Hercules: The Legendary Journeys -- 3 Season
Articles

 

09.96
Black Belt, vol. 34, no. 9
What Puts the Punch in Hercules and Xena?

by Dr. Craig D. Reid

Imaginative blend of cross-cultural fantasy and reality is further enhanced by the fresh, exotic and spectacular scenery of New Zealand, where the series is shot. Set in the golden age of Greek mythology, Hercules (played by Kevin Sorbo) uses his wits, courage and strength to defend the poor, virtuous and downtrodden, and in doing so, is forced to battle an outrageous array of demons, beasts and gods bent on destroying him.
Peter Bell, stunt coordinator: "Although Kevin is not martial artist, most of the stunt team are boxers and martial artists, and they have to be good fall guys. In order for a fight to work, you've got to have the stunt people sell the hit. Things like flying through the air and somersaults can make a fight look far more visual. If people who watch the fight cringe after a guy hits the deck, then it's a good fight." According to Bell, one of the keys to a successful fight scene is adding emotion to the techniques. "There's only so many techniques you can put in a fight, so we bring out the emotions of a fight by using different camera angles and speeds. When Hercules hits someone, he sends him flying. For that effect, we'll either use 'jerk harnesses,' 'jerk rams' or and 'air ram' to launch the assailant through the air. The air rams can throw someone 10-12 feet up or 20-30 feet out. When Hercules picks someone up and hangs them by their ankles or carries him around like a shield, we just use simple wire rigs. All these things can help me change the look of the fights. With Kevin, we use more air rams, swings and jerk rams. With either actor, it's not good to put in too many fancy kicks in the fights, because I've got to make it look like they're really doing it. However, with some kicks, I can get them to start the kick, then a double can finish it."
Adds Tapert: "Although we wanted to emulate Hong Kong's style of action in H:TLJ, we quickly found out that we couldn't incorporate a lot of the acrobatics because we felt it was out of character for Herc. I love the fights in Xena, but Herc's fights are getting a bit dull and too repetitive. It's hard with a guy who punches people to continue to come up with new brawls that are interesting. We are continuing to try, but are being careful not to use too many gadgets."

 

16.09.96
Mediaweek #38
Old heroes live again

by Michael Freeman

How is it possible that medieval-era series such as H:TLJ and "Xena" - which lack the whiz-bang sci-fi gimmickry of a Star Trek - capture the collective imaginations of American and international viewing audiences? The answers are varied and not always that easy to qualify. On the surface, one thing is for sure; both take a decidedly revisionist view of history by injecting healthy doses of contemporary invention and humor - almost completely blurring the lines between myth and reality.
Undoubtedly, it's a formula that is connecting with viewers. And, typical of today's Hollywood mindset, it is spawning modern versions of similarly classic fables, Tarzan and Sinbad. "All I can think of is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," says Dan Filie, who, as vice president of MCA Television, is the executive in charge of H:TLJ and "Xena". "Clearly the success of Hercules and Xena is unique and may not be duplicable. In the end, viewers don't just watch genres, they simply watch good shows."

 

10.96
Writer's Digest #10
Sense and responsibility, the scriptwriter and society

by Lawrence DiTillio

<...> Truth is every bit as important as passion. However, it's a somewhat more flexible concept. In the context of your responsibilities, truth refers to being truthful to the characters, tone and milieu of the work. Two of my favorite shows - H:TLJ and "Xena" - are examples of this. Before these shows' creations, most fantasies involving mythic characters were played fairly straight - characters talked in pseudo-archaic style and avoided obvious references to contemporary things. Hercules and Xena take this notion and stand it on its head. Though both characters work in a milieu that is supposed to be Ancient Greece and its environs, they talk in contemporary style and are constantly tossing in sly references to contemporary life. If you were to look at this series with an eye to historical accuracy you'd come up painfully short. But the truth of both series is that they're not trying to be accurate; they're trying to be funny, offbeat and appealing to a contemporary audience. Yet at the same time, both shows are very truthful to their main and supporting characters, never deviating from who they are as presented by the creators of the shows.

