The Tampa Tribune

17 June 2001

Oh! The woes of zero Xena!

Farewell, Warrior Princess. How will we miss thee, Xena?

Let's us count the ways.

1. No more quadruple flips in the air.

2. No more bungling breast plates.

3. No more campy adventures in whatever wild mythical land this saga takes place.

4. No more kicking butt and taking names.

5. No more suggestive glances between Xena and Gabrielle, suggesting the bisexual undercurrent that has made this show a hit with lesbian viewers.

6. No more leather-and-metal outfits that look like they came from Dominatrix or Us.

After six wacky seasons, the curtain falls Monday night at 8 on WMOR-TV, Channel 32, in a two-hour finale for "Xena: Warrior Princess."

Launched in 1995 as a spinoff from "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, " this syndicated fantasy became an international sensation.

Xena, played by 5-foot-11 Lucy Lawless, was introduced as the evil leader of a rampaging army out to kill Herc (Kevin Sorbo). Of course, that was impossible. Hercules easily defeated her army but Xena lived on to become Herc's lover and finally get her own series.

She switched sides and became a good gal - but was haunted by her evil past.

Both "Xena" and "Hercules" developed cult followings thanks to the tongue-in-cheek scripts from Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert, filmmakers who created the wickedly funny "Evil Dead" film series. Heavy doses of sex and special effects helped, too.

Xena's popularity surpassed Hercules and the show became the highest- rated syndicated drama in the late 1990s

Xena also emerged as the more interesting character - not only was she sexy, she was strong. The perfect anthesis to the wafer-thin, whiny Ally McBeal, Xena is a hearty woman who doesn't need a man.

In fact, one of the more intriguing aspects of the show is the implication that Xena and her faithful sidekick Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor) are more than just friends.

Check out the Allscifi.comWeb site for "37 reasons why Xena and Gabrielle are ... you know ..."

At the peak of the show's popularity (1997-99), gay and lesbian bars held Xena-watching parties and Xena look-alike contests. The show's popularity has waned since '99. The writers apparently ran out of ideas and things started falling apart when Xena and Garbielle started time-traveling to modern settings.

Lawless, a New Zealand native, was not the first choice to play Xena. Vanessa Angel, of the short-lived "Weird Science" series and the film "Kingpin," was pegged for the role but fell ill.

The producers, who were filming in New Zealand, picked Lawless, a local actor who has appeared in small parts in previous "Hercules" episodes. Lawless, 33, married producer Tapert in 1998.

In an interview with the Tribune in 1998, Lawless said she thought the show worked because of its sense of humor and the appeal of a mythical fantasy world.

"We may look like a simple action show but it's all done with a clever wink," she said. "It works on two levels. Those just looking for a fight and some sexy women can enjoy it as well as those who appreciate the humor."

In a 1997 survey of schoolchildren, Xena ranked second to Chelsea Clinton on the girls' most-admired list.

Fan mail from teenage boys and retired men flooded Lawless's mailbox. And there was that lesbian connection. While the show never openly dove into a romance between Xena and Gabrielle, it was slyly hinted. Their friendship could also be interpreted as just a strong bond between two women.

Lawless once joked that it was great to be television's first universal sex symbol.


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