There's no confusing Starz's "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" with Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar."
In the pay TV channel's adaptation of the tale of the rebel Roman slave, the battle cries from the Classical Age have, well, a distinctly 21st century ring ("My boot will meet your ass in the afterlife!"). The sexual intrigue seems lifted right out of a VH1 dating show (when a socialite decides to buy one of the gladiators-in-training, the men are ordered to drop their loincloths so she can make an informed choice). Then there's the graphic, slo-mo violence (including a severed, flying head that would impress Quentin Tarantino).
With 1.1 million viewers, "Spartacus" is a home run for the cable channel, which is available in a modest 17 million homes. Long overshadowed by rivals HBO and Showtime, Starz has seen the sword-and-sandal melodrama become its first original series hit.