 

05.10.96
Orange County Register
NZ actor Michael Hurst adds literate wit
as the sawed-off sidekick in 'Hercules'
by Kinney Littlefield

Hercules' headstrong comrade Iolaus packs the real parody punch on sly satire H:TLJ. "Yeah, they really like to throw me into mud and slime and stuff," agrees alter ego Michael Hurst, reflecting on Iolaus' plight during lunch at the Universal Studios commissary in Universal City. "Of course Kevin (Sorbo) does some comedy, too. But Iolaus is Everyman, so it's OK for him to fall over and trip up and not look before he leaps."
His finishing touch is a ditzy-blonde head wag straight from Reseda. It's this excess energy that enmeshes Iolaus in improbable mythological predicaments. Brave but impulsive, a guy who follows his heart, Iolaus frequently sparks Hercules' dire, death-defying adventures. True, faithful Iolaus occasionally has the hero's spotlight to himself one-armed cartwheel kicks and all as on last season's "King for a Day." No sweat for Hurst at all, since he's an experienced Shakespearean actor, director and fight choreographer in Australia and New Zealand plus a singer and dancer, and a fencing champion in his younger days. "You know I played Macbeth I think when I was 28 and he was actually a kind of serious Iolaus. I like to give Iolaus some poise and at the same time some rugged energy. I really use all my classical movement training on the show."
Then there's Iolaus the lover, as well as the fighter. Iolaus was briefly smitten with Xena's companion Gabrielle on a crossover episode. "I think we'll have another fling, too. I keep saying to the producers 'Iolaus and Gabrielle and Their Children' that show would have a big future.' Really, think about it. No joke, we're both small and blond." On occasional episodes Iolaus even seems cleverer than hunky hero Herc. After all, Iolaus invented surfing on last season's episode "The Apple," directed by Sorbo. In a major miscalculation, Herc pooh-poohed the fledgling sport.

Generally, though, Hurst plays witty second fiddle to Minnesota-born Sorbo's super-sexy Herc, who at 6 feet 3 towers over the Kiwi kid. "Yeah, they've got it down. If Hercules fights seven guys, I get to fight four. And they usually make me stand downhill from him, too." But that's looks, not licks. This season Hurst struts his stuff by directing the series' premiere episode, an unusually dark story called "The Mercenary." In it, a severely wounded and weakened Herc is stranded on a sandy island with a cutthroat criminal Derk for his companion as they're chased by ghoulish pirates and giant flesh-eating sand rays. I'm directing an American TV show that's a big deal. It's pretty cool. I'll be honest with you. When I got the role of Iolaus, people in New Zealand were going, 'Oh, it's an American show. And Hercules? It won't last.' Then there was the phase of, 'Oh, well, it does seem to be going on a little bit.'"
Now H:TLJ is striding into its third season as a globally successful series, consistently in the Top 10 or 15 of more than 110 syndicated shows in the United States. <...> H:TLJ will resume production this month, which means Hurst can continue one of his favorite pastimes of slipping sly ancient Greek references into the campy show. "Well, some of the fans are picking this up. I've been sticking quotations from Bronze Age poets into the show from the beginning. Some of the songs Iolaus sings are taken from a poet called Archilochos actually a real mercenary and poet around the time of Sappho. There's a song I got in for both Iolaus and Charon. It's about this woman who can drink wine in one go without taking a breath and then I stop because the rest describes the amazing sexual antics of this person, which are very erotic. A fan wrote me saying, 'I challenge you to sing the rest of that song!'" [Well here, can anybody help me with the name of the episode and correct Iolaus's quote?]

