Bromani Ite Domum
Bromans Episode 1 Recap
Jezebel wanted Mary Beard to recap ITV2’s new reality show Bromans, but because life isn’t fair, you instead get commentary from somebody who is not only a far less accomplished classicist but also barely knowledgeable about ancient Rome! Bromans, which features eight men attempting to live as gladiators with help from their girlfriends, is being advertised as “the new Love Island” — an epithet that probably means nothing to you if you’re not British and is laughable to you if you are British. As I told Sarah Scullin, I don’t know whether Bromans is going to be good or bad but it’s definitely not going to be mediocre, and that’s all you need for a recap series.
And we’re off to the chariot races! Word Art that says “Ancient Rome,” accompanied by the kind of music that Hans Zimmer composes for Christopher Nolan movies. A voice-over reminds us that Rome was “the birthplace of civilization” (not Western civilization, not a civilization — just, civilization) swiftly undoing the hard work of white supremacists who’ve been trying to attribute civilization’s birth to ancient Greece. If this introductory sequence is any indication, we are about to see a lot of naked people.
We meet the couples: Tom and Rhiannon, Dino and Cherelle, Kai and Modina, Tian and Natalie, Brandon and Nicola, Jordan and Jade, Richard and Sophii (yes, with two “i”s), and Glenn and Summer.
(I used to watch a lot of trashy reality shows when I was a teenager, and I always felt safe knowing that all of the weird contestants were way, way older than me. But as the Bromans and Browomans — working title —introduce themselves, I realize that most of them are around my age or younger. I mean, Summer is nineteen. NINE-FUCKING-TEEN!)
The contestants are eager to show off their knowledge of the civilization (or is it just civilization?) that they are here to honor. Modina claims to know about Caesar. “Caesar salad?” Kai asks. “No, just Caesar,” she says, giving him a look. Brandon marvels at how they’re going two thousand years back. “I’ve never been that far back!” he exclaims. Has he been any number of years back?
Oh, there’s more to the premise: the goal of these shenanigans is to make it to the “emperor’s games.” And “conquer Rome,” apparently. Wait, why? Aren’t they already in Rome? I guess as slaves gladiators technically weren’t Romans, but they’re still not a foreign power. Can you conquer what is sort of your own civilization? I’m getting too hung up on this.
You know what would be a great drinking game for this show? Every time someone says a Rome-related cliché, take a shot. Like, just now: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” SHOT!
The camera pans to the “Colosseum.” The host of Bromans is a pale man in a toga who reminds me of Roberto Benigni. His name (for the show, I think, I hope) is Dominus, which you know means “master” in Latin, I guess because gladiators were slaves, and already the show has become so problematic that it has looped around and returned to not being problematic anymore.
Dominus introduces the first task for the men: stripping naked. (What?) “Now?” one of them asks. “Now would be ideal,” Dominus replies with a straight face. In the background, an old woman rubs her hands with glee. I swear I’m not making any of this up.
The girlfriends, decked out in flowery sarongs and wedge espadrilles, return to the screen. “They’re not here to check out local men!” the voice-over booms as the women check out local men and then shop, “an ancient gender stereotype.” Get it? It’s funny because it’s a modern — oh, whatever.
What have the men been up to? Standing there being ripped and naked, clutching their willies, waiting for their leggy girlfriends. “You can almost taste the testosterone in the air,” we are told, and although I’m not sure what testosterone tastes like I doubt I want my air tasting like it.
(As the men stand there ripped, naked, and clutchy, I hear the first few bars of a song and recognize it with almost shameful speed as Fall Out Boy’s “Irresistible.” No, you do not get to play Fall Out Boy in your stupid arena! That doesn’t even make any sense!)
So the real first task is for the women. They have to dig around the sand for six sets of clothes, meaning that two men will be clothes-deprived. As the women get digging, I notice that they are now wearing, um, gold bikinis, but without Princess Leia hair, which would have helped with this activity. On the flip side, buns wouldn’t have worked with the Snyderesque slo-mo that they insist on sporadically using as the women dig, run, and wrestle. In gold bikinis.
