Spartacus: Blood and Sand – Epic Fail

Spartacus: Blood and Sand is maybe the most painful and boring TV pilot I’ve ever seen — and before I go any further, I’d like to add “confounding” and “juvenile” to my list of adjectives. I can only imagine that this show came to be when one producer said to another, “we need to make 300: The TV Series.” If you can imagine the story of Spartacus being told in the style of 300, then you know exactly what you are in for.

The combat (and there’s a lot of it) is filmed exactly the same way, except it doesn’t quite work here. Zack Snyder was somehow able to hide his lack of budget while making his movie. Every time Spartacus goes outside or goes into combat, it becomes abundantly clear that the green screen is just a foot behind our hero. The image is flat and lifeless. Interesting things happen from time to time (they’ll slow the frame to a halt to make sure you catch it), but when it’s so obviously fake, it’s just inappreciable.

Maybe part of 300‘s success was Gerard Butler and Lena Headey’s performances. When either of them are on the screen, I’m not paying attention to the background. Their performances bring you in or make you laugh or just entertain you silly. Only John Hannah (of The Mummy movies and Four Weddings and a Funeral) comes out of this unscathed. No-one else does anything to help the series. I feel the worst for the women. They show up only to get naked, scream in slow motion, or recreate the love scenes from 300 — it’s even edited the same way.

The script is so bad, it’s not laughable, it’s cringe-worthy. The men don’t sound like men. They sound like what twelve year-old boys imagine men to be. The women aren’t women. They’re Greco-Roman fantasies. There’s a re-occurring theme/joke/insult that I can’t even type here, because this is a family website, but every time I heard it, I could only imagine the characters winking at the screen, as if to say, “see? We’re edgy. There’s no way we could be on basic cable.”

There’s nothing original or intriguing about the series. If you’ve seen 300, Rome, Gladiator, or Ben-Hur, you’ve already seen better versions of this. I’d like to be open and say, “well, I’ve only seen the pilot. It could get better.” But it offered nothing to bring me back for more. Perhaps it pales in comparison to HBO’s phenomal Rome, which explored so many nuanced characters as they tumbled through history. Its characters were believable and leapt off the screen. They entertained you, disgusted you, and made you think. Every episode ended with me wondering, “what’s going to happen next week?” The only thing Spartacus has me wondering is “who hired what thirteen year-old to write this?” Which segues into my confoundment.

This show can’t be intended for adults. Yet, due to its violence, full frontal nudity, and constant F- and C-Bombs, it’ll only ever be shown on cable. Is there really an audience for something like this? Are parents who subscribe to cable going to let their teenage sons watch this? The only adult I can imagine being interested in this would be some perpetually immature thirty year-old who still thinks 300 is a better movie than Gladiator. The only problem with that is, that’s an adult I had to imagine. I don’t think they actually exist.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand premiers on Starz Friday, January 22nd, at 10pm.

But don’t worry. You’re not missing anything.

T Scott Fogg: Writer. Director. Daydreamer.
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    • Paul

      This review is CRAP!

      As a history buff I must say this series does reflect Rome and it's people quite accurately. The cast is AMAZING! The writing is great!

      The only problem I see is that it is so well written and portrays Romans so well that some who are grammatically challenged may not understand all that is being said.

      Furthermore, the portrayal of violence and bloodshed is on the money. Scott Fog's opinion was that the special affects are bad, that the green screen is right behind the cast at moments, etc etc….. I say, so what?! The writing and the cast more than make up for some of the budget special effects, perhaps Scott would have been happier if they were actually snuff films, I for one recognize that the producers have given the series a somewhat comic book look and feel to the blood and gore. Good enough for me, Scott Fogg's opinion is insignificant.

      • http://scottfogg.blogspot.com Scott Fogg

        I agree with you, Paul. If you're entertained by things crass and vulgar, then this show's for you! It accurately reflects the pre-medieval mindset of what makes something entertaining.

    • Josh

      Its interesting what one finds when bored and eagerly awaiting the premiere of Spartacus: Vengeance, the third installment of what has become my favorite show. I will agree with this critique in part, I was not blown away by the pilot episode of Blood and Sand. However, I have come to appreciate the important role it plays in setting up the story as a whole. As a writer and history buff myself, I've seen just about everything the big (and small) screen has to offer by way of this particular genre and I must say … this show is exceedingly entertaining.

