Shocking Spartacus cancellation: Creator explains the reasons why

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Dec 17, 2012, 3:27 PM EST

After three bloody seasons—and the loss of its original leading man—Starz's hit gladiatorial drama is calling it quits. Why cut down a series that's not only performing insanely well in the ratings, but is actually good? Spartacus' showrunner Steven S. DeKnight comes clean.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, DeKnight goes in depth with the reasons behind the decision to end Spartacus after a 10-episode third season—called "War of the Damned"—which will air next January. One of them definitely wasn't ratings: Spartacus was pulling in 6 million viewers a week, which is a flat-out outstanding number for a premium cable drama.

DeKnight simply felt that the time had come:

"It's a bit unheard of to end a show when it's doing better than ever. It's a bold move and we talked about it with Starz. How long do you run a show? Do you run it until you can squeeze every last bit of revenue out of it or do you end it on a high note? That was part of the decision to wrap up the show. The idea of ending the show when you're on top and the audience still wants more instead of dragging it out until it starts to wane and you kind of limp to the finish line. I've always thought that five seasons was the perfect number; you've got enough time to tell a great story but there's not so much real estate that you start to get a little flabby in the middle. This is ending a season early. Spartacus is a bit of an unusual duck. We've always had an ending—it's written in history—so we knew where we were shooting for.

"My original thought was that this show could go five to seven seasons but we realized the actual history is very scattershot: the rebels went north, south, east, west, then back north, then broke apart, came back together. We thought, instead of repeating ourselves with one wave of Roman senators after another going after Spartacus, getting defeated, going after Spartacus, getting defeated, why not really condense the story. ... It's like The Princess Bride: cut out all the boring bits and just make the best, most rip-roaring-est tale we can to wrap up the series."

For the rest of the interview—in which DeKnight discusses carrying on with Spartacus in the wake of Andy Whitfield's untimely death and new characters he's introducing for this last sprint to the end—head on over to The Hollywood Reporter. But, for now, here's a teaser for the bloody climax.