campaigns.

The actors turn in great performances particularly Andy Whitefield as Spartacus and John Hannah as Batiatus the owner of the ludus that Spartacus is sold too. The plot of the series is outstanding and there isn't a single bad episode in the bunch. They wisely choose to do only 13 which was perfect for the story they choose to tell. There are climaxes that are pitch perfect and lulls that build up to the next one.

Spartacus, played by Andy Whitfield, isn't an all powerful presence like 300's King Leonidas or the 1960's Kirk Douglas Spartacus. He has moments of stupidity and makes bad decisions that have bad consequences. But he is a man touched by the gods and driven by the love for his wife Sura he gropes towards his destiny. Around him swirls the plots and lives of Batiatus, his wife
Lucretia, fellow gladiator Crixtus, Assur, Doctore the head trainer, and many others.

The result is a great series that will leave you gripping your chair and leaving with some great ideas for you campaign. Just don't have your kids in the room when you watch it.

You can get this on Netflix instant view if you don't have Starz.


Gothridge Manor said...

Great reviews Rob and I agree completely with both your views. Although I did get a chuckle out of 'full frontal nudity stopping just inches from the infamous Caligula film'. I must be having a Bevis and Butthead morning.

Anonymous said...

My first thought was "yah but those are sort of important inches" but after some reflection, why? Why does a strip of flesh excite so much argument and insanity?

Reverend Keith said...

How is Spartacus in comparison to HBO's Rome?

Robert Conley said...

Each are their own thing. Their audiences overlap but not entirely the same is the best way to describe the difference.

One difference is that Rome is lavish in it's design while Spartacus is minimalist.

Both are gritty, both have excellent plots, characters and actors.

Rome is more expansive then Spartacus (for now).

Rome places you in Rome. Spartacus takes place elsewhere (Thrace, Capua).

Both have characters that feel like the product of their times instead of modern folks who happened to be in Rome.

Norman J. Harman Jr. said...

> unlike Legend of the Seeker is filled with stuff crying out to be used your campaigns.

Really? I'm wanting to put tons of stuff from LotS, Mord Sith, pain sticks, naming wizards 1st/2nd/ circle, something like the confessor's power. The people returned to life only so they can kill. Mirror swapper magic item. How Mord and Darken fly around. and more...

Spartacus: Blood and Sand I saw on Hulu it was animated series, it sucked hard. That's not what you are talking about, is it?

Robert Conley said...

No it is not an animated series. Do you have a link to that? It sounds odd...

Norman J. Harman Jr. said...


Sounds like maybe it's a spin off of Show? "motion comic".

I find it atrocious animation, and juvenile.