      My only question to you Scott is this: Have you seen Blood and Sand in its entirety?

      The show certainly gets better as it moves along. With the conclusion of episode 5, I was hooked. By the end of episode 6 I was emotionally invested in the story.

  • Shaun

    Couldn't disagree more with this review. Loved the pilot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Henning/1265662259 Doug Henning

    Yes.. there is no comparison to the big budget movies and Rome which cover much of the same territory.. I have to think that it must get better or why would Starz even order up a second season before it was even shown??? They had to know that critics like you would rip it especially in comparison to Rome, 300, and Gladiator… I would not let my 14 year old video game fan who would find the graphics familiar watch it due to the extreme nudity etc.. but college age??? OK..

  • Trevor

    It's called introduction……introducing characters and the storyline…..the first lord of the rings was long and in places dull, BUT it had to be to introduce characters and storyline….I really hope you don't get paid to write this because you know nothing about plot, storylines and how to introduce a story…..you probably thought Rome was boring and dull as well…..good luck getting a meaningful job in the reviews business when you know nothing about movies or tv!!!!!

  • rick

    That was one of the worst pieces of TV I've watched in a LONG time… just plain awful

  • Kanlee

    Sorry you did not like it but I did,to each his own.

  • TheGaryJames

    Disagree, the script is so far historically correct and the way it was filmed makes you feel like your really there. I like the acting, you do know that one is from the hit movie " the Mummy", the nudity is raw, but itwas probably worse in Rome at that time. I`m big into history and movies, and liked "King of Kings", "Ben – Hur", and "Gladiator", I told everyone to watch the new TV series "Miami Vice", years ago that was a hit, and this version of Spartacus will also be one. They do over exaggerate the blood spilling, but get over the nudity thing, the body is a beautiful thing (for adults only). Did you know they flooded the arena and had actual sea battles, also the part about him being chained under the arena is real, they had tunnels down there for the Gladiators and brought down women for them to have, also animals were kept there to be let out for the show when needed. There is a lot of history to Spartacus, who`s body was never found after 3 Roman Legions were sent to wipe out his army, he at one time had an estimated army of slaves and Gladiators (that he freed), that totaled over 10 thousand.

  • Alan Crocker

    I agree about the dialog. It's like a 13-year-old writing "300" fan-fiction.

  • Jose

    Why does everyone think Romans speaking old English is somehow historically accurate. I mean, although I don't believe in the bible, at least The Passion of the Christ was historically accurate for it's time. And the blood??… it's as if they hired the 13 year old director's colleagues to do the theatrics.

  • Wonka films

    first of all lets just say i think the mini series is awesome, its about bloody time, they show of a mini series will blood and cuts for a change, nudity, the way of the times in that ancient time, lots of excitement and adventure, if you dont like it dont watch it, i say keep them coming,

  • ricoPan

    It was best in its original pig latin, before being dubbed over.

  • nicki

    UGH! Horrible graphics, painful acting, regretfully over-the-top.

  • Jon

    I thought this show is pretty cool. Yea, the blood is over done, and it resembles 300 a lot, but the story is good and the acting isn't too bad. I will watch the entire season. It's like a mix of 300, Gladiator, and Ricky-Oh. I recommending disregarding the above review

  • pilostic

    Oh boy

  • pilostic

    A painful series that just baffles my mind. Compare lost to this and you are simply LOST. Childish behaviors and poor script writing. I just don't want to waste any more time. I really was looking forward to this show. Too Bad.