 

06.10.96
Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale)
We're being drawn into a comic-book world

by Jerome Weeks

Comics are our culture; comics are us. This year alone, 25 film projects based on comics are in the works or have been released. <...> All of this doesn't even count the movies and tube shows that, although they may not have a direct comic-book origin, clearly have a comic-book mentality. Consider Independence Day, The Simpsons, Star Trek, The X-Files, Ace Ventura, anything from Walt Disney, Escape From L.A., H:TLJ and X:WP, and just about the entire network schedules of Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and The Weather Channel.
(Herc photo was accompanied by the line: "Hercules, starring Kevin Sorbo, is a live-action TV series with a comic-book mentality.")

 

09.10.96
Press release

"As the ratings and a growing number of imitators indicate, H:TLJ and X:WP are now firmly entrenched as the top action-fantasy hours in the first-run arena," said Jim McNamara, president, MCA Worldwide Television Distribution. "The broad appeal of these two quality programs is reflected in the demographics, which shows them performing extremely strong among men and women of all age groups."
During the third quarter of 1996, H:TLJ was the top-rated syndicated action hour with a 5.3 household rating in the Nielson national barter rankings. Through Sept. 22, it had topped "Star Trek:Deep Space Nine" for 11 consecutive weeks and led in most of the key demographic categories.

 

15.10.96
San Diego Union Tribune
Xena Allure Makes Her Legend in His Own Mind

by Welton Jones

I stumbled across Xena <> What's the big attraction? Heroism - Atmosphere (lush, unspoiled scenery) - Attitude (casual hangout humor to solve deftly the problem of access between eras) - Casting - Stories.
Many of these elements are present in H:TLJ. Kevin Sorbo, a definite hunk with an easy, unforced charm, has grown into the lead role despite being less beefy than one might expect from the strongest man in the world. He gets the same great scenery, the same natural cool and the same rigid codes of ethics as Xena, plus they're both stuck with the same silly kung fu stuff. But Hercules is coated with centuries of stereotyping. Even audiences who can't name one of his 12 labors still know that he was gifted beyond most mortals and that he retired more or less undefeated.
They both handle the action with a hero's aplomb but she gleams with the added glow of the unexpected, a fictional hero both resourceful and efficient who also happens to be a major babe. After a good launch in 1994, Hercules' people seem to be going dry. The first two offerings of the new season were a standard two-rivals-against-the-real-baddies plot with some menace borrowed from Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic, "Dune," and a muddled tale about Daedalus, bummed at losing his son Icarus in the world's first plane crash, turning out weapons of mass destruction. The villains are mere cartoons, the plots are clumsy (a female scribe does a tiresome enterprising reporter bit) and Sorbo seems bemused to find himself, as the greatest hero in history, helping jolly peasants with their yardwork.
There's a temptation to see these two series as interchangeable. But "Xena" is pulling away in the subtlety stakes, thanks to the little mysteries that surround her past and her future. Take the sidekicks, for example. Each hero has a principal pal - a shorter, plainer, funnier and less perfect version of themselves - but Gabrielle is far more interesting than Iolaus. There was an Iolaus in the Hercules myths, a sort of assistant hero who was a big help during the Herculean labours. According to Plutarch, one of the best sources for the times [Plutarch (45-127 AD) - a priest of Apollo. More moralist than biographer and more fiction writer than historian or mythographer.], Iolaus inspired shrines "where lovers used to go and bind themselves by the most solemn oaths of fidelity, considering the place as sacred to love and friendship." Now that's a bit racy for a popular series, so Sorbo and Michael Hurst do a lot of guy stuff to compensate. But Xena and Gabrielle are another matter. When they cuddle, the air is charged with romance. And, believe me, the Internet is buzzing.
Unless you're really obsessed with metaphors, both shows are, finally, just well-crafted escapist nonsense. But Hercules, who already has had his centuries of fame, probably will fade away soon while Xena may turn out to have surprising legs, if you'll pardon the expression.

