Rome (TV series)

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Rome title screen (1st season)
Genre Historical Drama
Created by Bruno Heller
John Milius
William J. MacDonald
Directed by Michael Apted
Starring Kevin McKidd
Ray Stevenson
Polly Walker
Lindsay Duncan
James Purefoy
Ciaran Hinds
Tobias Menzies
Kerry Condon
Indira Varma
Allen Leech
Camilla Rutherford
Composer(s) Jeff Beal
Country of origin  United Kingdom
 United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 22 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Bruno Heller
John Milius
William J. MacDonald
Frank Doelger
Anne Thomopoulos
John Melfi
Location(s) Lazio, Italy
Cinematography Martin Kenzie
Running time approx. 50 min.
Original channel BBC / HBO / RAI
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Original run August 28, 2005 – March 25, 2007
External links
Official website

Rome is an historical drama television series co-created by John Milius, William J. MacDonald, and Bruno Heller. The series is primarily written by Heller. Rome was produced in Italy by the BBC (UK), HBO (USA), and RAI (Italy). The show's first season originally aired on HBO between August 28 and November 20, 2005, subsequently broadcast on BBC One between November 2, 2005 and January 4, 2006, and on Rai Due between March 17 and April 28, 2006.

The show's second and final season opened on January 14, 2007 and ended on March 25, 2007 in the USA. In the UK the second season started on June 20, 2007, on BBC Two and ended on July 24, 2007.[1]


[edit] Series overview

The series is a historical drama depicting the period of history surrounding the violent transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire; a change driven by civil warfare between radical populares and conservative optimates, the decay of political institutions, and the actions of ambitious men and women. The HBO website provides the following introduction:

Half a century before the dawn of Christianity, Rome has become the wealthiest city in the world, a cosmopolitan metropolis of one million people — epicenter of a sprawling empire. Founded on principles of shared power and fierce personal competition, the Republic was created to prevent any one man from seizing absolute control. It is a society where soldiers can rise up from provincial commoners to become national heroes, even leaders of the Republic. But as the ruling class became extravagantly wealthy, the foundations have crumbled, eaten away by corruption and excess, and the old values of Spartan discipline and social unity have given way to a great chasm between the classes.[2]

While chronicling the lives and deeds of the rich, powerful and "historically significant," the series also focuses on the lives, fortunes, families and acquaintances of two common men: Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, two Roman soldiers mentioned historically in Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico. The fictionalized Vorenus and Pullo manage to witness and often influence many of the historical events presented in the series.

Season 1 depicts Julius Caesar's civil war of 49 BC against the traditionalist conservative faction in the Roman Senate, his subsequent rise to absolute dictatorship over Rome and his eventual fall, spanning the time period from the end of his Gallic Wars (52 BC or 701 ab urbe condita) until his assassination on 15 March 44 BC (the infamous Ides of March). Against the backdrop of these cataclysmic events, we also see the early years of the young Octavian, who is destined to become the first Emperor of Rome, Augustus.

Season 2 chronicles the power struggle between Octavian and Mark Antony following Caesar's assassination, spanning the period from Caesar's death in 44 BC to Octavian's final victory over Antony at Actium in 31 BC.

[edit] Series history

[edit] Production

Set of Rome in Cinecittà studios, Rome

In 2002, HBO and the BBC agreed to co-produce a new series based on the events of the "Roman Revolution". Towards that end, the two networks committed a US$100 million budget to the production of twelve 1-hour episodes, with HBO contributing US$85 million, and the BBC contributing US$15 million.[3]

Between March 2004 and May 2005, Rome was filmed, in co-production with RAI, in the Italian countryside, on six sound stages at Rome's Cinecittà studios, and in a collection of massive sets in Cinecittà studios' back lots: 5 acres (20,000 m2) of outdoor sets which comprised an elaborate "period reconstruction" of sections of ancient Rome. It was a huge undertaking, with an international crew of 350, and more than 50 local Italian interns. The production is regarded as one of the most expensive in the history of TV series. Funding was generously employed to recreate an impressively detailed set featuring a number of Roman Villas, the forum and a vast slum area of the ancient city of Rome. A significant part of this set was later destroyed by a fire that burned down a portion of the Cinecittà Studios on 10 August 2007.[4] A portion of the set was also used in late 2007 by the crew of the long-running BBC sci-fi drama series Doctor Who, for the fourth season episode "The Fires of Pompeii".

