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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: 'Plebs' - A Guilty Pleasure 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: 'Plebs' - A Guilty Pleasure  (Read 656 times)
David Atherton
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« on: June 20, 2013, 06:20:52 pm »

Recently I watched the first season of Plebs, which is an ITV2 sitcom set in Augustan Rome. The show is bawdy, low brow comedy, probably much like the cheap stage plays or pantomimes an average Roman would've seen.

It seems the writers were fans of the HBO series Rome. Most of the show is set in a courtyard tenement, much like the one Vorenus lived in. Plus, the show looks like it picks up where Rome left off, with Octavian/Augustus as Emperor.

It's dumb, at times obnoxious, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

A second season has been ordered.  Thumbs Up

http://www.itvmedia.co.uk/plebs

A typical scene - 'Sacrificial Meat' http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Kjfft56qTy0
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Jay GT4
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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2013, 06:46:52 pm »

Awesome!  Grin

Now I have to find where to buy it from!
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David Atherton
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« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2013, 08:43:42 pm »

Awesome!  Grin

Now I have to find where to buy it from!

Amazon.com  Wink
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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2013, 08:27:47 am »

Hah, that looks funny.  Thumbs Up for the recommendation
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« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2013, 09:14:23 pm »

Sounds interesting... How good is it  compared to I CLAVDIUS?
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David Atherton
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2013, 06:38:17 am »

Sounds interesting... How good is it  compared to I CLAVDIUS?

Well, it's like comparing apples and oranges ... the two series are completely different in scope, scale, and target audience. I Claudius is a TV classic, while Plebs is a well written randy romp.
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Andrew McCabe
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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2013, 02:05:30 pm »

I bought it and watched two episodes today. Anyone asking about "I Claudius" in this context should probably avoid it. It's definitely adult rated. Think all the most savage bits of "Rome" (the TV series) combined with actually rather funny comedy. I suspect the jokes won't travel however - just as with "The Office" where the original UK series hit home but the US comedy just misses me - either because the jokes pulled their punches (too PC? not subtle enough?) or it appeals to a culturally different sense of humour. Plebs' jokes are pretty much in-your-face but I suspect not only the jokes but also the accents may not travel - knowing that Metella sounds like an Essex girl adds a lot of meaning to her character, but I don't know what the equivalent brash and vulgar persona (Bronx girl? think big hair and bling meets slave-girl) would be in US comedy. I hope I've warned off those who are comfy with I Claudius and thought Rome at the edge of vulgarity, but Blackadder fans should go right ahead and order.
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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2013, 02:07:51 pm »

Looks good

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« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2013, 11:40:59 pm »

Here's a serious review by Dr Anna Clark who teaches Roman history at Christ Church College, Oxford:

(Having watched the entire series, I recommend the Bananae episode as most fun and more or less family friendly. Spoiler alert: it's all about your first taste of a banana.)

If you criticise this sitcom for its historical inaccuracies, you're missing the point. Plebs transfers 21st-century characters and preoccupations to ancient Rome – and finds humour in that mismatch. It's explicitly not trying to be educational: the writers seem proud of their anachronisms.

I was surprised, then, to find some accuracies here and there. It's set in 27BC, when Rome really did feel like the centre of the universe (to the Romans at least). The main characters – Marcus, Stylax and their slave Grumio – live cheek by jowl in rented rooms, overseen by a dodgy landlord. From what the ruins of Pompeii tell us, this seems to be how many people lived, though I suspect actual Roman landlords were much less pleasant.

Each episode picks out a theme that plays to all the usual Roman stereotypes, such as gladiators and orgies. I was glad to see that they didn't have the gladiators fighting in the Colosseum, as it wasn't built until decades later. As for the orgies, we don't know much about what actually took place, apart from the odd lurid account by an emperor. I've never heard of cage-fighting going on, but that might just be my ignorance.

The notion of the boys having a slave is not unreasonable; as to whether they would have been nice to him, we can't really say. Relationships did develop with trusted slaves: Cicero freed his, for example. With his deadpan delivery, Grumio is a lot like Baldrick in Blackadder. In the first episode, a young British woman, Cynthia, and her slave move into the boys' rooming house. It's hard to believe that Britons really would have been hanging around in Rome in 27BC – Britain didn't become part of the Roman Empire until AD43 – but they're clearly riffing on the idea of backpacking Britons with guidebooks. It's possible that a woman of status could have lived alone in ancient Rome, but she would have had a much larger retinue.

I rather enjoyed seeing graffiti on buildings. I'm researching Roman graffiti at the moment. It was a much more widespread practice then, rather than a social nuisance. But the graffiti that has been found on the walls of Roman brothels, taverns and houses – "I screwed so and so", "This is how much you pay for a prostitute" – resonates with today. That's exactly the effect Plebs is going for: to make us feel that in the course of human history, nothing much has changed.
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David Atherton
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« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2013, 06:56:24 pm »

I'm glad a few of you have found the series enjoyable. I had downloaded it several weeks ago and only recently got around to watching it, not with high expectations. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised.

I totally get the Blackadder comparisons (one of my favourite sitcoms of all time), which perhaps explains my fondness for Plebs.

Andrew, thanks for posting Anna Clark's review!
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« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2013, 02:23:08 am »

I watched all six episodes.

Juvenile, completely historically inaccurate and very very funny.  Definitely worth watching (though not with the kids) as long as you enjoy irreverent British humour.

I did not get all of the UK nuances (like the accents Andrew mentioned) but the humour definitely "travelled".

I will try not to give much away but the translation of the modern office environment to ancient Rome is absolutely brilliant.  Extra funny if you are unlucky enough to work in such an environment (incidentally my work day started with a fight over what on-line form was appropriate to requisition pencils - I kid you not).  Anyway, at first the main characters look like they are working as scribes but when I heard what their actual job titles were I laughed so hard I had to stop the program for a while.

And the accusation of being Thracist, "they'll be no Thracism in my house", also had me in tears.

I think it is a show that will require watching over and over to get the many subtle jokes which are at first lost behind the more obvious (and admittedly often low brow) humour.

Glad to see it has been picked up for a second season.

Shawn
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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2013, 01:07:26 pm »

Just saw all six eposides. Hilarious! Can't wait for the next season. Much recommended!

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