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Starz to end ‘Spartacus’ after season 3

Cabler aims for strong sendoff to top-rated original series

Starz will bring the curtain down on “Spartacus” after the drama series’ upcoming third season.

Pay cabler said Monday the decision was made in tandem with series creator/exec producer Steven DeKnight to allow the sword-and-sandal drama to go out on a high note. “Spartacus” ranks as Starz’s highest-rated original series by a wide margin.

DeKnight said the reasoning came down an understanding that “the story was best served by rolling all of the remaining action and drama of Spartacus’ journey into one stunningly epic season that will be extremely satisfying for everyone who’s been along for the ride.”

The show has persevered in the face of behind-the-scenes drama. The series’ original Spartacus, the late British thesp Andy Whitfield, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma after the first season bowed in 2010. Starz delayed the start of season two to allow Whitfield to undergo treatment, which spurred the production of a six-episode prequel series, “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.”

After Whitfield’s death in September 2011, the lead role was recast with Liam McIntyre playing the legendary Thracian warrior who led a slave rebellion against his Roman oppressors. “Spartacus: Vegeance” aired earlier this year. The concluding 10-episode season, “Spartacus: War of the Damned,” will bow in January 2013.

Starz prexy Chris Albrecht praised the show’s distinctive visual style and the work of DeKnight and exec producers Rob Tapert, Josh Donen and Sam Raimi. “Spartacus” has been a strong seller for Starz in overseas markets, airing in more than 150 countries.

“While everyone may know the fate of Spartacus, we believe this will be a spectacular season that will startle, amaze and honor the legions of fans,” Albrecht said.

Starz has an overall deal with DeKnight and is likely to stay in biz with the scribe. Cabler has also given a series order to another hourlong, “Noir,” shepherded by Raimi, Tapert and Donen.

Starz’s original series roster has expanded in the past year beyond the action genre to include Kelsey Grammer’s moody political drama “Boss” and the 1960s-set “Magic City.” Albrecht also recently gave an eight-episode order to a pirate drama, “Black Sails,” produced by Michael Bay.

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