Ridiculum ‘Plebs’ TV Series

Salve!  Three young men in Ancient Rome doing what three young men would be doing today except with more crudity, nudity and ribald humour.  Given my age and TV viewing preferences, it does seem unlikely that I would fall for such juvenile behaviour in a bawdy sit-com like ‘Plebs’.  However, you doubters, I have fallen for it.

Promo blurb reads “Whilst others revel in the grandeur, opulence and splendour of Rome, low-on-the-totem-pole Marcus (Tom Rosenthal), Stylax (Joel Fry), their apathetic slave Grumio (Ryan Sampson) and cheeky Jason (Jonathan Pointing) are more interested in doing what lads the world over do – which usually involves women.”  More often than not, the desire to earn money gets them into some funny situations.  It works for me, I even sing the theme music!

The actors, the location, the storylines, oh, the storylines!  Any writer looking for inspiration will get it from ‘Plebs’.  The circumstances in which Grumio, Stylax, Marcus and Jason find themselves are anchored in reality but always contain a twist – a comical and clever twist.  I think ‘Plebs’ has similarities to earlier episodes of ‘Seinfeld’ when the world was young and fresh and madcap.  ‘Seinfeld’ language was polite contemporary but ‘Plebs’ is uncouth contemporary.

Extract from The Guardian TV & Radio interview in which Roman historian Dr Anna Clark is surprised there are quite a few accuracies.  "It's set in 27BC, when Rome really did feel like the centre of the universe (to the Romans at least).  The main characters – Marcus, Stylax and their slave Grumio – live cheek by jowl in rented rooms, overseen by a dodgy landlord.  From what the ruins of Pompeii tell us, this seems to be how many people lived, though I suspect actual Roman landlords were much less pleasant."

Working well together with differing comedic styles (think ‘Upstart Crow’) the permanent actors are Tom Rosenthal, Ryan Sampson, Joel Fry (replaced by Jonathan Pointing) Tom Basden and Karl Theobald, whereas Doon Mackichan, Sophie Colquhoun, Lydia Rose Bewley and the supporting cast change accordingly.  To quote the executive producers Caroline Leddy and Sam Leifer “As has become ‘Plebs’ tradition, a host of dazzling adversaries will be stepping into the Roman arena, with special cameos coming from top acting and comedic talent.”

An early IMDb reviewer, Niki Timpson, hit the nail on the head with these comments:

“Loving this – it’s pretty much The Inbetweeners do Ancient Rome.  Class.  The story focuses around three guys living in a pretty dull area of Rome – not Gladiators, nor Senators, just blokes – hence the title.  Tom Rosenthal plays the very straight Marcus, who has the most resentful slave ever in the fabulous Grumio (Ryan Sampson, rocking a hairdo like Howard from Big Bang, and pretty much channelling Baldrick with a grumpy attitude) They live with the over-sexed Stylax (Joel Fry), next door to the gorgeous but dim Cynthia (Sophie Colquhoun) and her scary and whip smart slave, Metella (Lydia Rose Bewley) – both from Briton.  A must-see for Inbetweeners fans, do not miss the second episode with Danny Dyer being a very macho but sensitive Gladiator.  Brilliant.”

There’s been a lot of water along the Roman aqueduct since that review (four series, in fact) but the quality of ‘fortitudinem et honorem’ remains.

Over the course of 30 episodes I have spied familiar British actors, always excellent in their roles.  However, if pressed, I would have to say tetchy food-obsessed Grumio is my favourite character.  Actor Ryan Sampson undergoes a complete change to play the role.  It’s worth watching the show for his subtle underplaying of Grumio’s antics, especially the snail racing and chicken episodes.