 

31.10.96
Daily News (New York)
'Herc,' 'Xena': Not to Be Mythed.

by David Bianculli

Scripts are inventive, the action sequences are playful and ambitious (owing a lot to action movies from Hong Kong and Japan), the special effects and camera work are witty and clever, and the leading players Kevin Sorbo as Hercules and Lucy Lawless as Xena strike just the right mixture of derring-do heroism and anachronistic sassiness. <...> But what has really pushed these two series onto a higher plane of TV camp is that H:TLJ and "Xena" are tapping heavily into the history and characters established in previous seasons.
If you watch these shows this weekend, you're bound and helpless as well bound to enjoy them, and helpless to submit.

 

09.11.96
TV Guide
Mything links

by Peter Richmond

"We hop around from century to century; we do whatever we want," Sorbo says between takes one day on a Mediterranean village set. "There are no rules. We make fun of ourselves I think people are tired of reality. I mean, ER is great, but I think you want an escape. And this thing has some sort of formula nothing on TV has right now.' Now, action figures and comic books are being spun off, and at the end of last season, 44 more episodes of each show were ordered. But neither show is resting on its laurels. After a messy shuffling of H:TLJ' writing staff last spring, prompted by a feud between Sorbo and former head writer John Schulian, Hercules' on-screen demeanor is going to become a little less heroic, according to executive producer Tapert. Tapert aims to dethrone "Deep Space 9" once and for all by gradually adding a more dramatic, darker, and mortal dimension to Sorbo's character this winter.
Depending on what the day's script calls for, filming will span from the beaches to the lush parks of the green-filled city itself. But most of the filming takes place on a 70-acre tract of overgrown vineyard just to the south. From the nearest paved road, the lot is a sprawl of brush and trees. But just a half-mile down a winding dirt road into the vineyard, a visitor suddenly discovers a medieval castle, a Moroccan village, an army camp of no discernible time or place and a stage that looks ominously like a sacrificial altar. "We wanted a lush environment with a time that's indefinable," producer Eric Gruendemann says. "We wanted to see if we could invent our own world." They have clearly succeeded.
<> And near the docks, behind the unassuming doors of the historic Auckland Municipal Markets building, the shows' cavernous costume department creates as many as 70 original costumes each week. On a typical day, costume designer Ngila Dickson sits in her industrial-loft-size shop, surrounded by seamstresses at work. "We always try to have a theme," Dickson says of the costumes she concocts for whatever armies have been written into the scripts. "You have to have some focus: 'Let's make them neo-ninga Nazis this week, shall we?' And away we go." As she speaks, Dickson's fingers idly stroke a rubber battle helmet she's just invented out of a mold made from a pineapple.

<...> Sorbo is eager to see the formula change. "I'd like to see more growth in Hercules," he says. Out of character, Sorbo is a mild-mannered sort with a self-deprecating sense of humor. "I'd like to see more dealing with his own personal life. I think there has to be some romantic interest. Make the stakes bigger in the show. I'm beginning to find repetition; I want to be challenged. As an actor I want to make myself better. Give me a chance to grow. I think there needs to be a bigger story. What's his view? What's his agenda?"
Sorbo's concerns, Tapert says, will soon be addressed, although the producers are limited in how much they can tinker with the formula. The merchandising machine won't tolerate too much of a slackening of Hercules' godliness, for one thing. For another, there's the demographic to consider. When they developed the show, Raimi and Tapert were aiming at a teenage audience. They hadn't anticipated Herc's popularity with the preadolescent set. "We've had him sleep with a woman once, and I got so many letters from parents who'd thought I'd violated something," Tapert says. "It's hard not to pay attention to the parents who trust we aren't going to turn him into someone promiscuous. "But I am going to shake up the formula for Hercules for January and February. We're going to do a big romantic arc with Hercules that will air in February. And we're going to play with his godlike powers."

