Is there room for a remake of “Up Pompeii”?

Do you remember the old TV series, Up Pompeii?  Possibly not.  It hasn’t been shown in many, many years.  It was a hit before most people reading this were born.  There was also a film version, from which the image (left) is taken.

The comedy — or farce, for such it was — was set in Roman times, with a bunch of actors pretending to be Romans, and the whole thing really just a setup for a series of smutty jokes of the kind told 50 years ago, and which have not worn well today.

Similarly there was a US stage show, A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, of much the same vintage and, I fear, much the same quality.

But could such a show be made today?  And if so, what would it look like?

The broad, lazy farce style would have to go.  I doubt a single gag could be reused.  The episodes would have to tell a story.  But surely, surely, this is essentially a sit-com?  If The Big Bang Theory, set in a roomful of young physicists, can work, something similarly organised would work, set in ancient Rome.

One element that was integral to the original was the titillation.  This relied on the fact that porn was not available readily.  In these less innocent days, that side of things would have to go.

But there is clearly a market for light fiction set in Roman times.  The ‘Falco’ detective novels of Lindsay Davis prove this, where the characters all speak as if they were moderns, but live in ancient Rome.

The main character, the humorous slave Lurcio, on whom “the heat and burden of the action fell”, would need to be a sharp modern comic — something like Frank Skinner used to be.  But surely that is possible?

It seems to me that modern TV producers are missing a trick.  There is a sit-com here, ready to be made.



4 thoughts on “Is there room for a remake of “Up Pompeii”?

  1. I’ve seen neither “Up Pompeii” or “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, but the latter, at any rate, isn’t completely dead. It was at the Stratford Festival (Stratford, Ontario, that is) in 2009, and then was presented (with some of the same cast) at Toronto’s Canon Theatre as part of their 2010/2011 season. If I recall correctly, the reviews were pretty good.

  2. I fear Titivillus got to your posting!

    “tittilation” –> titillation

    PS. Given the topic of the entry, that
    particular typo recalls Sigmund’s slippers.

  3. According to Wikipedia Up Pompeii!! was a short lived comedy series from 1970 or 40+ years ago. Back in 1970 classical education was far stronger in the UK or the Western world in general for that matter. Let us not forget all those sword and sandals movies from the 1940s, 50s and 60s, especially the Cinecitta kind. The Fall of the Roman Empire in 1964 is considered to signify the end of classical movies, 1970 is early enough that people were still saturated with this kind of film and were willing to watch its parody. Today there definitely is an interest in Classical antiquity but it is mostly limited to History Channel documentaries. The 2000’s had a significant revival of classically themed movies compared to the 1990’s but this still meant Gladiator, Troy and Alexander, nothing like the onslaught of the 1960s. HBO’s Rome was quite a hit but it was cancelled early. Life of Brian came out and was a hit when people were fed up with all the Jesus movies, I would assume that Up Pompeii!! came out when people were fed up with the sword and sandal movies. There might be a market for a remake, but there is probably an even bigger market for a serious series set at the time

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