ITV2 isn’t really known for its cultural output. Between The Only Way is Essex and whatever other reality show is being repeated, the words ‘inform’, ‘educate’ and ‘entertain’ largely seem alien concepts to the commissioners.
Even Love Island, the channel’s highly successful ‘dating show’ about horny twenty-somethings grinding up against each other, came with tongue firmly in its cheek.
And down its throat. ITV2’s biggest shows gain an audience through a gently mocking tone that points and laughs both at and with their subjects.
But Bromans – their latest reality format – drags things to a new low.
Eight 21st century ‘lads’ are transported back to a reconstruction of the Roman Empire to see if they can cut it as gladiators.
It’s a show that actively encourages stupidity, objectification and vanity.
And it’s awful.
An excuse for titillation
The premise is so threadbare the show barely bothers to explain it.
The participants must complete a variety of Roman-inspired, Gladiatorial tasks, with one leaving each week.
There are eight weeks of this. What the lads are ultimately competing for remains, at this point, a mystery.
They’re overseen by the drill sergeant-like Doctore – a ‘Gladiator’ from the early 90s’ Gladiators by the name of David McIntosh.
Don’t fear for their fragile egos as they’re shouted awake each morning though; their girlfriends have been drafted in for ‘support’. Support which amounts to them jumping up in down in bikinis. In slow motion.
The whole thing feels like a series of excuses for titillation.
There’s no reason for them to be in a Roman setting, other than to allow for the frequent sight of lads and lasses in their underwear.
Not that the ‘ancient’ setting really gives a historical reason for all the mud-wrestling. I must have skipped that page of my history textbook.
Proving that people will do anything to get on TV (and then do anything once they’re on it), the lads’ first task is to remove their clothing.
Which they all do – before being shackled to the floor.
“You are all slaves now, and like the slaves of Ancient Rome, you will have nothing,” barks Dominus – actor Tom Bell in a surprisingly researched laurel wreath.
That attention to detail is about the only thing Bromans has going for it.
You won’t be getting any facts on how disastrous the Battle of Cannae was for the Romans in 216 BC. But at least the show’s sets are authentic and stocked with enough extras.
The whole thing is tied together with awkward ‘cinematic’ conversational interludes between Doctore and Dominus.
Like a bargain basement Game of Thrones through an Instagram filter.
The look ahead to next week promises more drama, more tears, and more angry tanned men smashing things in a fit of rage.
“Rome is full of fit ladies, and sick geezers,” bumbles one of the lads excitedly. Taking us back thousands of years in more ways than one, this is the worst thing on TV in a long time.
Bromans is on ITV2, Thursdays at 9pm
This article first appeared on our sister site iNews