 

(12).11.96
Total TV

by Scott Barwick

Kevin Sorbo: I actually read quite a few books about mythology when I was in junior high school. We discussed it in class. That was one of the cool things for me to find out, that a number of schools across America that are bringing mythology back because of the show. I get letters from teachers and principals. It blows me away, what the show has done in terms of... you know we don't get the same push a network show gets. I would love to be on a network. It would benefit me. It wouldn't benefit Universal anymore. They got the hit. They took the risk financially, and it paid off for them because they're making money in the foreign markets. I'm the only one who really benefits if it was on a network. <...> The large appeal of the show is that we don't take ourselves too seriously, and the audience knows it. We bring the audience in for the ride with us. And I think they really enjoy that because the initial run for the show was to say, "Hey, let's try to get the teenage kids and younger." But I get 80-year-old grandmothers writing me.
TTV: What do the grandmothers say?
KS: They say us older women love... (laughs) no us older women think you're a fox, too. So it's just very satisfying to find out that the show is a hit. I mean, I didn't predict it, but I just had a feeling it would do really well. I think I have something to do with it. It's me. It's Michael. It's the guest stars we have coming in. It's our crew. We have an amazing crew. I think the key is that for me, I'm still a kid. And I still love this show. I think it shows that we do. And we have a great time on the set. We work very long hours, 1214 hours a day. To work these kind of hours and still get a lot of people who don't want to kill anybody... I'm down here now over three years already.
TTV: What do you like about the show?
KS: I like the comedy. I like the fights. I like the comedy in the fights. To me, it's like... I was never much into these slasher movies. You know, Friday the 13th. I find that very disturbing. In this show, the fight scenes are done, for the most part... certainly, Herc can get angry. He can get really upset about things. He'll go nuts. And I'll keep that in its place, when it's appropriate for that place. In terms of most of the fights, it's done with a wink, wink. Michael and I, nothing to take away from the writers, we got great writers. Michael and I will come up with a lot of ad libs on the day we are doing the fight. We just finished a fight scene now that we didn't have these beats written in - in terms of where dialogue should have been - and our choreographer put the fight together. And once we rehearsed it a couple of times, and I start saying, "Well, why don't I just say this here." And Mike goes, "I can say this." Hit, hit, hit. Say something. Hit. It turned out very, very funny. We know the show. To me, that's the biggest appeal. I still think I'm this big jock, so I can do my own stunts. I enjoy doing them.

TTV: Who wins in a fight, Herc or Xena?
KS: Oh Herc, no problem. You know, it's funny. It's a question people write, and I find that a problem with the writers. It's sounds like I'm being nitpicky, jealous or petty or something, but the thing is, Hercules was a real mythological character. Xena is totally fabricated, made up, a spin-off of Hercules. The thing is, Hercules was the strongest person in the world. Period. And people sort of... this is one of my fights with the writers. I get that question a lot from fans. Is she a god, too? You guys have to draw the line. Because they even ask about Iolaus because Iolaus beats up guys easier than I do. I think that's part of the appeal of Hercules is that as affable as he is, as funny as he can be, and as human as he can be, part of the appeal to the watcher is that he still has this thing that we don't have. That's what's fun for me to play. But so far as the characters are, I said you've got to have a line in there somewhere because in a couple of episodes I had to be out of the country and they had Michael do some stuff that normally Herc does. You know, we get letters on that, and I send those letters to the writers. You see, this is where it's confusing for people.

 

30.11.96
Evening Post (Wellington, NZ)

TV3 has added more strength to its 1996 line-up by buying H:TLJ. The US syndicated TV hit has been shooting in Auckland since 1993. H:TLJ and X:WP have been a boon to the local film and TV industry, employing dozens of actors, 300 permanent crew and up to 100 casuals. By March they will have pumped $ 74 million into the economy.

