There are a lot of weird shows out there, especially when it comes to the warped universe of reality television. However, nothing could have prepared me for the new British show I stumbled upon recently: Bromans. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
The premise of Bromans is simple. A group of British couples live in the style of the Romans, in a very convincing setting of Ancient Rome wearing a whole lot of almost nothing. The men mostly train and compete in physical challenges, while the women are given other tasks such as making wine and sculptures, and each week a couple is voted to leave. The remaining gladiators battle it out in order to go home with the utterly distinguished title of “Greatest Broman”. Which means, of course, being the most muscly, having the best tattoos and for some reason be excellent at transporting rocks and sandbags.
The characters who present the show are by far the best element. From day one the Bromans are greeted by the despairing Dominus (played by Tom Bell), who rather cynically hosts the show. During gladiator training, the men are drilled by Doctore, (ex-Gladiator David McIntosh), an enormous beast of a man whose task is to discipline the Bromans and keep them in line. Finally there is the mysterious Emperor (Martin Kemp, Eastenders), who makes all the elimination decisions behind the scenes and is not revealed until the final games. While there should be something disconcerting about actors playing characters in an adult reality show, there is something nostalgic about it that brings to mind The Crystal Maze or Gladiators.
I feel no apprehension in reporting that the show is, as would be expected, complete nonsense. The challenges are quite Survivor-esque, often including some form of wrestling or use of authentic giant foam props to whack each other into a cesspit with. Otherwise, Bromans sticks to some genuine Ancient sexism and has the women preparing food or creating moulds of their bodies for their partners. The rules of the competition don’t appear to follow any real order; while it’s all about the men and how stereotypically masculine they can be, the women are occasionally expected to assist or compete on behalf of their boyfriend.
The elimination process is a sketchy one. Each round, two men (with girlfriend in tow) are put up for elimination by the Emperor, while the remaining couples vote for who they think is worthy to stay. As is logical, the Broman with the least votes is banished, however, for the first few episodes the couple that leaves is immediately replaced by new contenders. There seems to be no discernible advantage or disadvantage to this, and about halfway through the show gives up on the idea, leaving us wondering why they didn’t just have everyone there from day one.
Of course, it couldn’t be a true reality show without drama. If you like Big Brother, Love Island or Geordie Shore then you’re in for a treat. Personally, the sniping and gossiping isn’t so much of a draw, but Bromans thankfully keeps it to a relative minimum. What I do like about the show is the way in which the lads begin like it’s all a bit of a joke, a platform they can use to show off, but by the end they’ve all been seemingly (for want of a better word) brainwashed into believing that through the challenges they are bettering themselves, calling the show “the greatest experience of their lives.” (Eek!)
I enjoyed the characters, and as light entertainment goes, the show wasn’t terrible. Don’t hold your breath for a second season, but if you’re looking for some cheap reality thrills and something a bit different then give Bromans a try. If nothing else, it might just inspire you to hit the gym a little more regularly.
ITV2/Amazon (UK), TVNZ (NZ)
14 September – 2 November 2017
6 hrs 5 mins