  • Ed

    The first episode was definitely slow at times and I was disappointed because I was expecting something on the level of a fantastic good time–which really doesn't exist. Despite it falling short of my unrealistic expectations, this series has a large cast of both significant and insignificant characters, and, so, it does take time to develop that. Considering this series' first season is only thirteen episodes long (as the second will be), you have to kind of cram a lot into the first few episodes. No disrespect, but since you're a "writer," "director," "daydreamer," how would you have re-imagined this on a budget less than or around $25 million? Probably not as well…or you would have been the one making this. Now, imagine that for thirteen episodes. Factor in the pay for the actors (and, again, there are many), the props, the CGI, etc…and you've got yourself a problem. They're pulling this off amazingly, and I don't like using that word loosely. In retrospect, the first episode wasn't that bad, and neither was the second, which was definitely better than the first "in the moment" I was watching it. The third is by far the best because most of the primary characters have already been introduced by this point. If you pay a bit more attention, you'll realize that the use of the "C" word is limited to usage by the characters who are obviously on the lower end of the economic scale (the lower class), soldiers on the front lines of battle (who belong to the previously mentioned economic class), and members of the gladiator school (i.e. the soldiers fighting on the front lines of battle). Even the rich nowadays say the one beginning with "F," no? Isn't that typically the way societal behavior works out, even nowadays? I think so! And as for your dislike of the CGI…what part of "graphic novel" did you not comprehend? They didn't say were making a unconventional documentary. Furthermore, it's strange that the sexuality is bothering you because if what's been shown so far bothers you, don't EVER even bother offering a biased review for a movie/show made about the violent and sexual exploits of our times.

  • Ed

    Scratch that final tidbit inside the parenthesis. Oops!

  • Sam

    compared to everything else on tv this is awesomeif you don't think so then you suck sir

  • chris

    I couldnt agree more than with the writer of this review. So far the show has rocked and I'm not gonna miss an episode all season.

  • den

    well, after watching ONLY the pilot, I was in agreement with many of those points, but I stuck with it, and it got goooood…every episode after the pilot got better and better…and the special effects don't bother me as much because there is a good story and pretty good acting behind it…

  • Carissa

    Does anyone know what song is playing on the Spartacus blood and sand official trailer? If, so please let me know I'm dying to figure it out and purchase that song! I love it! PLEASE HELP!

  • Scott Fogg is an Idi

    This is the best show on TV right now. If you love action, then you will love Spartacus Blood and Sand. Scott Fogg is an idiot, do not read his reviews, he obviously has no idea and no taste!

  • Clifford

    Dude that show is so much better than anything else on TV, it is some what historical on the mark, and it has alot of cool fight scenes, and erotic scenes to. I diagree with your review big time and reccomend the show to anyonewho likes action and drama!

  • cliff

    your right they should speak latin, you must be a scholoar so you and most people will understand.Duh, its TV!

  • aceusmc

    I strongly disagree with this rating. The women sound like greco-roman fantasies because this is the greco-roman time frame. This is called "realism". I am a history major and if we take what we know of the romans during this period the story line follows it very closely. If this program was as real as possible without using effects it would have shown on the history or discovery channel.

  • Dusty

    awesome show keep up the good work

  • SBAS

    this is my favorite thing on tv. i just love how it feels like your there when all of the blood comes out of the gladiators and other characters. JUST LOVE THIS SHOW BEST ONE I SEEN

  • Me

    You have no taste is a good, different show on TVYou sound like you should be watching xfactor

  • Spartacus Fan

    I don't know what you've been watching, or if you know anything about film and theatrics at all. YOUR review is one of the most painful and boring I've ever been unfortunate enough to read.

  • http://www.genreaddict.com/ Darren Albert

    You know, the pilot was pretty bad, so I'm going to agree with alot of what has been said here. However, it has gotten better with every episode, the latest being pretty damn good. Much of the stupidity is still there, but most of the bad actors were killed off in the pilot and those that weren't are getting better episode by episode. Personally I'd say ignore this review and give the series a shot as it really does grow on you and believe me, at the end of the pilot I too was saying "Uh, what?" But now I'm kind of hooked.

  • adam

    I think Spartacus is an excellent series so far. Its pretty funny when u look up spartacus online and ur the only idiot thats got a bad review. You obviously don't appreciate what it takes to direct a t.v. series or movie. I'm assuming that your depressed and looking for a little attention. If your inspecting the background and the scenery u must not be watching the sexy women that should be capturing your attention, if your a real man.

