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‘Spartacus’ series hits the sand

Can "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" follow in the sandal-clad footsteps of "Rome"? Plus: "Life UneXpected" earns rave reviews; "Legion" hits theaters; latest album from The Eels.
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Did you like "Gladiator" and "300"? Then you may be interested in "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," the new gladiator epic from Starz. Andy Whitfield plays the famed gladiator, and the show looks both bloody and violent, though some fans are hoping for the character development of HBO's "Rome." Things sound promising — although not one episode has aired yet, the show has already been renewed for a second season. (Series premiere Jan. 22, 10 p.m., Starz.)

Few new shows have come to the screen with the kind of rave reviews of "Life UneXpected." The show focuses on an Oregon teen who's lived most of her life in foster care, and finally seeks out her birth parents, who make a belated attempt to become a family. (Series premiere Jan. 18, 9 p.m., the CW.)

New show "Food Tech" looks at the hidden world behind America's favorite meals — from how soy sauce gets into its little packets to where pizza boxes come from. (Series premiere, Jan. 21, 9 p.m., History Channel.)

You've seen the preview: A sweet looking old woman in a diner inquires about a waitress' pregnancy, then cheerfully tells her it's too bad the baby's going to burn, and attacks her. Creepadelic! The film, "Legion," opens this week. Apparently God is mad at us, and has sent a legion of angels to take down the world, but the diner folks, and the waitress' baby, might be able to save us. Let's hope. (Opens Jan. 22.)

DVDThe documentary "No Impact Man" follows Colin Beavan and his family through a year-long experiment in which they tried to have zero impact on the environment. They produced no trash except for compost, bought only food grown within a 250-mile radius, used no carbon-based transportation, and used no paper, not even toilet paper. All the while raising a two-year-old — who wore only organic cotton diapers, of course. The Philadelphia Inquirer described it pretty much as you'd think, saying the film is "at once noble and naive, earnest and a tad obnoxious." (Out on DVD Jan. 19.)

Remember those wonderful Mother Nature's Revenge films of the 1970s, where animals mutated, spread, and pretty much ate up humanity? One of the true classics was 1977's "Kingdom of the Spiders," starring Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. It's out on DVD this week in a special widescreen presentation with all-new interviews and rare footage. Creepy, crawly, and fabulous! (Out on DVD Jan. 19.)

MusicThe Eels' new album, "End Times," was largely recorded on an old four-track tape machine — not that surprising for a band that's worked everything from a toy piano to hammers on a radiator into their work. Band leader E (Mark Oliver Everett) often grapples with weighty, sad, issues, and says his latest disc is a "divorce album" with a modern twist, equating his personal loss with the world's loss of integrity. (Out on CD Jan. 19)

BooksIt came out last week, but copies were hard to find thanks to all the media attention. "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime," by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, sounds like a newsy, gossipy look at what was really going on while Americans were pondering their presidential pick. New York Magazine ran that pretty much eviscerated John and Elizabeth Edwards, and that's apparently just the beginning. (Book on sale now.)