Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Confusion Is the Ruin of This Rome

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Confusion Is the Ruin of This Rome

Article excerpt

Byline: TERRY RAMSEY

Rome 9pm, BBC2

IT'S the second episode of the extravaganza set in Ancient Rome - and as a spectacle, this is TV on a grand scale.

There are crowd scenes, battles and burning camps, and no shortage of knifings and betrayals to keep the story going.

Pompey (Kenneth Cranham) is worried about the influence Caesar (Ciaran Hinds) enjoys, despite him being stuck in Gaul with his armies.

So Pompey decides it's a good move to have his rival declared an "enemy of Rome" - an idea which is tantamount to saying: "Yeh? You and whose army?" to a chap who actually does have a large army right behind him.

There are various subplots, such as soldier Vorenus being worried about his wife and seeking advice from the unlikely source of tough guy Pullo. But many of the plotlines are confusing.

Characters are not made clear, nor are their relationships with each other, and you may have the feeling that you don't know who anybody is. (But don't try too hard - because as soon as you do get a handle on a character, they'll be stabbed to death.) You have to wonder what happened. Did the makers throw away every fifth page of the script? It's not a bad idea, given the lumbering dialogue, but hardly conducive to good drama. So, the episode we're left with is a great spectacle on the surface, but shambolic underneath. If you're interested in how they did this sort of thing nearly 30 years ago, see below-

Drama Connections

10.40pm, BBC1

The 1976 BBC production I, Claudius was the Rome of its day, and this tantalising retrospective features excellent clips from the original, plus contributions from its star-studded cast of Sir Derek Jacobi, left, John Hurt, Sian Phillips, Brian Blessed, George Baker, Simon McCorkindale and, er, Christopher Biggins.

It makes this story of sex, violence and betrayal seem well overdue for a rerun - but could Rome stand up to the competition?

Grand Designs

9pm, Channel 4

A house overlooking the Devon sea, with a deck area and hot tub, plus, inside, a private cinema. …

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