NZ Herald

4 November 1999

Death-knell for our legendary warriors

04.11.1999 By Fiona Rae

Television is often accused of blurring fantasy and reality - and that's just the news.

But if there was one place where the humble viewer didn't have to pick a way carefully through the newspeak and doublethink, it was the fantasy world of Hercules and Xena.

Sadly, TV3 has perpetrated a minor crime by scheduling Hercules: The Legendary Journeys at 3 pm on a Saturday. 3 pm! This is a very bad time, what with summer on the way and all.

But apparently New Zealanders have little taste for these fantas-tical, tongue-in-cheek, SFX-laden programmes, despite the fact that they're made near Auckland and star many of the nation's finest and more besides.

Both Hercules and Xena are combinations of wry Kiwi humour and invention and Yank showbiz nous. They give our actors experience, international exposure and a chance - one they'll never get on Jacksons Wharf - to ham it up I must have already blathered on about their effect on our film industry, how nearly everyone working on Lord of the Rings has Hercules or Xena somewhere on their CV. The only problem for actors is the danger of being typecast.

In America, Xena and Herc are in the top 20 syndicated shows, though Xena is more popular. Despite this, Hercules has been canned and the final show is only a couple of weeks away. Kevin Sorbo clearly thinks that six years of wandering around Keri-keri in leather pants is enough - at least he can cut his hair and stop being so nice all the time.

If his career doesn't take off there's always a lifetime's worth of Hercules conventions to attend.

And where has Xena, our lady of the leather wonderbra, gone? Will we ever get to see the latest series where Lucy Lawless' pregnancy was written in as an immaculate conception? Appar-ently TV3 has just as much trouble scheduling Xena as it has had with Hercules.

Thankfully, the production set-up for Hercules hasn't just crumbled at the whim of the American public. The gap has been filled by two new shows, Jack of All Trades and Cleopatra 2525.

Jack, which stars Bruce Campbell (Xena's Autolycus) and our own Angela Dotchin, is about a British Secret Service agent stationed on a Caribbean island in the early 18th century.

Dotchin made her mark in Young Hercules, another one we won't see, I suspect, even though it stars Dean O'Gorman and Jodie Rimmer.

Cleopatra is a babes-with-attitude futuristic actioner starring three athletic American women and Joel Tobeck. (Tobeck was in Topless Women, but Herc-watchers will know him as Ares' toady sidekick Strife, where he went vaguely Edward Scissorhands and hammed it up like no other.) Cleopatra is a frozen exotic dancer who thaws out in a future ruled by evil robots.

Both these shows go into production this month and start airing in America in January. Who knows when, or even if, they'll go to air here?

TV4 would seem to be their natural home - as it should be for Herc and Xena, really. It would certainly improve TV4's line-up. It could get rid of those really rubbishy, totally American-made fantasy/sci-fi shows like Deepwater Black and Lexx.

But at this stage we can but hope, video tapes at the ready. It's a hard life.

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