  • James

    Actually, I found the show to be quite entertaining. It's exactly what I want in a show such as this: gratuitous violence, gorgeous women, and lots and lots of T&A. The story isn't ground breaking, but it is enough to keep me gripped until the next sex or action scene; which is more than I can say for most of the other shows on TV. And I love the "look and feel"; there are only a few scenes that I can recall where a TV budget shows through.TL;DR: If I want something cerebral, I read a book. If I want to turn off my brain and be entertained, Spartacus tops the list. Better than watching the only other thing on the idiot box — reality TV.

  • Stephen

    It was about 2am when I watched the latest episode. I had the headphones on, the kids sleeping and just got sucked into this show so much that when spartacus slayed theocolese i shouted YES! and woke everyone up. Your review of this show is so bad lol i cant watch anything else on tv right now because its not as exciting as spartacus.

  • jam

    ok this negative critic needs his mind rechecked and his jewels smashed in violently with a baby spoon….. if you read back in history the show depicts actual roman times and is a portrayal of the events that actually happened…..300 was about a war yes….during the same times as sparticus' time began….but the plot is an adrenaline rushed story of love dedication and passion….this critic only sees this story as a replica of 300 cuz he doesnt know crap about history…….needless to say i dont care if its taken personally…..but i think this critic is just jealous cuz he looks at his own life and cant compare to the actuality of the story being told…..that and he saw a mans junk bigger then his :-)

  • Marc05

    Good thing no one gives attention to this arrogant review lol because if they did they would be missing out on an awesome show. Definitely recommend to anyone.

  • Tia

    Umm….any show that has that many hot mostly naked men ALL the time gets five starts from me. Plus the plot is actually good. I loved when Spartacus killed Theocolese, and I hope Asher dies a horrible death. So…Mr. Review man, you suck at life :)

  • MadScientistX

    This is one of the best new shows period! Anyone who contests that is an idiot!

  • http://twitter.com/SpartacusBS SpartacusBS

    The show is amazing… <a href="http://www.spartacusbs.com” target=”_blank”>www.spartacusbs.com

  • Jdevil

    The show is awesome, each week gets better. I rate up on my list with, Dexter, Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy.

  • Taymerkedya

    It is clear that majority of the people enjoy this show, people cannot judge a show if they have not seen it themself. Scott Fogg has only see 1 ep and already is bored out of his mind. I seen the last 30 minutes of the show and it had me addicted. The plot is very good despite the low budget green screen edits. I really don't mind it much being Im mostly watching the people. I personally love the show, and this review should be re edited or be delete because it is sending the wrong message to potential audience viewing this site.

  • Jason

    Whoever wrote this review is an idiot. If you like this show then don't apologize for it. This is a somewhat accurate history of humans at a time where sex and violence is all men and women could hope for. There's an animal in all of us and the show acknowledges it. For all the violence the dialogue is very witty and clever at times. The plots (while still in development) are going good and there's no lack of eye candy for either sex. I say keep up the good work.

  • Josh

    To the writer of this article, GET A LIFE! Have you seen the move the 30 year old virgin? THAT MOVIE IS ABOUT YOU! If you have nothing better to do with your life then spend an hour flaming the movie, then i feel sorry for you. You say it drops a lot of c and f bombs? Who cares… they are just words… LIVE WITH IT! On my final note I leave you with, I hope you can loose your 200 pounds of excess FAT and get a wife, maybe some kids, but untill then, you're the one that is immature on starting this whole post anyway, not the movie for saying a few "bad words"

  • Josh84

    How can you review a series based on the first episode of the very first season? I dont think you have any right to complain about this show. What have you created that is better (daydreams excluded)?

  • I am Spartacus!

    Mr. Fogg, you described Spartacus perfectly. I decided to watch the first episode because I thought maybe it'd be akin to Rome, and had to stop before the end of the episode because of its overwhelming idiocy. Even now (later in the day) I'm still thinking about awful it was and it's making me angry that anyone could possibly think it was a good enough show to air on TV. Seriously, this was the worst new TV show I've seen yet. Keep up the excellent reviewing.

