Ancient Rome was a brutal place. Colluseums hosted bloody battles where baying crowds would spectate as people were torn limb from limb and mauled to death by tigers, leopards and even bears.
However the otherwise horrific prospect of seeing a man lose an arm as he wrestles with a big cat actually feels rather appealing after watching Bromans on ITV2.
Amongst the sandstorm of banter and testosterone, this show is utterly feral. There’s fighting, blood is spilt and willies flap everywhere. So, so many willies.
The show sees couples transported to ‘Ancient Rome’ to undergo a series of challenges where the lads start “training to be Gladiators” whilst they fight for their girlfriends’ affection in a bid to strengthen their relationship or… something. I’m not entirely sure. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.
Episode one begins with the lads (for they are all ‘lads’, and are all at pains to point this out in every sentence) entering the – snigger– Emperor’s ring.
You know all of the contestants already. There’s a bricklayer from Yorkshire, a personal trainer, a semi-professional rugby player, another personal trainer.
Strutting about like a rampant stag do who set off for their all-inclusive holiday wearing idenkit tight white shorts in search of eight shots for €8 on the strip, these bozos took a wrong turn en route and landed themselves slap bang in the middle of a crumbling, dusty arena.
Like the first 10 seconds of a hostage video, the lads are led into the middle of the giant sand pit and immediately ordered to take all their clothes off. Possibly owing to white coat syndrome, or white toga syndrome in this case, they discard every scrap of clothing with a worryingly low level of query or complaint.
Next thing you know they’re cupping their Julius Caesars, being led to stand in a line and shackled, naked, to the ground.
It’s at this point I have to double-check I’m not actually watching a documentary about torture but am still, most definitely, on ITV2.
But then, somehow, it turns out, this isn’t the most horrific thing that happens in this amphitheatre.
Enter the girlfriends. In scenes that would make Mary Beard weep, they are then made to eschew their clothing for that very traditional Roman attire of gold lamé bikinis.
A quick check that we’re still in 2017 and that feminism is alive and well, the women are then tasked with scrabbling around in the sand on their hands and knees as they desperately try to hunt out parcels of clothing that have been buried for their men. But there’s a problem with this. Well, aside from the umpteen glaringly obvious problems with this, there’s a conundrum.
There are eight girls and only six bundles of togas, meaning the women are told to fight tooth and nail over bags of clothes and, if needs be, wrestle each other to secure the packages that will ensure their man’s package can be secured.
In a heartbeat, Bromans goes from light-hearted bants to savage scenes of girls getting their hair-pulled, being rugby-tackled and attacking each other. One girl is even left with blood oozing from her arm after a sustained wrangling. It’s the sort of stuff that the police would be called to if it happened at a Wetherspoons at 1am but makes for lols on ITV2 at 9pm.
It is meant to be funny, but actually ends up feeling like dark-as-hell Lord of the Flies shit that wouldn’t have felt out of place in actual 753 BC.
After this baptism of fire, a bunch of other stupid stuff happens next.
The couples go to ‘Club Colusseum’ to knock back Shiraz and Stella like the Romans did and there’s a bit of chariot racing, with the blokes as the horses (one actually calls himself a “stallion” and whinnies – it’s so pathetic that you actually feel a bit sad for him that this has been documented on camera).
Then for the second time in 44 minutes, someone is left covered in blood as a bloke stacks it in the alleyway while charging forward with his chariot.
The upcoming challenges look like the world’s worst HIIT class led by a psychopath who just happens to look like Tornado from Gladiators. But wait, bloody hell, that actually is Tornado from Gladiators.
David McIntosh, a man who should come with a warning that reads ‘contains 90% protein’, arrives wearing a strappy, flappy leather skirt as he bellows at the men to show their girlfriends what they’re made of.
Some more muscling and tussling and timed challenges later and one of the couples has to be eliminated. Mugging off Love Island, the Bromans who aren’t in the bottom two have to decide which one of the boys they want to save by going and standing behind him.
Informed that “all roads lead to home” (hands down the best quip of the whole episode), it’s a landslide defeat for one.
At this point in the programme, it feels like he could be about to have his head sliced off so it comes as something of a relief when this bloke is (again) stripped entirely of his clothes and made to walk solemnly out of the arena with his dignity and his dong tucked firmly out of sight.
To ensure he’s been entirely rid of any remaining fragments of self-esteem, David McIntosh puts a lit torch to an effigy of the loser’s face and his image is burnt to a crisp, the charred remains of his gob drifting off into the faux-Roman air.
It’s hard to think it can get any worse. And then you see the teaser for next week’s episode that shows the boys inserting their balls into Plaster of Paris and having moulds taken of their manhoods. Civilisation is almost certainly doomed.
Bromans starts Thursday 14th September at 9pm on ITV2