Monday, September 12, 2011

R.I.P. Spartacus

Recently I was engaged in a conversation about the purpose of film in the 2011 media landscape. Films can be made as:
1- Expressions of Art (designed to make the viewer feel)
2- Entertainment (to distract the viewer)
3- Social/Political Critiques (to make the viewer think)
4- Commercial Units (to get the viewer's money)

Films rarely fall into a single category, but they trend. A type 1 film is rarely a type 4 film and a type 2 film is rarely a type 3 etc.
The same ideas hold for TV. Over the past several years there are way too many crap shows (type 2) pulling huge ratings and making piles of money. "Blah" TV is on the rise (defining "success" as high ratings/printing $) some of today's most successful shows are Dancing With The Stars, American Idol, Two and a Half Men. Among other things, this speaks to a lack of depth in America's leisure. Do people feel passionate about 2.5 men? Probably not.
While recent broadcast programming has fallen off a very vapid cliff, there has been experimental cable content. The success of Breaking Bad and Rescue Me reflects a small but diehard audience embracing a dark powerful show.
When was the last time you really felt something watching TV? For me (cue the haters)  it was Starz' adaptation of Spartacus. It reeled me in with its guyisms- violency and nudity- but turned out to be a show about justice/truth/how much suffering a man can take before he loses himself.
I cried, hard SPOILER ALERT at one point:
Spartacus is taken from his wife and home, sold into slavery and forced to be a gladiator. He forms a friendship that gets him through the hell that has become his life. This friendship grows and grows, and late in season 1, the son of an aristocrat (an 10 year old child) forces him to kill his brother for no reason in particular. Spartacus realizes that the veil of hope he has been sold is a lie. He is a slave and has lost all control over his life.
The character goes off the deep end after that, and so did I (just ask Becca and Nick who happened to hang out with me right after I saw the episode.)

Having not blogged in a few months, this post may seem random, but I heard this morning that Andy Whitfield-the lead actor from the show- lost his battle with cancer. The second season (which wasn't very good) was a prequel to give Whitfield time to undergo chemo. He was declared cancer free last year and Starz began filming a true second season. Whitfield's cancer returned, and got the best of him.
Good type 1 TV- the kind of story that can inspire a viewer- suffered a big loss. Of course the death of a man is more important than the loss of an actor, but as someone who devoted himself to art he succeeded.

If you're a non-squeamish guy, Spartacus season 1 is on Netflix. The first few episodes are pretty bad, but it really grows on you after that.

Next blog won't be so serious, I can't let Nick (http://bearsatemyinsidevoice.blogspot.com/) out-random me, so there will be a boatload of weird coming this blog's way.

-JP