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In this British historical drama, the turbulent transition from Roman republic to autocratic empire, which changed world history through civil war and wars of conquest, is sketched both from the aristocratic viewpoint of Julius Caesar, his family, his adopted successor Octavian Augustus, and their political allies and adversaries, and from the politically naive viewpoint of a few ordinary Romans, notably the soldiers Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo and their families. Written by
And if the premiere episode is any indication, you WILL want to. Leave it to HBO, to replace the dearly departed SIX FEET UNDER with a worthy substitute already. And considering how outstanding that series was, that's saying something for ROME, that it may be able to measure up to how far the bar has been raised for dramatic series in a premium cable format.
Ten years in the planning and production, as lavish, sprawling, deep, dark and deviously, deliciously decadent as anything of its like, ROME combines historical figures with equally compelling fictional side characters, many of whom show us what it was like through their eyes, to bear witness to the heady rise and staggeringly shocking fall of one of the greatest empires in history.
For those who like their summaries simple, you only need to know that the core of the doings in ROME is comprised of three major stories: the contentious relationship between Roman movers and shakers Magnus Pompey (Kenneth Cranham) and Gaius Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds), which grows even more fractious when Pompey's wife Julia, also Caesar's daughter, dies in childbirth. Then there's Roman centurions Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), two complex men struggling to do their duty and buck their fates as pawns in the machinations of the two leaders to which each is separately loyal, while testing the bond of their own tentative friendship, as much as the complications within their lives will allow.
And, oh yes, what would any man be without the support of a good woman behind him...hopefully not with a dagger in her hand? In this case the women would be Atia (Polly Walker), an ambitious socialite and political strategist who makes Lady Macbeth look like a rank amateur, and Servilia (Lindsay Duncan), whose sweet and civilized demeanor more than likely hides the cunning and ruthlessness of a cobra. Oh, and does it bode well that Caesar is her secret lover, and that his confidant and friend, Cassius Brutus is also Servilia's son?
Webs are being woven and plots are being planned even in the first few moments, and the mostly British cast is well up to the task (the series is produced in conjunction with the BBC). It's also a great sign that not all the heavy hitters are among the cast of characters, but also behind-the-scenes as well, (Michael Apted and John Milius are vital parts of the creative team, and directorial chores are being handled by everyone from Allen Coulter (THE SOPRANOS) to Alan Poul (SIX FEET UNDER).) Plus the sets which dominate the bulk of the world-renowned Cinecitta Studios in Rome itself have a startlingly authentic feel. Every penny of the $100 million-plus budget is apparent on screen and was well worth spending.
Speaking of which, my TiVo is already set for the next episodes. Looks like Sundays will be well worth spending here, too.
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