The Good

HBO has really gone the extra mile in giving viewers a comprehensive look at this period of history.

The Bad

I found some of the supplemental content hard to negotiate.

Rome: The Complete First Season is a thickly layered look at that period in history that seemed to set the stage for modern politics. You have backstabbing, political infighting, party lines and everything else that speaks to the past as well as the present. The story isn't simple but the ultimate reasons for why things happened as they did had a lot to do with fear. The biggest one being the fear that Caesar was getting too powerful than was good for Rome. With characters like Vorenus, Pullo and Brutus who is lurking in the shadows (even if it isn't apparent at first), HBO does it's best to put a human face on why the events transpired the way that they did.

This show isn't just centered on these men as we get to go further into all the characters lives so that we see them in more than one dimension. I personally thought that all the characters were given equal time (this is a 6 disc set), but I also think the attention to detail and everything else that was employed really went a long way toward helping this show seem as rich and as full as it did. Also, the acting was quite good even though I thought that in the early episodes it was a tad stiff.

All in all, fans of the show and fans on this time period will certainly want to make Rome: The Complete First Season, a jewel in their DVD collection.

Features

Commentary Tracks

They have generously put 8 commentary tracks with cast and crew members on this DVD set. Since I had never had that much audio to work with, I simply skipped around getting snippets from as many tracks as I could. I know I probably should have just buckled down and listened to one track, but that sadly wasn't in the cards. Overall, there is a lot of good stuff on here, they discuss the costumes of the show, dressing the sets, and how the actors had to adjust to the environment that the art department created. Certainly worth a listen just maybe not the way that I did it.

All Roads Lead to Rome

This was "prepared" by Jonathan Stamp who was a consultant on the film. It is basically "an interactive on-screen guide" to take viewers through Rome. I was so thankful for this you have no idea because there is so much stuff on here to wade through, so much about the period in the show, that it was nice to have something to help me get through it all. Also, as thorough as the show is, this guide really does it's best to fulfill it's end of the bargain.

Shot X Shot: Gladiator

Shot X Shot: Caesar's Triumph

The Rise of Rome

HBO has created a very lavish production and while it might not be on the level of Spartacus, this behind-the-scenes featurette gives viewers a look at the actors preparing to play their roles, the creation of the sets, the wardrobe, and essentially the mindset of the people involved in this project. In some ways, because this is a TV show it seems like the production was even more massive, because instead of creating a 3 hour movie you have one that lasts 720 minutes (and that's just the first season!).

When In Rome

Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Once again, I am glad that the creators of the DVD saw fit to include something like this in this set. I have recently been studying for a huge exam called the CSET (and I passed), and one of the biggest sections on the test is that of Rome. In fact, I want to say that that is half the test. Even though I passed, I would really have liked to have seen this before I took the test because this section breaks down the characters in the show. It lets you know who they are, their social status, but it also takes you into their mindsets and motivations.

Photo Gallery

There are over 50 images in this section and they give us even more information about the work that went into this show. While I think one should certainly watch the "making of" that comes in this set, these photos give us interesting snapshots of the cast, crew and the working environment. What really bolsters all of this is that many of the images look like painted portraits, they are that finely done.

Video

Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1. Wide Screen Letterbox for 16x9 TVs. This show is dark. The colors seem like they have been orchestrated in such a way so that they almost suck the light out of all the scenes. There is a harshness to the images that really effect how this show plays on the viewer. Add to this that I think HBO had a very steady hand in the compression, and what we get is a show that is really well made and structured, if not a bit cold and dyspeptic.

Audio

Dolby Digital 5.1. Now this is the kind of show HBO should be readying for HD or Blu-ray. It is that solid and well put together that I think people with home theater systems are going to be blown away by the sound. This show has a largeness that comes from the images but I think that 75% of that is bolstered by the audio. I think it's really great that HBO again raised the bar for TV and this kind of drama.

Package

Blood flows on the street in this artfully done cover in which we see the lower part of a lone gladiator. The back cover continues this motif with a description of this show, a Special Features listing, a cast list, and technical specs. All 6 discs that make up this show fit very neatly into this packaging which has been delicately crafted to make this set stand out in anybody's DVD collection. Inside is a listing of which episodes are on which discs, and they even do their best to point out where the Special Features are.

Final Word

I was a little nervous before I watched this show mainly because I am just not the biggest fan of these kinds of period pieces. Give me something in the 20th Century and chances are I would follow it rabidly. Rome was gripping because it seemed to be made in such a way that once you started watching it you had to continue. They really made the characters people that you wanted to follow, so that by the time you get a few episodes in, you realize that you have no choice but to see this story through until the end. I also found that I was wrapped up enough in the characters so that if there was a lull in the action, I didn't mind because what was being presented with Pullo, Veronus and all the others was interesting enough by itself.

Lastly, I really feel that I gained a greater knowledge of the history and the events happening at that time. One thing Rome: The Complete First Season does is put everything in it's place, and while I am sure that certain liberties have been taken, overall this show feels like it was captured in 52 BC.

Rome was released .