Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Modern Classic: Xena, Warrior Princess (1995)

The success of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys led to an inevitable spin-off that ultimately became just as popular as the parent series, if not more so.

Xena, Warrior Princess premiered in 1995 after Xena (Lucy Lawless) had appeared in 3 episodes of Hercules. The story is that Xena was supposed to be killed off after her 3rd appearance, but she'd already become a fan favorite, such that the spin-off was warranted.

There has been a great deal of debate over whether or not Xena and her partner-in-peril, Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor), were carrying on a lesbian relationship during the course of the series. While we can't really say for sure, Xena did become a very popular show with the LGBT community. Not sure if Viacom's Logo, which serves the LGBT community, has ever acquired the rights to the series. You'd think they would've by now.

Towards the end of the series, as was the case with Hercules, Xena drifted into camp adventure and comedy. I'd stopped watching the series by that point. Just wasn't interested anymore, that's all.

Recently, it's been reported that NBC is looking at reviving Xena for next year, with original producers Robert Tapert and Sam Raimi already attached, and Lawless has expressed interest in participating.

Xena's weapon of choice, a chakram that doubles as her necklace, might've been inspired by the 70's Wonder Woman series, in which the Amazing Amazon (Lynda Carter) often used her tiara like a chakram or boomerang. Similarly, Jana of the Jungle, an animated series that aired in 1978, had its titular heroine wearing a chakram/necklace as well.

Here's a 1st season intro:

The only reason I can think of for NBC rebooting Xena would be to grab an extra piece of the genre pie, as one online writer already suggested that Xena would be coupled with Grimm on Fridays, where Constantine and others have failed the last 4 seasons. I disagree with this logic. Since Xena is technically a superhero in the mold of Wonder Woman, using the revival as counter-programming to any of the comic book series currently on the air (i.e. Arrow, Walking Dead, Flash) makes more sense, and isn't as much of a risk.

Rating: B.


Samuel Wilson said...

A Xena revival would really take modern TV full circle, since the original show pioneered to a great extent in building entire seasons around metaplots, the best example being its fourth season, which began with a prophecy of Xena and Gabrielle getting crucified by the Romans, spent a lot of time watching them try to dodge or disprove it, but delivered the goods, so to speak, at the end, only to resurrect them (briefly as angels) at the start of Season Five. The show didn't really get more campy as it went along. The overall tone was lighter in the first two seasons, but every season had its share of comedy episodes, most of which were pretty bad. You probably won't see that sort of thing in any revival.

hobbyfan said...

By modern TV, you mean genre shows like Xena, and, in today's world, Flash, Arrow, and maybe Grimm. Why don't they revive Hercules for TV while they're at it? The two movies, including the one with Dwayne Johnson, weren't exactly blockbusters at the box office.

We're already seeing X-Files return, and now Xena. What's next? Reviving Babylon 5?

SaturdayMorningFan said...

There were articles online last year about how JMS wants to revive Babylon 5, and he said he planned on starting production in 2016. One article said feature film, another talked about the possibility of getting Netflix to produce a series. I don't know what the current status of this is, however. BTW, B5 was the first American TV series with a strong story arc, I believe. The pilot aired in February of 1993, with the series proper airing in January of 1994. There had been minor arcs in American TV series before this (Star Trek: The Next Generation had a few small arcs, and I even encountered one in the sixth season of Adam Twelve from back in 1973!), but B5 was the first with an arc that really permeated the entire series.

Samuel Wilson said...

SaturdayMorningFan: That's a valid observation re: Babylon 5 and it'll be interesting to see JMS reboot himself after giving so many comic books the treatment, unless he's just picking up where he left off. I'm wondering how far we can trace the idea of a unifying story arc in non-soap shows. I was thinking of the final season of The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp, which would be in the early 1960s, where they did a run of shows building up to and following up on the OK Corral fight. I haven't seen enough to know whether the whole season worked that way but it definitely was exceptional for its time.

hobbyfan said...

Considering that there was a follow-up to Babylon 5 that didn't exactly fly as well, I'd say JMS might be looking at erasing that and rebooting. Which reminds me, I think I'll be looking at B5 down the line......

magicdog said...

I used to Love Xena but by the time the Angels & Demons storyline popped up and the duo's trip to India the show started to lose me. I don't even want to talk about the finale.

Part of the problem was that it strayed too far from its original premise, they had to deal with other gods from other cultures (I guess the Greek gods and goddesses weren't enough), and it kept pushing the boundaries with Xena's and Gabrielle's relationship. Both characters had serious and frequent relationships with male characters (Xena having bedding Hercules at one point, and Gabrielle having been married until her husband was murdered) and it made no sense to suddenly turn their friendship into something that had no preclusion. It was a turn off for me.

I remember people talked about making Lucy Lawless the new "Wonder Woman" (and she would have fit the costume and role well had TPTB jumped on it) but Xena in a way was WW in her own way.

hobbyfan said...

When they started hinting at a lesbian relationship between Xena & Gabrielle, it was done in response to the growing LGBT audience that was following the show. The shift in creative direction didn't help.

Lucy Lawless did get to play Wonder Woman, albeit in an animated movie.