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Series / Plebs

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l to r: Grumio, Stylax, Marcus

Plebs is a 2013 ITV sitcom set during The Roman Empire and revolves around two young plebs, Marcus (Tom Rosenthal) and Stylax (Joel Fry), and Marcus' slave, Grumio (Ryan Sampson). At the start of the series they've been living in Rome for 6 weeks, and Marcus and Stylax work together at a scriptorium, with a Bad Boss who treats them like crap. In the first episode, a young Briton, Cynthia, and her slave Metella become their neighbours, and Marcus quickly develops a crush on Cynthia.

Described by the Radio Times as The Inbetweeners meets Rome. Five series were aired, rounded off with a film-length special in 2022.

Plebs contains examples of:

  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Most definitely averted in "The Race", where Grumio is forced to squeeze through a narrow sewage pipe to make contact with Landlord in prison.
  • Anachronism Stew: Most likely due to Rule of Funny, but bananae and pineapples were not available or known to Romans. Also potatoes, tomatoes, maize corn...
  • Bad Boss: Flavia, Marcus and Stylax's boss, makes her contempt of them clear, insulting them, demeaning them and implicitly threatening them with sexual assault.
  • Banana Peel: Happens to Aurelius after Stylax introduces bananas into the workplace. After his fall, Flavia bans bananas from the scriptorium.
  • Bar Brawl: Marcus's bid to turn the Crown & Toga into a sports bar goes south when two rival firms of chariot fans turn up on the same day. He tries to talk them down, but the brawl probably did more in damage than he made off the fans.
  • Bound and Gagged: Cynthia & Metella in "the New Slave," by the titular character. Played for Laughs, natch.
  • Butt-Monkey: Aurelius, who is mocked for everything by everyone, including his facial hair, living with his parents, and his sexual prowess. He's briefly laid off in favour of a table and his bachelor party is an utter disaster. "Jugball" takes it to another level, with Marcus and Stylax developing the eponymous basketball-analogue as yet another way to harass him and even strap him to a column when the goal is elevated to accommodate taller players.
  • The Casanova: Stylax somehow manages to end up in bed with an astonishingly high number of gorgeous women.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Jason comes off as this, such as constantly hiring new waitresses until he can find one who'll sleep with him.
  • Chariot Race: Stylax participates in an "underground" one in "The Race".
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Cynthia, to a certain extent. For instance, she doesn't realise that gladiators actually die: she thinks it's 'theatre'. On the other hand, when a daft old crone puts a 'curse' on her, she thinks it IS real.
    • After Grumio falls ill with a stomach bug, she also advises Marcus against buying medicine for him and instead suggests offering prayers to Hygieia.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Metella, Cynthia's slave.
  • Credit Card Plot: In 'Jugball," Egyptian intern Ramases gives Grumio his father's Emporium charge card to procure dinner but forgets to get it back. Grumio runs up over ten thousand denarii worth of caviar over the course of the episode, much to the father's displeasure when he arrives for a visit.
  • Cringe Comedy: Stylax rushing into Flavia's office to thank her for recommending the clinic and herpes cream.... and completely failing to notice that she is in a meeting with clients. Verbal Backspacing ensues before he beats a hasty retreat.
  • Dodgy Toupee: One is worn by Victor of the Gracchi, and managed by Marcus, in the election episode.
  • Doorstop Baby: Grumio finds one lying in the estate dumpster and decides to raise it. Marcus is opposed to it, but Stylax takes the opportunity to use the baby to get paternity leave and chat up a wetnurse. After refusing to leave her at an orphanage, Grumio agrees to let Landlord's bodyguard Davus take the baby to raise with his wife.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Joel Fry left the series after season 3, so in the pre-credits sequence at the start of season 4, we see Stylax from a distance (and played by a different actor) getting crushed by a large marble block.
  • Erotic Eating: Averted. It looks like Flavia is going to eat the banana in an erotic way, especially when she asks Stylax to look away while she's eating, but she then proceeds to hold it horizontal and nibble on it like corn on the cob.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": "Salve, Grumio." "All right, Landlord." Even Victor of the Gracchi addresses him this way despite not being a tenant. In fact, he seems to address every member of the landlords' guild this way. A cop in Season 5 reveals that Landlord's real name is Ambrosius Bubo.
  • Football Hooligans: The Season 5 episode "Hooligans" features chariot racing fans, Roman equivalents of modern football hooligans. The boys try to infiltrate local firms to draw customers to the bar, with disastrous results.
