I’ve been saying for some time that this is the second golden age of television. Shows like The Wire, Mad Men, The Sopranos, The Shield, even the early years of House are simply better than anything you’re going to see in a movie theater. The rise of TV was caused, I believe, by two connected events. The advent of cable opened the possibility of niche and adult programming. And the trashy treatment of writers in the movie business made the move to TV appealing to the best writing talent. I mean, listen to the dialogue in any of the shows listed above. When do you ever hear that kind of intelligence and wit at the movies?
There’s a trickle down effect as well. That is to say, not only are the richest, deepest most complex onscreen entertainments on TV, but those TV shows that are simple, straightforward entertainment are also better now than they ever were. A case in point is Spartacus, which is Starz’s attempt to build a signature show in the style of 300.
Now 300 was, to my mind, one of the best movies of the last ten years and the first two episodes of Spartacus couldn’t compare. But boy, were they fun! I mean, really fun. Big bloody swordfights, sinister Romans, heroic Thracians and some of the hottest sex scenes I’ve seen in a long time. What’s not to like?
On a weekend during which I saw both Spartacus and the massively expensive film Sherlock Holmes, I can safely say that – despite the always brilliant Robert Downey Jr. – Spartacus was far more entertaining.