Dallas Morning News

10 February 2004

Swording things out: `Xena' gets a DVD befitting a Warrior Princess.

Byline: Tom Maurstad

DALLAS _ "Xena: Warrior Princess" is a TV series custom-made for a full-blown, more-is-more DVD package _ nine discs containing more than nine hours of bonus features in addition to a "complete and uncut" presentation of all 22 episodes in the third season.

The syndicated series that originally aired in the mid-`90s developed a deeply devoted following. And its legacy lives on through scores of fan sites on the Web. It's just the sort of show and audience relationship that has fans clamoring for every behind-the-scenes detail they can get.

For the uninitiated, "Xena: Warrior Princess" is a spin-off of "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys," but it quickly outpaced that adventure series. Think of the show as a "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" for adults _ unabashedly low-scale production values, laugh-out-loud costumes and radio-days dialogue. It could be the funniest show on Comedy Central or Cartoon Network's Adult Swim without changing a thing.

The star who played TV's female Conan the Barbarian was Lucy Lawless. Let's see: a foreign-born actor whose breakthrough role was as an ancient, sword-swinging warrior _ apparently Lawless is the future governor of California. "Xena" is almost irresistibly goofy, and at the center of that appeal is Lawless, who brings just the right balance of charisma and camp to the role.

Watching this show is instructive in a lot of ways. Check out, for instance, the episode "The Bitter Suite." The story is performed as musical, full of songs and surreal sights. And this episode aired five years before "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" would broadcast its much-ballyhooed musical episode.

For a measure of just how over-the-top this series was in its adventures-in-sillyland approach, just check out the audio commentaries, especially those between Lawless and her co-star, Renee O'Connor (Xena's sidekick, Gabrielle). Their comments are a steady stream of giggles and wonder-struck exclamations. But they also speak with real affection for the show. It's easy to understand why: "Xena" is one of those rare shows that seems to have been almost as much fun to make as it is to watch.

There are all the usual special-feature suspects _ interviews and photo galleries and behind-the-scenes documentaries _ all of which are precisely as rewarding to watch as your level of Xena-mania dictates.

The package includes the latest reason for declaring a "deleted scenes" moratorium. You would think a show as fundamentally ridiculous as "Xena" would rack up all sorts of hilarious outtakes, all manner of head-thwacking swordplay or oops-there-it-is "wardrobe malfunctions." You would be wrong.

Yet again, it's lots of actors laughing at something happening off-camera or spacing out for a moment. One thing a warrior princess should never be is boring.


"Xena: Warrior Princess Season 3"

Grade: B-

Starring Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Kevin Smith. Unrated (campy violence, metal bustiers). More than 1,400 min. $69.98