  • Gag Penis: The titular stone penis in "The Phallus", accidentally broken off a satyr statue by Grumio and used by Stylax when he can't get it up in bed with old flame Cordelia.
  • Girl Next Door: Cynthia in Seasons 1 & 2, Gloria in Season 5.
  • Gladiator Games: Part of the plot of "The Gladiator". Cynthia is dating a gladiator and doesn't believe the bloodsport is real.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Late in season 5, Aurelius pulls the dagger out of his shoulder after Marcus's dad stabs him for making a move on Marcus's mom (they'd sorta split up at the moment) despite Landlord telling him to keep it in. This unleashes a fountain of blood all over Landlord's date, who promptly gives up on him.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Landlord is shown to have his fingers in a variety of pies, including life insurance, lottery tickets and "seeds" he sells to local "chefs" for Roman cooking which is actually henbane.
  • Hospital Hottie: The nurse who treats Stylax for his STD.
  • Hypocrite: The new slave tells Grumio they should work hard to make their masters comfortable and to cater to their whims. Yet he tortures Stylax for not conforming to what he thinks a proper master should be like, and attempts to impose his standards on others.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Cynthia happily adopts a stray and names it Felix when Rome becomes infested with cats. Marcus pretends to be a cat lover as well, but neither she nor Metella are convinced. Especially after Felix chokes to death in his apartment.
  • Kissing Cousins: Stylax and Lucretia. Neither of them see anything wrong with it, and are surprised to find out that everyone else is squicked out by it. And then Stylax is squicked when he finds out that Flavia has done it with several cousins AND an uncle.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Stylax is the kind of man who only ever thinks about doing things for himself without thinking through much of the consequences. As a result, he gets a commupance whenever his latest scheme runs its course; his impulsive buying of a slave leads to them essentially torturing him psychologically and his need to get into an orgy results in him getting molested in a cage fight.
  • Less Embarrassing Term: Aurelius is a Water Man, not a Water Boy... Pity no-one cares.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Marcus, Stylax and Grumio seldom change clothes.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Grumio and Marcus bicker a lot, coupled with the fact that they have a lot of Ho Yay.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Stylax is unable to perform with Cordelia, either as teenagers or in the present day. Flavia recommends "Carthaginian glory root," aka "Gentleman's Friend" or "Hell Mouth," whose major side effect is atrocious halitosis.
  • Male Restroom Etiquette: Averted and possibly a case of Shown Their Work as the "executive bathroom" Marcus and Stylax visit is depicted accurately as a typical public bathroom in ancient Rome. Nevertheless, Marcus is annoyed when Stylax tries to read over his shoulder and forgets to bring his sponge for wiping. Stylax on the other hand is happy to let Gaius read his charioteer manual.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Self-defense instructor Hector is a veteran who constantly boasts about his exploits with the Third Legion at the Battle of Philippi. When Marcus invites former Third Legion centurion Maximus for a visit, Maximus gives a "The Reason You Suck" Speech that leaves Hector sobbing in the fetal position. It mostly features Hector "crawling away under his shield like a fucking turtle."
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Marcus pays Landlord to "see what he can do" in the way of having a friend who schedules gladiator fights nobble Cynthia's boyfriend Cassius. This results in a match against the Beast of Germania immediately after Cynthia dumped him for murdering people, and he's promptly decapitated in his distracted state.
  • Mushroom Samba: Grumio consumes all of the henbane seeds Landlord gives him and has a series of chicken-related hallucinations during Aurelius' stag night.
  • New Year Has Come: The series one finale takes place during Saturnalia and has Marcus and Stylax racing to find Cynthia and Metella in the forum before the gong strikes twelve.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: Marcus and Stylax fork out for tickets to an orgy; Marcus tries to convince Na´ve Newcomer Cynthia to come as his guest, while avoiding mention that it's an orgy.
  • Plot Arc: Stylax's quest to become a charioteer in series two.
  • Potty Failure: Marcus and Grumio, both on purpose to spite the other.
  • Prophetic Name: Metella is rigid, one might say almost metallic
  • Put on a Bus: Cynthia and Metella are almost deported from Rome at the end of series 2 but use the money that they won by betting on Stylax in a chariot contest to move to a better neighbourhood, and are never even mentioned in series 3. Similarly, Delphine is never mentioned in series 4.
