When in ‘Rome’ …

It was an ambitious step by HBO to recreate the tribulations of “Rome” and do it effectively to scale and substance. Amazingly, the series was a resounding success; as complex and detailed as the political structure from whence it was derived.

“Rome” wasn’t built in a day, and the sheer requirements to make the series — 4,000 pieces of wardrobe, 250 chain mail tunics, 60 percent scale mock Foro Romano Forum, the carving of hundreds of statues and street artwork — were challenge enough for producers. To create a compelling story with so much detail and so many characters was another test altogether.

Luckily, the epic nature of the show is not lost. “Rome” charts the shifts in power from Pompey Magnus (Kenneth Cranham) to that of famed ruler Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds) through the eyes of two soldiers, Lucius (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), who form an unlikely bond of friendship through necessity. But “Rome” also features a horde of supporting characters, each filled with enough ambition, intrigue and deceit to fill three additional shows.

“Rome” isn’t a show that should be watched while making dinner or doing a crossword puzzle. The show requires undivided attention, with so many characters and plots crammed into a single hour. Also, “Rome” isn’t for the weak of heart, with copious amounts of violence and ample “revealing” moments as well. So put the kids away and pay attention to yet another brilliant series from HBO Home Entertainment.

Extras: “Rome: The Complete First Season” contains all 12 episodes from the show on six discs, and it also includes eight alternate audio track commentaries in the special features from both the cast and crew. Plus, there are six long and detailed featurettes on the making-of, a shot-by-shot documentary on some of the action, historical inaccuracies, wardrobe examinations and more.

One of the coolest special features is the 50 never-before-seen production stills of “Rome” includedin the extras and an eight-page character guide booklet that accompanies the DVD set, which is helpful if you get a little confused with all the characters’ comings and goings.

Also out on DVD now

» If you aren’t down with “The Simpsons: The Complete Eighth Season,” don’t blame us, we voted for Kodos. So begins the last of “The Simpsons” in its prime. Starting in season nine, the show begins to take a slight downturn, continuing until the hit-or-miss present. Luckily, Fox Home Entertainment does a great job with “The Simpsons” DVDs, and season eight is no exception, with commentaries on every episode, a ton of animation showcases, deleted scenes and much more. A must-have for any fan. Price: $49.98. Rent or buy: Buy.

» Yes, “RV” was just in theaters and proves studios are continuing to roll out films onto DVD faster and faster to capitalize on name association. Robin Williams stars in this mediocre comedy with Cheryl Hines (from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) in a family bonding trip gone all wrong. A rental at best. Price: $28.95. Rent or buy: Rent.

» Also, “Hong Kong Phooey: The Complete Series,” “Love Comes To the Executioner,” “Remington Steele: Seasons Four and Five,” and “Heart Like A Wheel.”

peterbrown@examiner.comartsentertainmentOther Arts

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