Syfy's making a bit of room for swords, sandals and a lot of bloody action. The network announced today that they've acquired the basic cable rights to all 39 episodes of the Spartacus series, which originally aired on Starz. Those willing to forfeit premium cable levels of violence and nudity for a more basic cable version of Steven DeKnight's excellent series will have a convenient way to watch all of the drama play out, beginning Thursday, June 26.
Spartacus is a period drama that began with Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which aired on Starz in 2010 and introduced us to a Thracian warrior who's enslaved by the Romans and forced to serve as a gladiator in Capua, Italy, where he forms a brotherly bond with the other gladiators as he plots to reunite with his wife, Sura. Much of the drama is split between Spartacus and the other gladiators' training and battles in the arena, and the drama and politics of running the ludus.
Unfortunately, the series' lead actor, Andy Whitfield, was diagnosed with and later died of cancer after the series' first season. A prequel season Spartacus: Gods of the Arena aired between Seasons 1 and 2, Spartacus: Vengeance, at which time the series recast Liam McIntyre in the role of Spartacus. The final season, Spartacus: War of the Damned aired on Starz last year. Among the excellent supporting cast are Peter Mensah, Manu Bennett, John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Nick Tarabay, Viva Bianca and Dustin Clare.
Blood and Sand gets off to an awkward start. If you're thinking of giving it a try, be sure to give the first season to at least the fourth episode, when the story really begins to hit its stride.
Syfy's acquisition of the series is mostly good news. On one hand, now fans can refer new potential fans of the drama to Syfy to get caught up on Spartacus. But on the downside, Syfy is basic cable, so it's probably fair to assume that at least some editing will be done to cut down on the violence and sexual content, both of which are plentiful. Then again, The Walking Dead (also a basic-cable series) gets away with a fair amount of gory content, so maybe the editing won't be so harsh, at least on the violent side of things. There's also the language to consider, as phrases like "Jupiter's cock" are part of the series' vernacular. That said, the allure of the drama for me was always in the story and characters, and much, if not all of that will hopefully remain intact when the drama transitions to Syfy.
While it's not exactly (or at all) science fiction, it's still hard not to celebrate the series' arrival on basic cable if it means expanding the fandom a bit. Spartacus joins other acquisitions at Syfy, including Lost Girl, Bitten and Continuum. Syfy will also play host to the upcoming The Almighty Johnsons, Z-Nation and Olympus. So there will be plenty to watch at the network.
Spartacus will make its Syfy debut on Thursday, June 26 at 10PM (ET/PT), following the airing of original series Defiance at 8:00 p.m. and Dominion at 9:00 p.m..