Historical TV shows are now in vogue, with Vikings, The Last Kingdom, and Peaky Blinders all considered commercial and critical successes. Yet the show that arguably paved the way for these series has largely been forgotten. HBO’s Rome (2005-2007) is one of the most expensive TV shows ever made. The first season cost $100 million (Game of Throne’s 1st season cost $60 million) and was praised for the high and historically accurate production values. Yet the show only lasted two seasons and was quickly dropped for being too expensive with the remaining 4 seasons’ storylines condensed into the second season. Despite the cancelation the show still has a cult following and there has been word that a film may be in the works.
Rome was a joint venture between HBO and the BBC, and was considered the start of a new wave of prestigious big budget TV. With a cast that included Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy), Ray Stevenson (Thor), and Polly Walker (Bridgerton), the show was the first to really break the boundary between film and TV in terms of cost and production values. The first season, which covered the rise and death of Julius Caesar, was a huge success. However due to the costs, with HBO paying the most, the second season was canceled halfway through. Fan’s though have been asking for more.
Will There Be a Rome Film?
Ever since the series ended there have been rumors of a follow up film. Although the show wrapped up most storylines there were many threads, and important parts of Roman history, still open for use. With HBO shows like Deadwood and the Sopranos already expanding to the cinema, calls for a film have increased . The Last Kingdom and Peaky Blinders are also creating Netflix films to finish their stories. Kevin McKidd also revealed in 2020 that the show’s creator Bruno Heller had written a script for a feature. The cast is also keen to revisit the series with McKidd stating, “If Bruno did [the movie], I would be there, I would put everything on hold to do it. I’m very confident people like Ray would too.”
The Impact of Rome
While the show was short lived, the impact it made still continues. It showed TV companies that big budget shows could be made to compete with the silver screen. With today’s shows, such as Game of Thrones, now much bigger than most cinematic offerings, the potential of Rome has been fully realized. Yet, the show also had an historical impact. Along with Gladiator in 2000, Rome helped spark a resurgence of interest in the Roman times. Films such as The Last Legion, Centurion, The Eagle, and Pompeii came after the series. The upcoming Cleopatra film starring Gal Gadot will also cover the same time period as the second season. This demand for more Roman content is most keenly seen in the gaming industry, with many companies capitalizing on the show’s success.
The Forgotten City by Modern Storyteller and Total War II by Creative Assembly allow players to interact with the history of the Roman Empire. This interest has also been found in the online gaming sphere. Slingo Centurion on Gala Bingo takes famous moments from Roman history, such as Caesar, the city of Rome, and gladiators (all featured in the HBO show), to appeal to both casual gamers and fans of the time period alike. It is these games that keep the demand for a Rome TV still alive.
HBO’s Rome was unlucky in that it came before its time. Yet there is hope that the story may continue, especially as the global demand for good historic dramas is at its peak.