The following is by JEANNE JAKLE San Antonio Express-News, also printed in The Houston Chronicle and available at the paper's website.

Spartacus enters new-series arena

Spartacus: Blood and Sand is easily the raciest of TV's midseason entries -- if only for the copious amounts of blood splashing on screen.

However, all that red stuff is only part of the TV spectacle that is Spartacus. The new Starz series, which premieres at 9 p.m. Jan. 22, is from a producing team that includes Spider-Man director Sam Raimi. It's packed with action, interesting characters, ripped physiques and strong drama.

This is a cast of striking unknowns -- a standout being the magnificently buff Andy Whitfield, who plays the title role -- as well as more seasoned names such as Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) and John Hannah (The Mummy).


If you're wondering whether women have a place amid all this testosterone, consider the scene-stealing Lawless as Lucretia, a kind of Lady Macbeth to her husband (Hannah).

He may be the monarch of the gladiator school, but she's the power behind the throne.

"The role is just a knockout. I'm so grateful to them for writing such brilliant women's relationships," Lawless said. "It's terribly deadly and very subtle."


News submitted by Ross.