[edit] First season

The series was launched in the United States on 24 August 2005, at Wadsworth Theatre in Los Angeles, California. HBO broadcast the series pilot (The Stolen Eagle) four days later on 28 August 2005.

Ray Stevenson as Titus Pullo (left) and Kevin McKidd as Lucius Vorenus (right), seen in the episode "Pharsalus".

According to the Nielsen ratings system, the pilot was seen by 3.8 million viewers, [5] ultimately attracting more than 8.9 million viewers over eleven broadcasts, and achieved a 9.1 household rating for Sunday primetime. The series debuted to BBC Two premiered Rome in the United Kingdom on 2 November 2005, attracting 6.6 million viewers (27%), only to have the viewing figures decline in future episodes with the finale only attracting 3 million viewers (13%). The season has also gone into international syndication, being broadcast in many countries around the globe, in several languages.

The series' first season garnered critical acclaim, with Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Dramatic Series and Best Performance by an Actress in a Dramatic Television Series for Polly Walker's portrayal of Atia of the Julii.

[edit] Second season

After the broadcast of only three first season episodes, HBO announced plans to produce a second season of Rome in 2006 for release in March 2007.[6] Subsequently in a news conference HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht confirmed that Rome season two would air on HBO in January 2007, but would not return for a third season.[7] The early denial of a third season appeared to center on the series' staggering costs.[citation needed]

The second season premiered 14 January 2007, with the first episode attracting 7.5 million viewers.[citation needed] The final episode aired on 25 March 2007 in the U.S. The first episode of the second season aired on BBC 2 on 20 June 2007.

[edit] Cast and characters

Rome features both fictional characters as well as those loosely based on historical figures. According to the official HBO Rome series website, the main characters are:

Character Actor
Lucius Vorenus Kevin McKidd
Titus Pullo Ray Stevenson
Julius Caesar Ciarán Hinds (Season 1; cameo in Season 2)
Pompey Magnus Kenneth Cranham (Season 1)
Atia of the Julii Polly Walker
Mark Antony James Purefoy
Marcus Junius Brutus Tobias Menzies
Servilia of the Junii Lindsay Duncan
Niobe Indira Varma (Season 1; cameo in Season 2)
Gaius Octavian Max Pirkis (Seasons 1/2)
Simon Woods (Season 2)¹
Posca Nicholas Woodeson
Octavia of the Julii Kerry Condon
Quintus Pompey Rick Warden
Porcius Cato Karl Johnson (Season 1)
Marcus Tullius Cicero David Bamber
Timon Lee Boardman
Mascius Michael Nardone
Eirene Chiara Mastalli
Cleopatra Lyndsey Marshal
Gaia Zuleikha Robinson (Season 2)
Jocasta Camilla Rutherford (Season 2)
Marcus Agrippa Allen Leech (Season 2)
Maecenas Alex Wyndham (Season 2)
Caesarion Nicolò Brecci (Season 2)²
Max Baldry (Season 2)
Levi Nigel Lindsay (Season 2)
Vorena the Elder Coral Amiga
  1. The character of Octavian was aged and recast starting with season 2, episode #16 (2-4)
  2. Caesarion appeared as a baby in arms in season 1, episode #08 (1-8), and was aged and recast in season 2, episode #20 (2-8)

[edit] Background performers

Audio commentary on the Season 1 DVD[8] indicates that many of the background performers used in the series were also their true professional counterparts. One example is that the actor shown in the series working as a butcher on the streets of Rome was in fact a real-life butcher.

[edit] Episodes

[edit] Editing

[edit] The BBC editing controversy

Some scenes in episodes of Season 1 of the series have been edited for airing on the BBC in order to remove some of the stronger language which is deemed unacceptable for prime-time viewing on terrestrial British television (specifically the use of the word "cunt"). Episode six (Phippi) Marc Antony to Octavian - "You are a ferocious little cunt."[citation needed] This has been criticized by many,[citation needed] who point to the fact that other HBO programs such as The Sopranos and Oz have been broadcast uncut on British network television; however, Rome is broadcast at an earlier time than the other two programs and the BBC was aiming at a more general audience than Channel 4 was with The Sopranos and Oz.[citation needed]

In a separate move, the BBC also decided to re-edit the first three episodes (all directed by Michael Apted) into two episodes. The BBC claimed that this was because the British audience were more familiar with the history of Rome than their American counterparts and so much of the back story was unnecessary; however, Apted claims that the purpose was to boost the ratings by increasing the prominence of the scenes of sex and violence. In an interview with The Times,[9] Apted was quoted saying:

I'm really pissed off with the BBC for bringing down my first three episodes to two and, in doing so, taking out much of the vital politics. What also makes me very grumpy is that I was told that the cuts had been introduced by the BBC because they thought British viewers already knew the historical background. But all that's happened as far as the viewer is concerned is that it has made 'Rome' hard to follow.

