I’m a big fan of the show Spartacus. I think its one of the bravest shows on television on cable today. It has sex, violence, conspiracy, three main elements to having a controversial but smoking show, but more than that, it also has drama, great cinematography, script, casting and direction, which are keys to making it a credible contender in terms of quality and ratings. If you’ve seen the film adaptation of the action packed gothic novel 300, its like that, but made for TV, so its longer, more dramatic and absolutely genius.
Last year, after the successful first season of the show (The show was creeping its way to 1 million viewers, but has managed to establish a loyal following among its core audience, discounting its international syndication and fan base), the producers halted production after its lead star Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with cancer. It was pretty much up in the air whether or not the show would return, but Andy’s treatments proved positive until most recently when they discovered that his cancer was back. The suits decided to do a six-episode prequel (Spartacus: Gods of the Arena) to buy them some time until they decide what to do, and perhaps to test whether or not the show would survive without Andy. It did, but in my opinion, it survived because it was a prequel and did not touch on the Spartacus storyline just yet. Returning for the next season would involve what happens next and the question is whether or not the replacement could produce the consistency that the show needs to keep the audiences hooked.
Early this year, they decided to greenlight the third season and selected Andy’s replacement in the form of another Australian actor Liam McIntyre, who has previously starred in the TV miniseries The Pacific and an Australian short film Radev (2010). I did some snooping around to see if he has the chops to fill the iconic sandals of Andy’s Spartacus.
Well, the only clips I found on youtube was the trailer for Radev, where he was playing a boss of a drug syndicate, and another where he was hamming it up in a cheesy Doritos commercial. In the Radev trailer, I felt that he had the potential but I just couldn’t picture him as Spartacus just yet. I felt that he lacked the intensity that Andy brought to the table with each performance. It’s not his body’s build, or his outward appearance that was the problem for me. I think that he’s a fairly decent actor but I think that Andy did him a huge injustice by being so good at being Spartacus that it became tall order for anyone who would take on the role not to compare.
As a fan, it is my biased opinion that Andy is Spartacus, just like Gerard Butler is King Leonidas. If there are such things as perfect castings, I would hedge my bets that these are it. For now, I know it’s still too early to judge because the next season isn’t coming out until 2012. I would have liked for the producers to wait until Andy is fully healed (I do believe that he will triumph over his disease as he has conquered his foes in the show) before resuming production. But I guess that’s just too much to ask seeing as they are preserving the momentum. Besides, looking at the big picture, Andy is just one actor, as compared to the entire cast and crew that made the show as awesome as it was. Still, there’s a nagging doubt at the back of my head if this is the right move for the show at all. For now, I still have my reservations, but I’m not ready to sail the ship with Liam at the helm just yet. Are you?
UPDATE: Andy succumbed to lymphoma yesterday Sept. 12, 2011. He was 39. May he rest in peace.