Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Crossing the Rubicon

Rome is back on HBO, and I don't have to watch another episode of Desperate Housewives this year. Joy.

I was slow to warm to this series, and though I still have problems with most of the casting, I really do like it. Historicals aren't the easiest thing to pull off, especially when the main plot points are well-known. I mean, it wasn't shocking that Julius Caesar got shived in the Senate, you know? And as far as this season goes, I'm quite aware of how things turn out for Octavian and Mark Antony and Cleopatra, as well as Octavian's mom and sister.

But the writers still managed to infuse plenty of drama and suspense into the series and make me tune in every week. Part of that is due to the subplots of Vorenus and Titus Pullo. Because while Vorenus and Titus are also historical figures, they've been fictionalized enough so that I don't know what the hell is going on with them. Like, will Titus end up being Augustus's Praetorian Prefect? He sure as hell should figure into Octavian's rise to power somehow.

Vorenus, I never really cared about him last year, and I still don't this year. Broody little Gaulish grunt. But I'll watch him act all black-hearted and bad-assed anyhow. I suppose it's meant to be compelling. Vorenus always was the "noble" one -- the thinking man who mustered the courage to do the right thing even if it was infringing on him personally. And now he's all despondent and dark, even though he's still reaching for redemption. Still. He bores me. He bores me because he thought he was so noble, which is why he acted right most of the time.

In contrast, Titus just is right and good. His character is an archetype -- the big, somewhat dim, loyal-to-the-death oaf who's entirely too passionate for his own good. In other words -- pure Alpha male, female fantasy fodder. And Ray Stevenson is hot enough to pull it off by seeming to be so unaware of his own appeal. Titus doesn't have to debate doing the right thing, he just acts on instinct and protects his friend, fucks the hot chicks, and fights like a bastard. I mean, yeah, he'll murder a guy in a jealous rage, but he's a Roman, so fuck it.

Making the night even better is how Rome is then followed by the second season of Extras. Ricky Gervais and Ashley Jensen (also lovable on Ugly Betty) are the antithesis of Entourage, even now that Andy Millman has his own sitcom on the BBC. The celeb guests are never wasted, whether it's David Bowie humiliating poor Andy or Orlando Bloom preening and pandering to be considered hotter than Johnny Depp. When Andy gets harassed in his local pub by an over-enthusiastic fan, you can't help but feel for him. But when he later gets so thoroughly eviscerated by Bowie, you can't but laugh as you feel for him. And then when he returns to the local pub and cozies to the creepy fan, it's both a funny and pathetic moment -- and one where most of us realize we'd behave exactly the same way.

And the best part of the whole night is that when these two series finish up for the year, they'll be immediately replaced in April by The Sopranos (more bloodthirsty Italians consumed with power struggles for survival and beset by betrayal -- YAY!) and Entourage -- the glittering, glamorous, feel good industry flipside to the down-to-earth, soulful Extras.

The die has indeed been cast, and Bree and her annoying Wisteria Lane pals can now kiss my ass.


Myfanwy Collins said...

As always, you are SPOT on! I am so into Rome and I love, love, love Pullo! And Extras is the best. Sundays kick ass.

NormalGuyNormalGirl said...

I had mixed feelings last year. Part of it might be my own discomfort at knowing what's coming (e.g., death of Caesar). Extras I love for the same totally uncomfortable humor of The Office (Gervais version) and the answering machine scene in Swingers...

I'm ashamed to admit I missed last season of The Sopranos... Got to race through the DVDs on Netflix, I suppose.

SusanD said...

Thanks Myfanwy! Pullo = HOT.

Hey Jason! The answering machine on Swingers is a classic. Last year's Sopranos was good but draining. The inexorable end is palpable all throughout, so it has that dread that Rome had with the impending murder of Caesar.