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Scanned/Transcribed by MaryD
BESIDES the fact that one syndicated action series was spun off from the other, Saturday's season premieres of "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and its sister series, "Xena: Warrior Princess," have one thing in common: the Three Stooges.
The season opener of "Hercules" has Herc (Kevin Sorbo), accompanied by occasional guest star Bruce Campbell as the King of Thieves, ascending a magic beanstalk and encountering, among other things, some Harpy eggs. The Harpies hatch, turn into Gremlin-like little creatures, and are last seen poking each other's eyes and punching each other's heads in classic Stooges fashion.
Meanwhile, on the opener of "Xena," instead of cute Harpies we get even cuter Furies — three gorgeous, punkish, scantily clad women, who cast a spell to drive Xena (Lucy Lawless) mad. The spell strikes Xena in midbattle and turns her from a fierce, no-nonsense warrior princess into an eye-poking, head-punching, woo-woo-whooping Stooge.
It's the sort of pop culture cross-pollination that makes both of these series so much fun. Since
the success of both "Hercules" and "Xena," more than a half-dozen action series — featuring the likes of Sinbad, Tarzan, Conan and Robin Hood — have tried to adapt or steal the same formula. None has succeeded. That's because, in both "Hercules" and "Xena," the special effects are first-rate and imaginative, the mythical worlds are depicted and populated with wit and style, and the action scenes are choreographed with an abandon and glee matched only by Pacific Rim action movies. (Violence-counters with no sense of humor could gorge themselves on these series: the first fight scene in this particular "Xena" includes 15 punches, eight sword thrusts, four head butts, one flip, one nose pull, six kicks and 10 whacks with sticks — and that's all before the opening credits.) That said, "Xena" has the edge over her male counterpart Lawless is a very good actress, and this season opener, veering wildly between silly comedy and surprisingly effective drama, shows off her skills to great advantage. (It also shows off, for the record, the first nude scene in "Xena" history.)
Give credit, too, to the supporting and recurring casts. "Hercules" gets great mileage out of Michael Hurst as sidekick Iolaus and Alexandra Tydings as flighty Aphrodite, while "Xena" has Renee O'Connor as sidekick Gabrielle, Ted Raimi as clownish Joxer and Hudson Leick as evil but alluring Callisto.
These crews, and these shows, are so good, they make Sinbad look even Sin-worse.
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