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RIP, Andy Whitfield

I feel terrible, after just spending a post declaring how much better Game of Thrones was than Spartcus: Blood and Sand, to learn that Andy Whitfield, who played the Spartacus himself in the show, died yesterday here in Sydney.

After a resurgence of cancer last year, Whitfield was forced to pass the mantle of Spartacus onto Liam McIntyre, who will appear in the show’s second season next year.

I don’t have much to add except that I think Andy did a great job in Blood and Sand and the show won’t be the same without him going forward. Having only just rewatched the series, this is unpleasant and unexpected news.

At only 37, Whitfield set down the foundations for a long and successful career, and sincerely hope he is at peace now. He will not soon be forgotten.


Game of Thrones Changes Everything

When Camelot came and went I was generally pissed off. After the disgrace that was Merlin why did producers see fit to not only revisit Arthurian myth on TV, but to butcher it again with that last effort so fresh in our collective memories? Camelot was bad, to be sure, and deserved the axe moreso than a lot of other short-lived series with more than an iota of merit. But I wonder if a certain other period fantasy launching at the same time didn’t have more to do with it’s demise than poor writing or sickeningly indulgent over-acting (Joseph Fiennes, I’m looking at you).

Game of Thrones rose the bar so high as to shame every costume drama to come after it. There was an order of magnitude difference in quality, plain to see for critic and average joe alike, between it and King Arthur’s latest escapade. Singing its praises is not my intention – hopefully the Emmys will make that case later this week – but I will say that I think it has ruined me for other shows.

Last week my blu-ray of Spartacus: Blood and Sand arrived. It’s been a good while since I last viewed the series and, as one of my favourites at the time, I was looking forward to revisiting the gore and melodrama in anticipation of next year’s long-overdue second season. The rewatch has left me disappointed. Maybe it’s just not the same going through the motions a third time. Maybe it being in glorious 1080p highlights some of the cinematographic inconsistencies I had glossed over before.

But no. A week later I feel confident placing the blame squarely on Game of Thrones. It trumps Spartacus at every turn. Dialogue which once seemed tongue in cheek and potentially historically plausible is now just bad. Green screen effects and all that overdone layering was cheesily melodramatic before now seem just cheesy. And, recalling the sheer variety of sets across HBO’s Westeros, Starz setting up shop almost exclusively in John Hannah’s backyard appears pitifully limited in scope compared.

Where does that leave me now? At the very least my excitement for January’s Spartacus: Vengeance has been dampened. Replacing lead Andy Whitfield, after watching the new season’s trailer, was always going to be an unavoidable stumbling block for the show but by all appearances it looks to be more of the same. A flimsy premise will keep the show at Batiatus’ ludus despite Batiatus’ death in S1, which screams budget constraints, and none of the action shots or lines of dialogue did much to stir my interest.

On the other hand, Game of Thrones season 2 hasn’t had any trailers released or footage leaked but still manages to generate more anticipation than the former. And this worries me for one reason; if GoT has so thoroughly spoilt me that a show that was a favourite 18 months ago is now no longer a blip on my radar, what happens when HBO decides it has grown tired of its $60-million-a-season dabbling in fantasy?


Of all the shows on TV, why Spartacus?

Spartacus Blood and Sand I’ve complained often about the lack of good shows these days as well as my troubling inability to get into new shows. It’s with a heavy heart, then, that I find myself a the conclusion of Spartacus: Blood and Sand’s first season only to discover that the show’s future is in doubt.

The short of it is that star Andy Whitfield, an Australian no less, has been dealing with cancer and reluctantly withdrawn from the production of season 2 on these grounds. It would appear that the choice facing producers right now is to either recast or can the show and neither option is terribly appealing to me or the apparent legion of Spartacus fans out there.

I find it upsetting that so many seasons of garbage are getting greenlit at the moment. Spartacus is well produced, serviceably written, suitably gratuitous and generally as engaging as a 13-part series can be. For me it is also the first episode-turner, so to speak, in a long time. Not to name names (but come on, Vampire Diaries??) but if Jupiter’s bolt were to split the heavens and halt the production of a show, I can think of many more deserving ones.

We will still be getting Spartacus: Gods of the Arena in early 2011 – a questionable prequel mini-series fronted by John Hannah’s Batiatus – but with the show’s future uncertain this offshoot seems both bittersweet and unsatisfying in advance. I for one will be watching closely as this all pans out. And at least I have Dexter for the moment…

 

More Info: [AceShowBiz]


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