Ancient Rome, Buzz, Entertainment, Movies Tv Shows, Reality Tv

If ‘Bromans’ is the future of American TV we should give up now

The United Kingdom is the hothouse of reality TV. Ideas for shows grow here, and are then exported across the pond where they are lapped up enthusiastically by American viewers — as was the case with Big Brother, Survivor and the snarky stylings of Simon Cowell.

Which is why we should all be terrified by the attention lavished on a new British reality show called Bromans. The show does exactly what it says on the tin — it transports modern-day “bros” back to Roman times, or at least the fake, sanitized swords-and-sandals version of the Roman era that exists in the popular imagination. 

Here eight standard-issue bros will learn to be gladiators in the “Emperor’s Games”, while their standard-issue reality TV girlfriends sit on the sidelines “helping to train and prepare them for the Games as well as immersing themselves in ancient Roman tasks — from wine-making to sculpting,” according to ITV, Britain’s top commercial network, which will be screening this travesty. 

Bromans has a distinctly dodgy British tint to it, from the fact that ITV is selling it as “modern geezers in the time of Caesar!” to the fact that the “grand prize” for winning the games is … ten thousand pounds (just under $13,000). 

But that won’t stop the concept inevitably getting picked up and jazzed up by a U.S. network. 

It’s early days yet, and much depends on the ratings Bromans gets when it starts in 2 weeks. But you can just see NBC — the network that basically elected Donald Trump by constructing a prime-time show around the lie that he was a competent businessman — going gaga for this kind of show.

Indeed, Bromans is such a nightmarishly perfect concept for the age of Trump, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the manchild Emperor himself taking a cameo role in an American version. Wearing a gold laurel wreath, standing before a roaring crowd in a glittering amphitheater as they wait to see whether his thumb will go up or down — this is clearly much closer to Trump’s idea of leadership than the “real dump” of a White House or the messy business of actually working on legislation. 

Of course, Bromans is faker than a plastic colosseum. For one thing, gladiators were drawn from all corners of the far-flung Roman Imperium; take any 8 of them and you’d have a far more diverse crew than these all-white dudes, who don’t even represent modern Britain. 

For another, it was a sickeningly gruesome profession with an exceedingly high body count. Most gladiators were slaves, though a few volunteered. They wouldn’t just fight each other, but also condemned criminals with nothing to lose and animals that had been starved to make them extra aggressive. Over a 123-day marathon session in the early second century, the Emperor Trajan famously pitted 10,000 gladiators against 11,000 animals. 

The crowds came to see a frenzy of blood. They almost always got what they wanted.

So when ITV says “they’ll live and fight like gladiators did 2,000 years ago,” we have to question whether ITV knows what words mean. Middle England may have a lot of bloodlust lurking in its outsider-hating, Brexit-voting subconscious, but it certainly wouldn’t stand for the brutal slaughter of animals in the arena. 

But hey! Maybe this is just the beginning of a new era of TV. Reality shows have hit a repetitious rut; what could shock their jaded audience awake faster than actual gladiatorial combat? As in the movie Network, where 1970s-era domestic terrorism is given a prime-time slot, TV executives could cash in on the shock value. 

Now that the Trump administration has brought cynical personal enrichment via government out into the open, reality TV may soon become more honest and literal about what it really is: bread and circuses for the masses. 

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