Friday, March 25, 2011

Clonin' the Barbarian: WIZARDS AND WARRIORS (1983)

As we mentioned in our Indiana Jones rip-offs coverage, the folks working on the boobtube also liked to get in on that carbon copy action.  CBS got Indiana-fever in the fall of 1982 with the adventure series BRING ‘EM BACK ALIVE.  It only lasted one season. Ironically, its mid-season replacement in February 1983 was the fantasy series WIZARDS AND WARRIORS, the Big Eye’s attempt to the cash in on the sword and sorcery crazy begat by the likes of CONAN THE BARBARIAN and Dungeons and Dragons.  Can you guess how that worked out?

WIZARDS AND WARRIORS focused on Prince Erik Greystone (Jeff Conaway, of GREASE and TAXI fame; really!) who has to deal with ditzy Princess Ariel (Julia Duffy) in the Kingdom of Camarand.  Naturally, villainy is afoot in the form of Prince Dirk Blackpool (Duncan Regehr), who is assisted wizard Vector (Clive Revell) in his attempts to thwart the neighboring kingdom.  Helping Erik along the way is his faithful servant Marko (Walter Olkewicz).

Originally developed under the title GREYSTONE’S ODYSSEY, WIZARDS was created by veteran TV writer-producer Don Reo. While it was developed in 1981 pre-CONAN release, there is no doubt that seeing the Cimmerian rack up over $100 million worldwide at the box office that got the series the green light. I’ve never actually had a chance to see this show, but all information indicates it maintained a much lighter, comedic tone than stuff like CONAN THE BARBARIAN.  As producer Reo told Starlog of the show:
“Actually, it’s nowhere near Monty Python’s broad humor, but then again, it’s nowhere near as somber and serious as CONAN.  It’s smack dab in the middle between the two, though we don’t have CONAN’s elaborate stunt action.”
CBS certainly seemed to be behind the project as it was – at the time – the most expensive TV series on television with the pilot being budgeted at $2.5 million and each subsequent episode costing roughly $1 million to produce.  To cut costs, they even used battle footage from Warner Bros. feature EXCALIBUR.

Unfortunately, the CBS execs maintained their programming ineptitude from the previous season.  Like the aforementioned ALIVE, WIZARDS didn’t stand much of a chance as the brains again programmed it against established popular shows on a Saturday night (ABC’s T.J. HOOKER and NBC’s DIFF’RENT STROKES and SILVER SPOONS). That is like spending tons of money to teach me to play basketball and then putting me in a game of one-on-one with LeBron James.  It is a shame too as the series garnered positive reviews (see below).  Even more ironic, this type of fantasy-comedy mix proved to be a rousing success just a few years later with Rob Reiner’s THE PRINCESS BRIDE (the source novel for that film being an inspiration for producer Reo here).  The show was yanked after only airing eight episodes, but has maintained a small cult following over the ensuing years.  If you look hard enough, you can find people selling the episodes online and, if it really entrances you, there is an in-depth fan site to check out.

Variety review, March 2, 1983:

Cinefantastique review (click for full size):

Starlog coverage (click for full size):

1 Reactions:

  1. Mr. Wilson -

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    After trying and failing for months to join the Mobius forums for contact I finally stumbled upon this blog while Googling for Spider-Man posters of all things -
    My name is Martin and I run the blog
    You have something in your collection I'd love to discuss so if you'd email me @ that would be great - I'll trawl through this awesome blog while I wait...!


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