In between, we get to know the contestants a little better. I become cognizant of an obstacle for future recaps as I realize that I have only the vaguest idea of what Jordan, from Leeds, is saying. In these cases I typically ask my British flatmate to translate, but she’s at the theater tonight, so I can only tell you that Jade described Jordan as her “soulmate” and he returned the courtesy with “something something something in a fit body, which is what you want.”
Dino and Cherelle are both personal trainers. “A lot of things come from Rome, like numbers and Latin,” Dino says, and then hesitates on whether the latter is a Roman inheritance. Also, he wants to know, did they have pizza in Roman times? Sophii (while we’re on the subject of Roman numerals, sort of, doesn’t her name look like it should be Soph-two?) claims to have a “little psycho streak,” while Richard thinks that the earth is flat. Glenn takes two hours in the morning to get ready. He also pronounces “Caesar” “Say-zar.” “See-zar,” Summer corrects him, clearly wise beyond her nineteen years.
(Another Fall Out Boy song: “Uma Thurman.” Why are they doing this to me?)
And after all that, Richard and Tian are without clothes. Their punishment is to…not be naked? They receive leather thongs, which to be honest isn’t that much skimpier than what the other men get to wear.
The Bromanes can finally eunt domus and enjoy “authentic Roman cuisine” such as burnt sausages. “For the second time today!” the voice-over proudly announces, winkety wink wink. Another drinking game idea: take a shot every time the voice-over pretends anachronisms aren’t anachronisms. “Ancient Roman hairspray.” SHOT!
The next day we meet Gerard Butler, who’s actually a large, chiseled man named Doctore. (Doctore?) “No women. Sit down!” he barks at the girlfriends, who respond with righteous indignation by doing exactly what he says and then marveling over how “gorgeous” and “delicious” he is. I am starting to suspect that this show is not very feminist.
Doctore is the gladiator trainer, and the task he gives the contestants is as follows: the woman loads rocks onto a cart, the man carts the rocks down an alley, then comes back and carts his girlfriend down the alley. First up are Richard and Soph-two. Soph-two informs us that she will pretend that she is grabbing things in Topshop. Unfortunately, Richard keeps falling, prompting Dominus to chuckle, “I can now see why Rome wasn’t built in a day.” SHOT!
Next we see Tom, who looks fifteen, and Rhiannon. “I’m a stallion!” Tom neighs at one point. “I want to be just like you!” he cries to Doctore at another. There is no way that this cannot end well. All the while Dominus is drinking, because even he can’t bring himself to watch this sober. Thankfully, after this the producers realize that watching people cart rocks back and forth is incredibly boring, so we don’t see much of anybody else.
The results are in! (We’re not shown the times, which makes me think that Bromans could do with a bit more transparency, otherwise people might think that reality shows are scripted.) First place: Tom and Rhiannon. Second: Tian and Natalie. Third: Dino and Cherelle. Dino is not thrilled about this. “We had the best gladiator qualities,” he protests. Second to last are Richard, who has a cut-up ass that he isn’t afraid to show the camera, and Soph-two. Glenn and Summer are in last place.
But that doesn’t mean they’re out! At night, Dominus and Doctore visit the emperor, who is hidden behind a massive statue, and give their opinions. They return to the contestants and announce that “either Glenn or Richard will become ancient history.” SHOT!
But there’s a twist: the “citizens” (who are actually slaves) will have to vote somebody out, and the citizen-slaves decide that prepubescent Glenn seems easier to beat, so Richard is “banished” along with Soph-two. I’m actually kind of sad about this — this couple was growing on me. Farewell, Richard! May you go on to flatter earths with Soph-two. And, uh, it looks like when somebody is banished they burn a giant banner with their face on it.
I’m sure all of this will seem normal once we get past the first week.
Yung In Chae is still in shock.