'Spartacus' is a Roman orgy of blood and sex

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THE SHOW "Spartacus: Blood and Sand"

WHEN | WHERE Friday at 10 on Starz and Encore. Subsequent Fridays at 10 p.m. on Starz only.

REASON TO WATCH For anyone who thought "300" just wasn't quite gory enough.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Spartacus (Brit-born Aussie Andy Whitfield) is conscripted by Roman general Galber (Craig Parker, "Lord of the Rings") to battle some bad hombres who are harassing the empire. With job completed, Sparty decides to go his own way, but Galber wants him to fight on. Sparty rebels, escapes and is caught. His wife, Sura (Erin Cummings), is sold into slavery, and he becomes entertainment for the bloodthirsty lunchtime crowd at a local coliseum.

But after Sparty vanquishes the gladiator, his life is spared, and he is sold to sleazy businessman Batiatus (John Hannah) and his naughty wife, Lucretia (Lucy Lawless). They run a local gladiator school, in which Sparty is enrolled.

>> PHOTOS: "Spartacus: Blood and Sand"

MY SAY Harnessing poetic license to outright balderdashery, producers have taken a thread of a famous story and turned it into a blood-spattered carnival act. If Stanley Kubrick were still alive - he directed the 1960 Kirk Douglas classic of the same name - he wouldn't know whether to laugh or weep.

I mostly laughed - and there are some howlers here - and also winced and cringed. "Spartacus" borrows (larcenously) from "300," for when bodies are cut, blood does not merely "flow," but virtually spews out of the wound. A minor slash turns into a geyser. Cut off an arm or (better yet) a head, and you've got Niagara Falls.

When people aren't bleeding out, they're talking, and not about the weather, either. It's a kill or be killed world, so they cuss a lot - their mastery of modern scatology is surprising. Plus, they like sex. This isn't just blood porn, but soft porn, too, with lots of faux-Roman bodies (mostly female) largely unclothed.

BOTTOM LINE Tonight's episode is for 22-year-old guys, who will watch with friends, tie on a buzz and hoot at the screen. But after "Spartacus" blows most of its special-effects budget on the pilot, it settles into a not-bad sword-and-sandal genre series, a la "Xena" or "Hercules."

GRADE C+

>> PHOTOS: "Spartacus: Blood and Sand"

 

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