Hercules: The Legendary Journeys -- 1 Season


Sci-Fi Universe #10
Herc's So Good

by Dan Vebber

<...> When faced with the prospect of a weekly series that would pick up where the Action Pack movies left off, Tapert realized he was stuck with a main character who was devoid of motivation. "We had completed what we saw as being an arc in the five movies, where Herc got married, had a family, had a midlife crisis and came home at the end," says Tapert. "When we started the series, we started the series, we realized that we had a hero who was married and had a family, and that made it hard for him to go off and be heroic." To remedy this situation, Tapert did the obvious, if horribly cruel, thing: He killed off Hercules' family. One major factor which sets Tapert's Hercules apart from most previous interpretations is the lack of a direct rapport between the mortals and the gods of Mount Olympus. Zeus appeared as a recurring character played by Anthony Quinn in the five two-hour movies, but because the first episode of the show established that Zeus didn't protect Hercules's family from Hera's jealous wrath, we can understand why Hercules wants nothing to do with his Olympus-dwelling dad. While Tapert doesn't deny the inevitability of a father-son reunion at some point in the future, keeping the gods out of the show was initially a conscious decision on his and Raimi's part. "It never worked for me in "Clash of the Titans" and in the old Harryhausen films, to look down in the water and see the gods in their white togas," Tapert says. "So we've decided to downplay them and rely instead on some of the lesser gods. Basically we look at it as Hercules used to go to the giant family picnics with these gods, so he kind of knows them, but he thinks they're all a bunch of a--holes." <...>


PR Newswire

The successful combination of non-stop action and humor has made "Hercules" the breakout hit of the season in syndication.


Kevin Sorbo didn't want to play Hercules on TV
by Diane Werts

<...> When's the last time you saw a series that combined ancient myths with martial arts action, with babes in leather, chain mail and fur, with fire-throwing gods and she-demons who turn men to stone? When's the last time you saw so many lush locations on TV every week - verdant valleys, black-sand beaches, mountains, caves - all filled to the brim with hearty, glowing, pretty people. And when's the last time you heard a common man reject a royal woman with "I'd rather sleep in a dungeon with rats than share satin pillows with a viper"? (Certainly you haven't lately heard the retort she spat at him: "You insolent pig!") Yes, this Herc is a man for all seasons - uh, centuries. Sort of a regular-dude gentleman-farmer, who says he just wants to "curl up beside the fire with Deianeira and the kids." But just because he's the bastard son of god Zeus and therefore embodied with powers beyond that of other mortal men; and just because everybody's heard how his physical prowess once "dropped a giant like a bad habit" - just because of that, people keep coming around asking him to drop everything and save them from winged monsters, cackling slave masters or those capricious gods.

Mythological fame is a bitch. And so would have been making this delirious stew palatable if Raimi and Tapert hadn't found a star with Sorbo's common-sense charm. "We were going against the typical vision of what a Hercules was," says executive producer Tapert. "We were looking for a Joe Montana type - Hercules as the star quarterback. And Kevin really filled it. He's got those wonderful blue eyes that come across onscreen. And he has what I call, being from Detroit, a wonderful midwestern accessibility factor. He's not a dark and brooding guy. He's somebody you could invite back into your living room week after week."
He's also somebody who can keep a straight face spouting that dungeon-with-rats /satin-sheets-with-viper dialogue. Yet, the show's time-tripping attitude is too much even for him sometimes. Luckily, "they've given us a lot of creative control - rewriting on the spot, basically," to make that mad mix of ancient myths and insouciant '90s slang fly. "There are points where I'm like, 'Hey dudes' in the script, just a little too Nineties for me. I have my pen when I'm reading the script, and I circle stuff," asking the producers for changes. "Nine times out of ten, they will say, 'Yeah, that makes more sense.' " However, he argued over the dungeon line and lost, Sorbo reports with a chagrined grin. "I find downplaying those lines makes it work better than really trying to deliver it or get into it."

