Lately we have been a backwards-looking culture.
Not in an anti-progressive manner, and not simply in a false nostalgia,
but rather we keep looking backwards to ground ourselves in increasingly
turbulent times to remember what makes history is uncomfortable and to find
ourselves as a race on this planet.
This tendency to reminisce over times and tales usually reserved for professors
of classical studies resulted in movies like Alexander, Troy,
and King Arthur, all of which were not without their charm (even
if the charm lay mainly in a well-muscled Jared Leto or Brad Pitt), and
some of which were good films.
Since, as a culture, we seem to desire the combination of fictionalized and real history to give us a sense of overall human history on this planet, and since both its critics and its proponents constantly compare America to Rome, HBO, in conjunction with BBC, has picked an appropriate time to run a series entitled, tellingly, "Rome."
All Roads Lead to HBO
One of the promising aspects of "Rome," which begins on HBO August 28, is that the two protagonists are Roman soldiers: Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo played by, respectively, Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson. Unlike its movie counterparts, the show tells the story of historical Rome mainly through entirely fictional characters who are not historically instrumental. Because HBO has a good reputation for blunt honesty (and sometimes violence), the realistic aspects of the life of two average Roman Soldiers (the ancient equivalent of the everyman) in "Rome" will likely yield harsh truths that will undermine that false nostalgia that does lie dangerously close to these backwards-looking programs. Of course characters like Julius Caesar and Mark Antony will appear with regularity since the show intends to portray the change of Rome from a republic to, essentially, a dictatorship.
On this side of the Atlantic we might recognize
Kevin McKidd from his roles as Bobby Reed in De-Lovely or Tommy
in Trainspotting. Ray Stevenson lately appeared, appropriately
enough, in King Arthur. Both men have long diverse careers and
both have the added benefit of being good actors without the pop-culture-stardom
that churns out vapid-seeming pretty boys faster than you can say "Colin
Since Sex and the City and The Sopranos, HBO has owned
the market on TV drama. Combine that with the corporate giant across the
ocean, the BBC, and a topic highly relevant to our place and time, and "Rome"
has a great deal of promise. Potential viewers of "Rome" should check HBO
listings for times, since the first five episodes are playing at different
times on different HBO stations in hopes of attracting the widest audience.
Watch the exclusive trailer for "Rome" at Yahoo!