Apted also said that he only found out about the cuts by accident claiming:

I only found out by chance a couple of weeks ago when one of the actors told me.

However, the original uncut versions of Season 1 episodes have since been shown in the UK on UKTV Drama, the channel having aired two episodes every Saturday, with only the title credits cut from the second episode shown every week. This run coincided with the UK screenings of Season 2 on BBC Two.

[edit] The RAI editing controversy

The Italian broadcasting of the series was also marred by controversy.[citation needed] Strong language was removed in the Italian dubbing process; as for the more explicit sex scenes and disturbing violence, they were replaced by "safe" alternative versions shot during production especially for the Italian broadcast.[10] The original version of the series has never been broadcast on Italian TV.

[edit] Historical deviations

Gorgoneion from the opening credits, depicting its use in the ancient world as a protective apotropaic symbol.[11]
See Chronology of Rome (TV series) for a timeline of relevant historical events

There are numerous inaccuracies in the series' representation of various historical events and personages. Creator Bruno Heller has said that "We try to balance between what people expect from previous portrayals and a naturalistic approach ... This series is much more about how the psychology of the characters affects history than simply following the history as we know it."[12] The series' Historical Consultant Jonathan Stamp also notes that the show aims for "authenticity" rather than "accuracy."[13][14] The film-makers stressed that they wanted to portray a more accurate picture of Rome, a gritty and realistic city as opposed to what they call the "HollyRome" that appears in films like Gladiator.

Although Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo are historical figures mentioned briefly in Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico, their adventures and involvement in key events in the series are fictionalized. Rome also typically ignores the existence of certain extended family members of people featured as main characters, such as relatives of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Atia Balba Caesonia. The most significant dramatic licence taken in the series, however, is the manipulation of the historical timeline for storytelling purposes.

Some important events are not mentioned in Rome, including the whole year spent before the Battle of Pharsalus in which Caesar drove Pompeius's supporters out of Hispania, and the Battle of Dyrrhachium in which Pompeius defeated Caesar. Many significant members of the Optimates, the traditionalist faction of Brutus and Cato, are also missing from the series. They include Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, Titus Labienus, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus, and Publius Cornelius Lentulus Spinther, the latter having failed to empty Rome's treasury before the optimates' departure, resulting in a severe lack of funds to support their war effort.

Further discrepancies are noted in detail in the appropriate articles for related episodes and characters from Rome.

[edit] DVD releases

First season cover art
Second season cover art

The entire first season of Rome was released as a six-disc Region 1 DVD box set in the USA on 15 August 2006. It was distributed by HBO Home Video. Featuring all 12 episodes, it also includes several extra DVD features like episode commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage and making-of features. The same set (bar the episodic previews and recaps) was released on 24 July 2006 in Region 2, also entitled Rome: The Complete First Season.

Season 2 was released in North America on 7 August 2007.[15]

[edit] Possible movie

According to Ray Stevenson in a 27 February 2008 interview with a Rome movie is in the works. "Well, Bruno started working on the script, and then they called the writers strike. You'd have to make a call to Bruno Heller and people like that. I'm not sure what HBO's legal position or involvement or ownership issues... I mean, these are all being discussed by other people. All I can say is that there's positive talk about it. I wish I could sit here and tell you more, because I'd probably be more excited than you would be, but I'm just quietly keeping everything crossed, and encouraging from my sideline position."[16]

[edit] Awards and nominations

[edit] Awards

[edit] Nominations

  • Emmy Awards:
    • 2006: Outstanding Main Title Design
    • 2006: Outstanding Makeup for a Series, Non-Prosthetic (for the episode "Caesarion")
    • 2006: Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (for the episode "Triumph")
    • 2006: Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music
    • 2007: Outstanding Costumes for a Series (for the episode "De Patre Vostro (About Your Father)")
    • 2007: Outstanding Makeup for a Series, Non-Prosthetic (for the episode "De Patre Vostro (About Your Father)")
    • 2007: Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (for the episode "Philippi")
    • 2007: Outstanding Visual Effects for a Series (for the episode "Philippi")
  • Satellite Awards:
    • 2005: Best Television Series - Drama
    • 2005: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Polly Walker)

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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