Why the bloody, sexy Spartacus was renewed before it premiered

The upcoming 300-meets-Gladiator-esque Spartacus: Blood and Sand promises plenty of graphic violence, nudity, sex and now something else ... a second season. Spartacus, which is due to premiere on Friday, Jan. 22, at 10 p.m. ET/PT, has already been renewed for a second season, which will be titled Spartacus: Vengeance.

"We couldn't be happier with the first season. Spartacus delivers on all levels—action, characters, intrigue, romance and excitement," said Starz Entertainment EVP, Programming, Stephan Shelanski. "Spartacus is the most ambitious original project we've ever undertaken and speaks to the commitment to our subscribers to provide truly original programming along with our unmatched lineup of theatrical features."

Sounds cool, but getting renewed BEFORE IT AIRS is more than a little unusual. It's "a bold vote of confidence," admitted Starz executives in their press release. And since the series won't have to break for production (which is in New Zealand), they'll likely save on production costs for that 13-episode second season.

The series stars Australian newcomer Andy Whitfield as Spartacus, a Thracian who is fighting for the return of his wife after he is sold into slavery at a gladiator school. Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) plays the scheming Lucretia, and John Hannah (The Mummy) is her power-hungry husband, Batiatus. Peter Mensah (300) is the Doctore, the head of the gladiator school. The series is from executive producers Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen and Steven S. DeKnight (Buffy).

"Steven S. DeKnight and his team of writers have created a rich narrative that lays the groundwork for more great stories," said executive producer Rob Tapert. "The slave rebellion led by Spartacus and the oh-so-current political intrigue and personal dynamics laid out in the first season provide rich source material for the second season and beyond."

Spartacus: Blood and Sand is shot mixing live action and virtual environments to create a graphic-novel look, similar to 300 and Sin City. The series also will push the boundaries of violence, sex and nudity, DeKnight said during a panel at last summer's Comic-Con. The series will feature both full female and male nudity, including a topless Lucy Lawless. Now if only the producers could talk Xena's Gabrielle (Renée O'Connor) into stopping by for a guest-quickie, new Starz subscriptions would be able to pay for a third season of Spartacus.

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