 

12.96
SFX #19 (UK)
Behind The Scenes - Greek Heroes of the 90's - Hip or Myth?

by Joe Nazzaro

Ancient Greeks with Brooklyn accents and hip American attitudes? Sounds hideous? Well, it works, as Hercules and Xena have proven. Fantasy television is enjoying a renaissace lately, thanks to the mythical demi-god and a warrior princess.
John Schulian, the co-executive producer [former], devised a new template for the show, which no longer featured Zeus, but retained Herc's best friend Iolaus (Michael Hurst). To give the series extra impetus, Schulian also killed off Hercules' wife and kids, leaving our hero free to roam the country righting wrongs. "I think John was responsible for a lot of the direction we went in," says Bob Bielak, who wrote three freelance scripts for the first season and is now one of the show's co-executive producers. "First, he had to get rid of Herc's family. Otherwise, you've got a guy going off and doing heroic things and leaving his family at home alone, which is a no-no. Then you needed writers to come in and say, 'Okay, what kind of stories do I come up with?' I think that John was right when he said, 'Just think of it as a Western. We want the dialogue to be comtemporary but not hip, not "Yo, dude!" and not period dialogue, so look at Butch Cassidy.' That simplistic approach really helped ground the writers who came in."
One of the show's trademarks is its elaborate action sequences, which temper fastpaced cartoon violence with a healthy dollop of humour. "That's one of our main calling cards," agrees John Schulian. "H:TLJ is an action show and we're going to have fights. We obviously don't have guns going off, and Hercules makes a point of saying he doesn't kill people. They may wind up dead when they're fighting him, but it's usually because they're being hoisted on their own petard. It's a fine line, and there were some episodes last year, one in particular, that I think crossed the line. It was much too dark and violent, and unpleasent to watch, which is not what we're about. This is escapist fun, the kind of stuff I'd have watched as a kid and I hope that years from now, people will still enjoy it on a number of levels."

One of the biggest problems the producers have to overcome has been the temporary loss of their lead actor Kevin Sorbo, who has taken time out to film 'Kull the Conqueror'. As a result, several episodes have had to be re-shuffled, giving Michael Hurst's Iolaus a chance to shine until Sorbo's return. The other major change has been the departure of John Schulian halfway through season three. "I think the world of John. I think he's a really good writer," says Tapert. "And I'd work with him again on any given project, but - there were a bunch of reasons - it was just time to move on."
Co-executive producer Jerry Patrick Brown. "I think what's really deceptive about the show is that it looks so simple - but simplicity is hard to do..."

 

03.12.96
Source unknown
Kevin Sorbo, no boorish primate

As the tough demi-god Hercules Kevin Sorbo brings off balance the hormones of millions of women. <...> The mix of fantasy, special effects and sweet romance turned out to be a hit. Kevin has a simple explanation for his success: "Hercules is not a boorish primate who kills everything in sight. He's a real family-man, who loves his wife Deianeira and three children very much. Entirely different from the Hercules movies from 1959, that fighting only."

 

02-08.12.96
TVGuide on-line
TVG called Kevin Sorbo
and he answered 25 of their "net" questions.

Q: What was your experience working with Bruce Campbell?
Kevin Sorbo: Bruce was nothing but a pure pleasure to work with. He was a riot. He and I probably bonded quicker than any co-star that we've had down there, and we have become fast friends. We keep in touch. We actually keep in touch over e-mail, which is sort of nice. And he's a great guy. My only, I was, this is my ongoing battle with the producers, they keep taking our really successful guest stars and putting them over in X:WP, which is fine, but at the same time, it's frustrating because they never bring them back to our show because he's been back and done two Xena's now.
Q: How do you feel your Hercules measures up to past Hercules of screen and television? For example say Lou Ferrigno's or Arnold Schwarzenegger's Hercules.
KS: Well, you know I mean let's face it, physically they're different Herculeses. I mean Arnold and Lou are the body builders, and I think their Hercs are far more serious and far more... almost one level in a way. People will take insult to that, but no, I think this Hercules is far more human. He is more accessible, I think, to people, and I think that's one of the reasons why the show is successful, because people, even though they can't relate to the fact that he's this half-god and strongest-man thing, whatever he's got going, I think he's more vulnerable. He'll make mistakes. He'll make fun of himself. He'll get beat up.