Here are the stats if you want to track it down––

Executive producers:  Caroline Leddy, Sam Leifer
Producers:  Tom Basden, Caroline Leddy, Sam Leifer, Teddy Leifer
Location:  Nu Boyana Studios, Bulgaria
Running time:  25 minutes
Production company:  Rise Films
Original network:  ITV2
Distributor:  Universal Pictures

ADDENDUM:  Should you decide to view ‘Plebs’ on DVD, remember it’s NOT suitable for children.  If you are a sensitive type, I suggest you leave your prim, more formal self outside in the garden sipping tea.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Ioan Gruffudd Stars in ‘Harrow’ Forensic Drama Series

ABCTV Harrow Ioan Gruffudd
Image courtesy of The Australian newspaper

Actor Ioan Gruffudd stars as the boat-dwelling Dr Daniel Harrow in the new TV forensic drama series ‘Harrow’ filmed in Brisbane, Australia.  The goal for this intellectual forensic drama, featuring an unorthodox and edgy forensic pathologist who lives aboard an untidy boat on the Brisbane River, was achieved by the combined talents of ABC Studios International and Hoodlum Entertainment.

Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd, whose recent screen credits include movie ‘Fantastic Four’, TV series ‘Liar’, ‘Forever’ and earlier ‘Hornblower’, is now 44 and says he has more life experience to get under the skin of somebody like the flawed, smart and sarcastic Dr Harrow.  Ioan, who also filmed ‘San Andreas’ in Queensland, fell in love with Brisbane, swimming with dolphins, attending theatre productions and an Ashes test cricket match at the Gabba stadium which unfortunately ended with treatment in hospital for heat stroke.

Leigh McGrath, executive producer of the 10-episode season of ‘Harrow’, says “Brisbane has got the tropical heat and humidity which I think adds a different feel to this forensic drama.  Normally they are cold, they are Scandi noir, whereas we went the opposite.”

To quote The Australian newspaper journalist Justin Burke “The pilot episode presents an exquisite personal test for Harrow: does he quit his career and sail to Bora Bora as promised with his troubled, thieving, drug-addicted daughter? Or does he heed the professional challenge of grieving father Bruce Reimers (Gary Sweet), who is begging Harrow to reopen the investigation into his daughter Olivia’s death?”
“In addition to the procedural, crime-of-the-week element of the show, there is an overarching mystery that we are presented with in the opening scenes. Someone is seen dusting a body with concrete and throwing it off a small boat into the Brisbane River in the middle of the night. Who and why will be revealed in good time.”

ABCTV Harrow Ioan Gruffudd 02

If you click Ioan’s name (further on) you will see video footage of ‘Harrow’ filmed around inner Brisbane.  Dr Harrow, a senior medical examiner, is based in the Queensland Institute of Forensic Medicine which in real life is the heritage-listed Brisbane Dental College near City Hall.  Postmortems are not as easy on the eye as handsome Ioan Gruffudd.

This series is like reading a crime book with my home town in the background, I love picking out familiar landmarks and wondering how the film crew recreated a gruesome scene.  The Brisbane River (Maiwar) stars but there are several familiar supporting actors to spice things up, e.g. Anna Lise Phillips, Remy Hii and Robyn Malcolm.

Keri Lee, boss of Disney’s ABC Studios Intl, is negotiating with global networks so hopefully this major drama series will be made internationally available.  Meanwhile Australian viewers can watch ‘Harrow’ on ABC1 on Fridays 8.30pm 2018 or all complete episodes on iView.

ABCTV iView LogoABCTV LogoHarrow ABCTV Crime Series 2019 02


Well worth watching!  And Season Two hit Australian screens in May 2019.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

TV Nostalgia M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H Cast

The Personal System/2 was IBM’s third generation personal computer released over 30 years ago on April 1987.  Recognise the actors advertising the product?

The cast of the long-running TV series M*A*S*H set during the Korean war and, if you are old enough, you can surely name their characters.

Alan Alda (Hawkeye), Gary Burghoff (Radar), William Christopher (Father Mulcahy), Jamie Farr (Klinger), Mike Farrell (B.J.), Loretta Swit (Major Margaret Houlihan), Larry Linville (Frank), Harry Morgan (Colonel Potter), Wayne Rogers (Trapper), McLean Stevenson (Colonel Blake), David Ogden Stiers (Charles Emerson Winchester III) and many more.

Larry Gelbart was the man responsible for developing M*A*S*H for television from the 1970 feature film M*A*S*H which was adapted from Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel “MASH: About Three Army Doctors”.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward