Starz back in ‘Spartacus’ mode

Cabler orders prequel to Friday night gladiator series

Swords and sandals remain the garb du jour at Starz.

Cabler has given the go-ahead for a six-part prequel to “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” the Andy Whitfield series that — along with comedy “Party Down” — has helped Starz become a player in original scripted programming.

Lucy Lawless and John Hannah will co-star in the untitled skein, with Whitfield making only a brief appearance. Pre-production is under way, and filming will begin this summer in New Zealand. Show is scheduled to air in January.

Starz gave “Spartacus” a second-season renewal even before it premiered, but production has been halted since Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Ratings for the just-concluded season were solid. Show averaged 1.2 million viewers during its Friday night timeslot, and viewers in the 18-49 demo nearly doubled to 725,000 by season’s end.

With former HBO topper CEO Chris Albrecht in charge, Starz is ramping up its slate with a continued emphasis on period dramas.

In development is “Men of the Dusk,” from writer S. Craig Zahler. Show examines a former Confederate soldier who oversees a group of workers who transport items and people from town to town. Albrecht is also working with former NBC chieftain Ben Silverman and his Electus shingle, with “William the Conqueror” and “Peacekeeper” in the Starz pipeline.

“Blood and Sand” is produced by Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen and Steven S. DeKnight.

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