His easygoing style impresses even Bruce Campbell, who flew down across the dateline earlier this year to make his directing debut with the recent episode. Sorbo enjoyed the camaraderie, especially when Campbell told him, "It's funny just watching you do these scenes, because I read this stuff and I'm goin' 'This is crap. I could never say this.' I look at you, and I feel like your voice is dubbed for some reason,' " Sorbo reports with a laugh, " 'like somebody else is saying those words.' "
Which only adds to the loopy fun in this gleefully stylish genre-bender. Herc is a virile comic-book hero one second, a dutiful mama's boy the next, and a quipster after that. He was even a loving dad last season. Though Sorbo remains single, <...> he had a nice fatherly way about him in scenes with Herc's kids. While Sorbo says he understands the reasoning behind the producers' decision - "It would not look good for my character to be circumnavigating the globe and forgetting that I have a family back home" - he still wishes "they wouldn't have killed off the children, and I've told them that many times." After all, Herc could've parked 'em with grandma. Now he's footloose and family-free, but after that tragedy he's even more determined to defend the weak and the virtuous. "They're trying to keep the moral issue big with Hercules, and I'm all for that."

They're also trying to juice up the sex appeal. Hercules has recently found himself first bedeviled and then bewitched by the warrior princess Xena (played by Lucy Lawless, and yes, Sorbo says, that is her real name; he asked her, first thing). Xena's departure should free up Herc to really play the field, but Sorbo promises his character won't turn into "Captain Kirk, where every show he's doing some green woman from some planet somewhere. I would fight against that, and so far they haven't really brought that up."


Entertainment weekly

Macho, Macho Man; the surprise hit H:TLJ - pumps up the ancient myth with dopey dialogue, kung fu fighting, and a heafty dose of hokey humor
by Ken Tucker

Dusting off my old schoolboy copy of Edith Hamilton's Mythology in order to grapple with the goofy wonder that is H:TLJ, I came across this description of the ancient Greek hero: "Intelligence did not figure largely in anything he did and was often conspicuously absent." Bingo! So H:TLJ, absurdly popular and supremely silly, turns out to be more faithful to mythological fact than I had expected. If, as Hamilton suggests, Hercules was just a really strong dumb guy, this TV series has him down cold. As played by Kevin Sorbo, Hercules is the sort of muscular adventurer who, walking down a leafy lane, meets a little girl who suddenly turns into a two-headed monster. After slaying this creature, Hercules tells his friends about it this way: "I met a kid on the road. She turned into a thing - totally unprovoked."
Hercules is meant to be a period piece; the opening-credit voice-over helpfully informs us that the show is set in "a time... when the ancient gods were petty and cruel." The series' centuries-of-old scenes are actually filmed in a rustic section of New Zealand. The makers of Hercules apparently don't want to slow down their viewing audience with the sort of stilted, formal language that's supposed to make historical epics seem realistic. Thus, in this new version we have the traditional spectacle of ancients in sandals traveling by oxcart, but when they open their mouths, they're likely to say things such as, "Boy, you sure know how to show a guy a good time," and "Maybe it's time to hang up the old sandals."
Previous pop-culture versions of Hercules were often cheap, fleshy epics surrounded by high-mindedness. H:TLJ, by contrast, features some pretty impressive special effects and unfettered horniness: in one episode, a scantily clad maiden is trussed up bondage-style. Hercules tries to rescue her, but he's gone temporarily blind (!), so when he reaches out, he almost accidently touches (tee-hee!) her breast.
There's nothing approaching wit in Hercules - the humor is very broad, right down to the ludicrously inappropriate kung fu moves that these folks break into during fistfights. But the plentiful, exaggerated action scenes, combined with Sorbo's low-key, I-know-I'm-a-big-dumb-guy attitude, make this show a magnet for kids and a soothing brain-cooler for adults slack-jawed in front of their TVs. H:TLJ has, in its debut season, proven to be the highest-rated new show in syndication.


