Monday, March 19, 2007

The Fall of Rome

Aside from propelling Russell Crowe to megastar status, Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" continues to have a profound impact on pop culture. There have been lots of attempts to do something similar to varying degrees of success, but one standout has been HBO's short lived series, "Rome."

As of this writing, there is only one episode left. That's right, ONE. Never mind that whie the series started off with the rise of Gaius Julius Caesar, and that the Roman Empire extended well past his reign to Constantine (not the movie, you jackass), the series looks to end very prematurely with the rise of Octavian, who history shows will become Emperor Augustus. This is troubling on for a number of reasons.

"Rome" has presented a great number of compelling characters and fleshed-out storylines through no small part of its incredibly talented cast. To try and pick a favorite actor would be like picking out a favorite Single Malt Whisky. It's shows like "Rome" that blur the lines between Leading and Supporting Actors because every single role is played out well. For the record, I'm partial to Kevin McKidd's Lucius Vorenus and Ray Stevenson's Titus Pullo.

But, with ONE FRIGGIN' EPISODE LEFT, there are a great number of storylines to wrap up. It would be a huge testament towards the scriptwriters if they could pull this off within a 1-hour or a 2-hour season finale, but I fear it is hubris to think that everything is going to be finished with the respect that befits such grandeur crafted over a meager span of only 22 episodes.

I have my theories about this. A staggering operating budget split between HBO, Cinecitta, and the BBC is still a staggering operating budget. For this to have succeeded past even another season would have meant that this would have had to have the ratings of virtually every other stellar HBO series combined. As odd as it sounds, it does not look like HBO, Cinecitta, and the BBC could see that "Rome" is a critical and resounding hit deserving of far more than two seasons. I would have liked to have seen something past the impending conflict between Octavian (err.... I mean Augustus) and Mark Antony. I would have liked to have seen Pullo settle down, but perhaps the greatness of "Rome" is in the fact that it never even came close to jumping the shark. There hasn't been one weak moment. NOT ONE. The cynic in me believes that there is a very good chance that even if this was milked out for another season or so, it would have lost some of it's luster. To paraphrase Joe Turkel's character Eldon Tyrell in "Blade Runner," "The star that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and Rome has burned so very, very brightly."

The fanboy in me cries out for more, remembering the short-lived brilliance of the HBO Series, "Carnivale." I can only hope that future series like HBO's upcoming "Preacher" (based on the critically acclaimed DC Vertigo series created by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon) get more support than "Rome."

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