 

27.12.96
Denver Post
Hercules humble at heart

by Ian Spelling

Add to Sorbo's impressive build his flowing brown hair, piercing blue eyes, killer smile and solid comic timing, and the elements were in place for a phenomenon. H:TLJ airs in nearly 40 countries, and, in America, it consistently battles "Star Trek: DS9" for the title of ratings leader among first-run syndicated shows. "Our popularity amazes me, but I think I understand it," the talkative and friendly Sorbo says by telephone from New Zealand. "There's a lot of chemistry between the actors, and there's a good mix of humor, drama, adventure, special effects, fighting and sex."

 

12.96/01.97
Karate International
Swords, Sorcery and Martial Arts

by Deborah A. Payne

Spectacular action and amazing special effects have become the standard with H:TLJ. It seem highly unlikely that words like babe and dude were used in the twelfth [??BC, I guess] century, but that is part of what makes this work. The plots and language are plain enough for kids to follow, yet the double-entendre is sharp enough to keep the adults entertained as well!
A hero who resorts to violence only when forced by his enemies, Hercules uses his wits, courage and superhuman strength to defend the poor, virtuous and the down-trodden. In doing so, he faces an astounding array of creatures both real and mythical in proportions! As to actual Martial Arts ability, the show leads seems to fall under the old Hollywood adage that it is easier to teach some great Martial Arts to an Actor than it is to teach a Martial Artist how to act. Fortunately for the casts and crews of the show, Hercules star Kevin Sorbo was able to defeat his toughest opponent early - the dreaded god Nielsen. To prepare for this role, Kevin worked with three different trainers, including Martial Arts master Douglas Wong. Wong took Sorbo on an accelerated course of his white lotus system. He learned to roll, fall and fight with both sword and staff.

 

10.01.97
The Orlando Sentinel
Xena, Herc: The Stuff of TV legends - Fantasy, action win loyal fans

by Jim Abbott

Few in the TV industry anticipated that H:TLJ would spark such interest when it debuted in January 1995. <...> Each week, the syndicated dramas are viewed by millions in the United States. Internationally the shows air in 15 to 20 countries, including Germany, France, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. So far this season, H:TLJ and X:WP rank second and third in ratings for U.S. households among syndicated dramas behind "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". H:TLJ averages 8 million viewers a week, with "Xena: Warrior Princess" drawing 7.8 million.
The popularity of X:WP and H:TLJ is responsible for a new wave of gothic fantasy fare on TV this season - including Tarzan: the Epic Adventures, The Adventures of Sindbad, and The New Adventures of Robin Hood. Without the success of H:TLJ, there wouldn't be a Robin Hood, said Lisa Mateas, senior vice president of programming at TNT. "You always need something to prove that people will watch," Mateas said. "Because H:TLJ has done so well, it allows for other shows of the same type to come along."

Although the characters are different, each show features a common thread of nonstop action, good-looking stars and a battle between good and evil. Advertisers like the shows because they attract such a broad audience of men, women and children, an industry observer said. "They do well across almost all demographics, - said Donna Hathaway, a vice president with Advanswers Media in St. Louis, a company that sells TV time to advertisers. - They've done a fine job of promoting them."
Rob Tapert, co-executive producer: "The success tells me very specifically that people don't want to turn on their TV to invite a bad guy into their living room every week. They want somebody they like."
Kristine Mayer, a psychologist in Tulsa, Oklahoma, started watching H:TLJ with her sons, 7 and 4, about a month before the Oklahoma City bombing. "Right about the time that we were basically losing our innocence countrywide, this was one bright spot I could focus my kids on," Mayer said. "It's a true escape show that's silly and harmless, and it has ethical points."
Brad Carpenter, merchandising and marketing director for Renaissance Pictures: "It's a cultural thing now. The way Star Trek influenced pop culture, that's exactly what is happening with H:TLJ and X:WP."