Caring Demigod Kicks Butt

by Rick Marin

The first surprising thing about H:TLJ is that it isn't dubbed. It's not some strutting body-builder in a toga battling crude special effects on an Italian back lot. This is an all-American Hercules repackaged for TV with big-screen production values and a knowing '90s sensibility. When he kicks butt, it's with empathy. Instead of killing the giant one-eyed Cyclops, he slaps him around, then tries to boost the big fella's low self-esteem. We're talking about a demigod whose strength is "surpassed only by the power of his heart." Did we mention he kicks major butt? In only a few months H:TLJ has turned into one of the top-rated weekly series in syndication.
Even more shocking is that "Hercules" is actually good. Two guys see to that: executive producer Sam Raimi and star Kevin Sorbo. Raimi is a movie director with a talent for genre pop (from "The Evil Dead" to "The Quick and the Dead"). Sorbo is a supremely relaxed Minnesotan whose primary acting credits have been hunk-for-hire spots selling Diet Coke and Budweiser. At 6 feet 3, Sorbo is buff without being steroidal. His feathered hair is cut by way of Fabio. Somehow he gets away with it, his azure eyes hinting at a brain and a sly sense of humor. "We wanted to make him like a Western hero," says Raimi, "not a muscleman in a toga." Martial-arts mayhem and semiclad babes keep men riveted. The violence is cartoony enough for parents not to mind kids winching. And Greek mythology is educational. Raimi and Sorbo make it cool. Their Herc speaks in regular-dude dialogue: no faux-classical "thee's" and "thou's." He doesn't carry a weapon and kills only when the plot demands. He wants to help. He understands people's problems because he's got a few of his own, like being from the original dysfunctional family. Dad is Zeus, king of the gods. Mom is merely mortal. As our hero says with a casual shrug, "I'm undefeated."


People #44

SORBO THE GREEK - as TV's new Hercules, Minnesota's Kevin Sorbo gives the mythic muscleman a sensitive spin
by Kirsten Warner (?)

<...> Sorbo plays Hercules as something more than beefcake in leather briefs. This Herc is conscious of doing good, able to verbalize his feelings and, unlike his legendary forebear, has learned to avoid losing his cool and wreaking untold destruction. "It's a '90s Hercules," says producer Eric Gruendemann. "Strong yet sensitive at the same time." Says Sorbo: "Hercules isn't a monosyllabic jerk. He's affable, makes mistakes." In addition to this gentle giant, Hercules boasts computer-generated effects, savage but seductive women and dialogue firmly in the Italian gladiator-movie tradition ("I'd rather sleep in a dungeon with rats than share satin pillows with a viper!"). And of course there is the primordial beauty of New Zealand, where the foliage is lush and production costs are low. With all this, Hercules, which started in 1993 as a string of TV movies, has in its first regular season bounded to the top ranks of syndicated shows in the U.S., running neck-and-neck with Baywatch. <...>


Starbiz 95
Great muscles, real vulnerability - what a combination!

His show is a surprise hit of the season, and this talented and luscious-looking actor has worked hard to earn all the attention he's getting today! With his Nordic background, deep blue eyes, 6'3" frame and sun-kissed light-brown hair, Kevin Sorbo is making waves every week on H:TLJ. But, what's so different about this Hercules? As played by Kevin, he's not only tall, handsome, rugged and strong, but gentle, sensitive, kind, loving... we can go on and on and on! Kevin sums it up best when he says Hercules is more human than god. "He makes mistakes and knows he's not perfect." Kevin's Hercules is not at all like the versions depicted in the past. He doesn't go around acting like Mr. Macho Man, and, in fact, won't even kiss the girl (generally to her dismay!) unless he feels a special bond. That's what attracts his series to the female audience. Oh, the guys go for the sexy warrior ladies and gorgeous damsels in distress, disgusting monsters, masculine comraderie, battles and sorcery, but it's Kevin's softer portrayal of the man that makes him so appealing to women of all ages. "Hercules has a lot of my personality," says Kevin, as he sips on bottled water and towels off after a 90-minute workout. "The character has a sense of humor and isn't afraid to show his vulnerability." <...>


Broadcasting & Cable #34
MCA muscles in on action hours

by D.Tobenkin

<...> With the syndication and network markets littered with the cancellations of action hour projects, Tapert says it is the pair's theatrical approach to the action and suspense elements in their shows that sets them apart. "I think we bring a greater and wilder action than normal," he says. "Hercules is a big barroom brawl on a massive scale." They [Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert] also give credit to "Hercules" himself, Kevin Sorbo, who they say strikes an appealing balance between camp and a strong image that makes an impression on adults, teens and kids.
Despite their use of visual effects and action, shows like H:TLJ, concludes Tapert, are no less in need of good writing. "After looking at all the episodes and which ones have rerun best, we realized the shows that did the best weren't those with the best special effects. The episodes that rerun the best are the ones with good stories, good villains and some sort of moral and redemption to them. We're trying to create stories that flow out of personality and goals."


Official graphics MCA TV, Universal

2005 KSJAA

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