While Network television complains that ratings continue to fall, it's largely because they take no risks, putting out increasingly dull reality shows that start to seem exactly the same after a while. Although cable television has obviously always sought out riskier fare, the gap between network programming and cable programming continues to get wider, as the networks look for increasingly cheaper fare to produce, while cable networks are winning the awards with shows like "The Shield", "Deadwood" and the very costly "Rome".
"Rome" is not merely a small, mini-series style production of Roman history. Instead, it is a mega-budgeted (for a television series - apparently the series did not go for a third season simply because it proved too costly to the financing companies) look at power struggles during the time period, done with imprssive scope and scale. Costumes and sets are incredibly gorgeous and accurate throughout the show, and no expense seems to have been spared. The series did wrap after two seasons, but while the show did not gain a mass audience, its followers were devoted and the series did get quite a bit of awards recognition, including 4 Emmy wins and 4 nominations, among others.
The second season of the series starts shortly after the assassination of Julius Caesar and follows Mark Antony (James Purefoy) and Octavian (Simon Woods) as the two try to compete against one another to fill the position left by Caesar's death. While Octavious is the rightful heir, Antony's ambition pushes him forward towards greater power. Purefoy gives a commanding, intense performance as Antony, while Woods offers an equally fierce performance as Octavian. The supporting cast shines, as well, especially Lindsay Duncan, Polly Walker and others. A brutal, powerful and ambitious series that, "Rome" goes out on a high note in this second season.
13. 14 Jan 07 Passover
14. 21 Jan 07 Son of Hades
15. 28 Jan 07 These Being the Words of Marcus Tullius Cicero
16. 4 Feb 07 Testudo Et Lepus (The Tortoise And the Hare)
17. 11 Feb 07 Heroes of the Republic
18. 18 Feb 07 Philippi
19. 4 Mar 07 Death Mask
20. 11 Mar 07 A Necessary Fiction
21. 18 Mar 07 Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus (No God Can Stop a Hungry Man)
22. 25 Mar 07 De Patre Vostro (About Your Father)
VIDEO: "Rome" is presented by HBO in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and image quality was terrific throughout the season. While one has high expectations for image quality on the release of any show or film, with a series like "Rome", strong image quality allows one to further appreciate the work that went into creating the time period. Sharpness and detail are terrific, as the image remained crisp and well-defined throughout the majority of the show. Fine details were also often clearly visible. While a few traces of artifacting were spotted, no edge enhancement or other flaws were noticed. Colors appeared bold, well-saturated and never looked smeary or otherwise problematic. Flesh tones also looked accurate and natural, and black level remained strong.
SOUND: "Rome" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The show's audio presentation wasn't particularly aggressive, but surrounds kicked in at times to deliver sound enjoyable sound effects and reinforcement of the score. Audio quality was terrific, with solid bass and natural, clean-sounding speech.
EXTRAS: Creator Bruno Heller and Historical Consultant Jonathan Stamp offer an audio commentary for "Passover", Director John Maybury and Lindsay Duncan offer an audio commentary for "Death Mask", Executive Producer John Melfi and Director Carl Franklin offer an audio commentary for "A Necessary Fiction", James Purefoy offers a commentary for "Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus" and finally, Creator Bruno Heller and Historical Consultant Jonathan Stamp return for "De Patre Vosto". The commentary tracks can seem a little dry at times and some do have some gaps of silence between comments. However, fans of the series will still find a lot of information within these tracks, as the participants do give some solid insights about creating the show's epic scope, working with the large cast, historical accuracy and much more.
Four featurettes are included, spread out across the set. These are: "A Tale of Two Romes", "Making of Season 2", ""The Rise of Octavian: Rome's First Emperor" and "Antony and Cleopatra". All four featurettes run approximately 20-22 minutes each. The "making of" documentary looks into the production of the second season, but the other three documentaries focus more on the historical background of the events/characters of the series. The "making of" documentary is a good overview of the show's immense, ambitious production, but I'd have liked to have seen more than an overview. Given how much detail and planning must have gone into the series, I would have liked a lengthier look at the making of the show. Finally, also included for each episode are, "All Roads Lead to Rome" features, which are optional subtitle fact tracks done by the show's historical consultant, Jonathan Stamp.
Final Thoughts: "Rome" is a powerful drama that takes a bold look into some of the conflicts that took place in this part of history. The show's large ensemble cast is terrific and the show's remarkable visuals certainly never cease to impress. The outstanding DVD set comes with beautiful packaging and the DVDs themselves offer a lot of extras. Audio/video quality for the episodes is also marvelous. Highly recommended for those interested in the subject.