We're finally watching Season Two of Rome.
I love Pullo, the big dumb lug. I love that he's not clever enough to be sly, and I especially like that he knows he's not smart, and when he's done something stupid, he's sorry. It doesn't hurt that he's played by Ray Stevenson. Those are some great blue eyes there.
I also really like how they're using non-famous Romans in the series. Indeed, if I could change anything about the series, it'd be that they do a lot more of that, and have the famous historical folks and events way in the background. It'd be different and interesting.
I suspect it would have been a much harder sell, though. I can just hear somebody protesting, "But why would anybody care about a bunch of no-names in ancient Rome?"
Why does anybody care about the "no-names" in The Office? Or on all those CSI shows? Or Law and Order?
Because the writers make us care. Or they should, if a series is to be successful. A novel, too. If I don't care about the characters, I'm not going to continue giving the story my time and attention.
And as for the ancient Rome...that's just the setting. If the characters are universal enough (having the same desires/motives/needs we all do), it should work if it's set in ancient Rome, Egypt or outer space. It's the people more than the place that makes a story successful -- although don't get me wrong. The place is important. It can add a lot to the characters -- to their external motives, to their manner, their dialogue, the activities they engage in. They should, on the surface, seem very much rooted in their own time and place. The universal belongs in the deeper, underlying feelings and motives that drive them. That's why historical novels work; because we can relate to those characters on that level even though we live in very difference times and places.
With Rome, I care a lot more about Pullo and Veronus than I do about Mark Antony and the rest of the famous historical figures, in no small part because I don't know what's going to happen to Pullo and his friend. I know what's going to happen to Mark Antony and Augustus. And I desperately want my man Pullo to have a happy ending.