There is an entire ecosystem of British reality TV that drifts across my feed without the finer details really registering. Couldn’t really tell you what Love Island is, for instance. But occasionally something stops me in my tracks. For instance: Bromans, a (real) show about lads living as Roman gladiators.
Basically, it’s a stock photo version of Ancient Rome come to tan, glistening, vivid life!
“Eight 21st century lads are to be transported back to the Roman Empire to see if they can cut it as gladiators,” opened ITV’s announcement, which continues:
The handsome boys will fight it out with help from their loving girlfriends. They may have the muscles but do these lads have what it takes to go down in history? Cameras will follow eight modern day couples as they’re transported to an ancient world where they’ll live and fight like gladiators did 2000 years ago.
Along the way there’ll be blood, sweat and tears. However, only the very best will make it through to the Emperor’s Games where one of them will emerge victorious and take home the Emperor’s gold (which today works out at ‘approximately’ £10,000!).
“The boy’s girlfriends will join them on their journey, helping to train and prepare them for the Games as well as immersing themselves in ancient Roman tasks - from wine making to sculpting.” Honestly, it’s a miracle I am not having a heart attack right now.
Of course, this isn’t the first UK reality program revolving around transporting modern folks to the past. It’s really an entire subgenre. But something like Manor House or The Victorian Slum has a pretty PBS vibe. Bromans looks more street-puking weekend trip to Ibiza. In fact, on a recent appearance on This Morning Britain, cast members explained how it differed from Love Island—described by the Telegraph as a program “in which perma-tanned beauties are challenged to find love in a Mallorcan villa”—which is a pretty good indication that it exists in the same universe of programming. How is this real?
Please please please please please somebody get esteemed classicist Mary Beard to write weekly recaps of this travesty.