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  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/TGTPAUS64BHYZIRLQLIVMEGQIM S7 Coolhand

    Your review is nearly unbelievable – go to the doctor, because there must be something seriously wrong with you for not liking this show. Violence, nudity, intrigue, gore, sex, betrayal, mythology… what more can a guy ask for? Again, your review was one diminsional and borderline hillarious. Get a clue.I'm really glad the show isn't filled with pompous asses whose narrow view of the world and history is so skewed that they can't enjoy a simple action drama. Do you feel threatened by the show? Or does it just not live up to your sanitary christian-metro lifestyle?Yeah, like the disclaimer before every episode says (paraphrased): Don't watch this show with your 12 year old daughter. For grown adults though it rocks!

  • http://www.watchspartacusbloodandsand.net/ Spartacus blood and

    What a rubbish review! I personally think this show rocks!

  • iceo0orokzz

    LOL i love how everyone just took a crap on this review. Spartacus is by far my favorite show at the moment and i will definitely be a dedicated fan. Great story, always a turn to keep u at the edge of ur seat. Graphics may be kinda lame at times but w/e. You must be boring if you don't like it. har har

  • Lily

    I totally disagree with this review. This is an awesome show.

  • Lily

    This show is awesome!!!!!

  • meh

    fail review ? that type of review alway fail lolz

  • salman

    omg i really wish i watch unlimited episode of this show, it's pure AWESOME

  • spartacusgirl

    This critic is obviously bitter and clueless. The show is amazing. So true to the period. According to a lot of history, Romans were known to be a ruthless, sex-crazed & blood thirsty people… The show stays true to all of it! The gore is a tiny bit much, but it is so well written, and the characters are developed so well, you get sucked in and immediately choose who to chear for. It is engaging and appealing in so many ways. Don't miss the next season! I won't!

  • Gaius Mucius Livy

    hahahahahaha, look who had the last laugh! Spartacus had a tremendous first season culminating with a 1.2 rating on the finale. *insert foot in mouth* you pompous ass!

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  • http://www.watch-spartacus-blood-and-sand.com Watch spartacus Bloo

    First time i seen it last week and so wrong this article this show rocks!! nothing at all like 300

  • Texaz84

    LOL… Scott Fogg…. sorry man… You couldn't have missed the mark any further than you did on this review. I actually hesitated watching this show for a while because of you. And after finally watching it, I realized what a complete idiot you are. Yeh, the first episode was a little slow, but from there on… It's nothing but amazing. I will never ever again waste my time reading a review from you. In fact, do us all a favor… next time you decide to do a review… don't!

  • 61971levy

    You are an idiot, great show.

  • Notorious

    Possibly the biggest douchebag of a review I have ever read. Written by none other than someone who only knows Douchebaggery extremely well, as a life time of practice will attest to.
    This man obviously has something against the production, as most of this hatred filled review was constantly bordering on personal.
    The success of the show makes all his words redundant.
    Don't give up your day job, Pal. (Unless it's reviewing)

  • melissaluvzhyde

    I disagree with this reviewer's opinion. The review was well written, and quite thorough. However, I think it may have been written hastily. Mr Fogg, if you are reading (I realize this page is old), I hope you've given Spartacus: Blood and Sand another chance. It is a very good show. Lucy Lawless is awesome. I'm so glad to see her in another great series.

    Today is October 13, 2010. I watched this show for the first time the day before yesterday. I had never heard of it before then. I was smitten with Pietros' and Barco's affair, and was sad when Barco was betrayed, in addition to the events that followed (concerning Pietros' fate) as a result of that betrayal. So far, I have watched up to the episode where the new slave (the one who belongs to Litthyia) attempts to assasinate Spartacus and Crixus saves him. I must say, I really want to see Crixus and Spartacus become friends, or at the very least, more civil to each other.

    I am so into this series. I love it!!!!!!!! I must admit that I do sometimes laugh at the over-theatrical graphics. And sometimes I wonder if I am supposed to be wearing 3D glasses during the blood splattering scenes. lol. But the story is pretty well written, with a great cast, and Joseph Loduca always sets the mood right with the programmatic music.

    As far as everyone comparing this series to HBO's Rome, I liked Rome too. Rome was a pretty good show. I love how Spartacus: Blood and Sand reflects Roman times with alot less forced-sodomy than Rome. I loved Rome but the fact that someone was sodomized every five minutes was a bit nauseating. Spartacus: Blood and Sand has some sodomy but it wasn't too much, like the show Rome.

