By Jupiter's Cock, Spartacus has returned to Starz!
Or, should I say, our favorite not-Spartacus characters populating the House of Batiatus ludus.
This 6 episode prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (S:GotA) mini-season takes place 5 years prior to Spartacus: Blood and Sand (S:BaS), so it's actually season 1.5. Or season 0.5. something
The reason for a prequel? Andy Whitfield, who played the title character Spartacus in S:BaS, was diagnosed with cancer. Starz commissioned this 6 episode season to keep the viewers' bloodthirst sated while allowing Whitfield time for treatment prior to season two production. Unfortunately, Whitfield's first round of treatments didn't finish off the cancer beast, so he stepped down from the role to concentrate on further treatment. Hopefully for him this next round is successful.
However, timetables such as they are, Starz had to decide whether or not to go forward with season 2. They cast a new actor for the Spartacus role, with Whitfield's blessing.
In the meantime, we viewers get the prequel to keep us interested.
Episode 1 just played on Starz starting 21 January. It had a brief recap of the final episode of season 1 to remind us what happened to all the major players, then launches us back 5 years earlier.
If you haven't watched S:BaS I have a feeling the first episode of S:GotA might leave a new viewer sort of lost. There's a lot of significant folks to learn about. It helps having learned something about them in S:BaS to understand who they are and what they are about in S:GotA. Granted, S:GotA will show us these 'new' characters growing into the characters they are by the start of S:BaS, which is chronologically 5 years later. Which I'm sure is the whole point of the 6 episodes - see where they were in S:GotA before they became who they are in S:BaS.
But if you're watching just for the bloody gladiatorial fight scenes and boobies galore, no worries: that's all there still. Ep 1 of S:GotA already presents to us Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) in an opium-fueled naked lesbian embrace with Gaia (Jaime Murray). If you are a Warehouse 13 fan, Jaime Murray played H.G. Wells. If you aren't a Warehouse 13 fan you won't understand why H.G. Wells is a chick in that series - and it really only makes sense in the context of Warehouse 13, so don't worry about it. And everyone should know who Lucy Lawless is by now - and if not, she played the title character of Xena: Warrior Princess. Or D'Anna Biers in Battlestar Galactica if you prefer. And shame on you for not knowing.
SO -- is S:GotA worth watching? One episode in and I'm re-hooked into the franchise and look forward to the next 5 episodes and am already lamenting there's only 6 to see. Only two gladiatorial fights in and wife and I were cheering like romans during the fights, thirsting for blood. And I whipped off my shirt to let my moobs jiggle just like the chicks in the arena stands.
(original post 22 Jan 2011)
Edit: At this point I've watched 5 of the 6 episodes. The crew definitely have refined what they learned on S:BaS and S:GotA is darn good because of it. And I don't think a viewer new to the series would have to watch S:BaS first. They can easily watch S:GotA first, then S:BaS. I realize the intro bit to episode 1 of S:GotA is sortof spoilery for the S:BaS season and probably makes no sense to someone watching S:GotA first. Don't worry about it, watching through S:BaS to the end will bring things full circle.
Honestly, if you haven't seen the original and like series in the "Rome" ilk, or movies in the "Gladiator" and "300" ilk, give S:BaS a watching. You do have to make it past the first 3 episodes to really see the series start shining, and by episode 6 it repeatedly punches you in the gut as you beg for more and you love it.
I'd actually be interested to hear from someone who hasn't seen S:BaS and starts watching the franchise with S:GotA first, then on into S:BaS. Just to see how well a prequel produced after season 1 flows into season 1.
Edit September 12, 2011:
Just saw the sad news that Andy Whitfield, the actor who played Spartacus in S:BaS died from his cancer yesterday.