HBO’s Original Series capture remarkably, and it appears, in totality, a slice of life, an environment and the people who occupy it and make it distinct. Sex and the City immortalized New York and its single women; The Sopranos did the same for New Jersey’s gangsters, and with Entourage, those obsessed with Hollywood’s celebrity culture have a show to call their own.
With its dramatic series Rome, about to enter Season 3, HBO achieves trademark intimacy; bringing us the story of Rome at the time when it was a Republic about to metamorphose into an Empire. All the familiar figures are present, Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, as they would in any documentary, but what elevates Rome and makes it such a captivating watch above any documentary and many contemporary dramas, is its superb script, which is bitingly sharp and extremely funny, and has at its centre, neither Caesar nor Cleopatra, but two Roman soldiers and best friends, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Polo (Ray Stevenson). The entire cast, in fact, is exceptional, and one cannot imagine them in any other role but as the masters and slaves, husbands, wives and lovers that they portray in this series.
All this would have come to naught, however, if HBO had skimped on the sets and costume design, but the people who introduced Choos and Blahnik’s into our vocabulary, have raised the bar. The recreation of Rome and Alexandria takes you into the past, but for me, more impressive was the variety of sets—from the Forum to the Temple of Jupiter, the Senate and the backdrop to war scenes—and the attention to detail; seamy spice markets where murders can be bought, fish markets where intrigues are fed, and panoramas of the teeming populace who are but pawns in the political wars, which will determine the fate of Rome.