    This is a great show, without too much nudity, and violence. However, writers could probably tone down the swearing.

    Anyway, it's a great show. I love it. I'm going to watch it now.

  • deathspike

    THUMBS DOWN, SCOTT FOGG!!

    MORE OVER-THE-TOP, RIDICULOUS VIOLENCE, PLEASE!

  • http://twitter.com/GageBryant gage bryant

    I am sorry but you are wrong. Spartacus is one of the most interesting and it's so full of action!!! And compared to everything else on TV it sets the bar very high!

  • Dezera

    It is obvious that you don’t get it. It is meant to be as if it were a comic strip not realistic. But unfortunately you don’t have enough imagination to suspend disbelief. I think the show as a screeplay writer myself is well written for the genre and for television. I don’t expect that the effects would be as good as 300 because it is TV but they are good for TV. That is something that you seemed to forget.

  • http://scottfogg.blogspot.com Scott Fogg

    A year later, I stand by my review.
    I’m glad so many people are enjoying the show.  I don’t think anyone’s a lesser person for liking something I don’t.  I get what the producers are doing with the show and I wish them much success.  I’ve enjoyed all of these actors in other shows and movies and look forward to seeing what they do next.  This show, however, I do not find interesting.

  • eric

    Fail this review is fail, spartacus is a great show season will hopefully be better.

  • Shoehanger

    Scott, please tell me that you appreciate the performances of Andy Whitfield and John Hannah.  I agree that without them, he show would not be as good.  This being said, it is my favorite show/movie ever.

  • fireflie

    You sir are a pretentious douchebag and your opinion is…lame!

  • Scott Fogg is a joke

    Who is this author? does he even know how to write critics? Do you even know what acting or action is? Pathetic review.

     

    I want to ask the viewers one thing. Why do we watch TV shows? Do we watch it to get entertained or waste our time trying to find faults of it? Choice is yours friends.

  • http://scottfogg.blogspot.com scott fogg

    @Shoehanger – Andy Whitfield and John Hannah are, indeed, fantastic.  I really can't complain about them at all.

    @Fireflie – Noted.

    @Scott Fogg is a joke – Wow.  Lots of questions.  Here's my best attempt at answering them:

    1.)  This author is Scott Fogg.  He is a film school graduate, professional screenwriter, and general film and TV enthusiast.

    2.)  As amazing as it may be, there's no generally accepted format for writing critiques, so here's what I did:  I approached the show with an open mind, hoping to be entertained.  Because if I can be entertained, I can forgive a lot.  Sadly, I wasn't entertained.  So I started making a list of the reasons why I wasn't entertained.  I also paid special attention as to how the subject was approached, how the story was told, and what techniques were used to make the show as visceral as it was.  I then compiled all those things into a hopefully-easy-to-read article.

    3.)  Yes.

    4.)  Yes.

    5.)  I watch TV to be entertained, absolutely.  But I found this show to be needlessly crass and vulgar and, most unforgiving of all, not interesting.  With its ongoing series, multiple movie spin-offs, I'm clearly in the minority.  I'm glad people are enjoying it.  People need entertainment.  It's not for me.  If it's for you, more power to you.  I will (and do) find my entertainment elsewhere.

  • Paul

    Scott wrote….."But I found this show to be needlessly crass and vulgar"………

    Scott are you a BABOON??? Have you EVER read up on Roman times????

    During the Roman times, CRASS and VULGAR was a way of LIFE!!!!

    Today we go to Stadiums to watch sports games, back then they went to watch Christians get eaten by Lions and butchered in all kinds of horrible ways. And sex? You want Vulgar and Crass? When Caligula was Emperor of Rome, he made all the senators wives work the brothels for a bargain bottom dollar price at the time because he wanted them to be humiliated by lower class's. Jeez, you started you article off saying you wanted to be entertained, apparently you need to watch 'LOST' or Porn to be entertained

  • Bobby

    Yeah, I watched the first episode and gave up. I have seen 300, and I have seen Gladiator. When I realized that this particular show didn't bring anything new to the table – aside from more blood and more sex….I was done. Thanks, but I have much better ways to spend my time.