  • The Queen's Latin: Most of the characters are from the lower middle classes and speak with working class accents. Grumio in particular has a very thick Yorkshire accent. It's taken even further in later seasons when characters from Gaul speak with a very thick stereotypical French accent. Season 4's Jason also has a distinctly Essex accent.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Impulsive Stylax usually wears a red tunic, while the much more sensible Marcus tends to wear blue.
  • Running Gag:
    • "Waterman."
    • Flavia checking in on Marcus and Stylax just when Aurelius has said something embarrassing and/or sexual.
  • Sandal Punk: It's set in ancient Rome, but there are so many similarities to the present day.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Fabianus ("Fab") is more of the grudge holding type. He agrees to Marcus' request to help Cynthia out with her court hearing, but sabotages both by turning up to the court as prosecutor and reminding Marcus that he was the schoolyard bully.
  • Servile Snarker: Metella mostly, but Grumio and Aurelius the water boy both have their moments.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Stylax and Ambrosia are forced into an engagement after her politician father finds out about their affair after rude graffiti of the two of them is scrawled all over his election campaign posters.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A slave named Grumio, you say?
    • Stylax's patron is named Gaius Maecenas. The real Maecenas was well known as a patron, but for poets, not charioteers.
    • In "The Candidate", Victor of the Gracchi is a likely nod to brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, both populist politicians who ran for the tribunate and met bad ends.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Marcus and Metella in "The Race".
  • Soapbox Sadie: Delphine, Marcus' girlfriend in series 3 is an extreme example of this, getting involved in protesting every cause imaginable.
  • Stag Party: Aurelius has a truly disastrous stag do in "The Best Men", going through three successive Best Men in one night.
    • Marcus is sacked for leading the group on a ghost tour of Rome in an attempt to minimize expenses.
    • Stylax takes the party to a casino where Cynthia is working as a waitress but they're ejected after an incident that gets her fired. He gets sacked.
    • Balbus, Stylax's driving instructor, takes Aurelius to the "Wall of Glory," an unsavory alley wall with a series of holes in it, which is promptly raided by centurions. The gang escapes, but stick around long enough to see the wall opened up to reveal it's staffed by ugly old men.
  • STD Immunity: Averted- Stylax Really Gets Around and catches genital herpes as a result.
  • Swapped Roles: Marcus agrees to trade roles with Grumio for his birthday. Cue Grumio getting his hair styled, wearing Marcus' best tunic (and getting hair dye on it) and ordering Marcus to buy a couple of geese for dinner. Marcus is not impressed.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Balbus threatens to jump from a balcony after losing all his money at a casino and learning the secret of the "Wall of Glory," and the gang has to talk him down. Grumio eventually manages it by offering him a bag of henbane.
  • Tempting Fate: In "The Race", Stylax tells Marcus he needs to "end his sex drought". A few minutes later, it does - and it complicates matters IMMENSELY.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Marcus, Jason, and Grumio extend a "trial session" at a luxury fitness center for many, many days since the brochure and vouchers never specified a length for the trial period and the facilities are open 24/7. They're ultimately expelled when a wealthy investor buys the business and implements new policies, including incinerating the contents of the lockers (presumably after giving notice to paying members), leaving the boys to walk home in the altogether.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: The Vestal Virgins were a well-respected and religious order, with an emphasis on chastity and when Stylax and a Vestal have sex, and inadvertently extinguish the holy flame, the citizens search for them with the intent to wall them in as a punishment.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: In Series 3, Marcus gets into a relationship with a gorgeous Gaulish girl named Delphine. He is so insecure about the fact that she is so much hotter than him that it constantly interferes with the relationship.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Each one of the main characters is unlikable to a degree;
    • Marcus, whilst having hang-ups and frustrations that are understandable such as a lack of funds, is a two-faced snidely schemer who only ever really thinks of himself.
    • Grumio is a glutton and a slob who only ever thinks of food, leading him to do some very bullheaded things.
    • Stylax is a sex-obsessed hedonist who is always on the prowl for women or things to enjoy, no matter what idiotic thing he has to do. His replacement Jason is arguably worse, as he outright views women as disposable conquests and is very rude and inconsiderate to others.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    • Grumio really shouldn't have eaten that bog apple...
    • Stylax is seen throwing up after his first chariot race.