 

13.01.97
Electronic Media

Cost of a 30-second commercial among the top 50 barter syndicated TV series (First run): Star Trek: DS9 - 77000; H:TLJ - 63000; Xena - 53000 Babylon-5 - 35000 Highlander - 29000 Baywatch - 18000.

 

14.01.97
Times - Picayune

by Benjamin Morrison

Kevin Sorbo says the mighty Hercules has evolved, since the show started, to be more sensitive toward women. That stance "developed during the course of the movies," he says, after the character started out "sort of chauvinistic." Early scripts paid homage to the man-saves-woman-in-distress stereotypes until, Sorbo says, the performers got to the set. "We found out in the play between the actors that there was a different way to go." Shifting emphasis included "a humorous side, even a campy side."

 

26.01.97
Straits Times (Singapore)
Strong following for Hercules

by Ong Sor Fern

He is Hercules, as a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy). She is the Wonder Woman of the '90s. They cheerfully mangle Greek myths and fight computer-generated monsters every Sunday, and in Singapore, they have won followings of about 333,000 and 200,000 viewers respectively.
A hero who is, literally, a Greek god - okay, half a god if you want to be picky - goes around battling mythic monsters and vengeful gods. Purists may scoff at the shows which mangle Greek myths cheerfully on a weekly basis, but the ratings for H:TLJ are not to be sniffed at. In the United States, Hercules made the headlines when the muscleman beat a heavyweight in the ratings war, the top-rated Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. At home, Hercules brings in the highest ratings for an acquired show on Channel 5, according to a spokesman for the Television Corporation of Singapore.
No mean feat for shows with tongue-twisting names like Salmoneus and Deianeira, and a mind-boggling array of Greek gods, hitherto familiar only to dusty academics toiling away in libraries on obscure theses. Although show boast good-looking lead with plenty of bronzed flesh, displayed impressively in a tattered vest the hunk quotient is relatively low.
Unlike the Greek hero of yore, who went about slaying monsters left, right and centre, Sorbo's Hercules prefers to talk his way out, if possible, before he clobbers the enemy. And the clobbering is done Hongkong gongfu-style, with plenty of kick-boxing and leaping, resulting in assorted thugs getting flung halfway across the village square or crashing through the stick-thin walls of the nearest hut. The dialogue got an update too. The result: a Hercules who not only looks like, but also talks like, a California surfer. When confronted with glowering goons in one episode, Hercules comments drolly: "Look ugly, dress funny, smell bad... You must work for Hera." Which brings us to the heart of the show's appeal - its sense of humour and high camp quotient. Its producers make no pretence at profundity and admit happily that they play fast and loose with Greek myths, which provide the basis for many stories.
Last week's episode is a case in point. The story revolved around Persephone, kidnapped by Hades. In the original myth, it is the gods who intervene. Here, the scriptwriters give the task to Hercules. And the way they write up Persephone will probably have Homer spinning in his grave.

 

02.97
Femme Fatales v.5 #8
Herc is softie compared to Xena

by Dan Scapperotti

"Hercules doesn't kill people," producer Rob Tapert explained. "Xena does. <...> There are stories that we tell in H:TLJ that don't work as well in X:WP and vice versa. For instance, Hercules can walk into two warring factions in a story and it can be about him bringing that to the proper conclusion. Those stories work in "Xena", but more interesting, Xena stories are ones that emanate directly from her character - whether it's her past or desires. Hercules is more a meatand-potatoes guy, and I mean that only in the best sort of way; we haven't yet given him those internal character conflicts that plague him."
<...> The average H:TLJ episode is shot on an eight-day schedule.

 

01.02.97
TVGuide
Kevin Sorbo - The man behind the myth

by Stephanie Williams

TVG: I know you had some problems with the writing that resulted in some shake-ups on the staff. What was the specific problem?
Kevin Sorbo: I get crazy with the inconsistency in the way they write his strength. Why in one show do I have trouble fighting one guy who's a mortal, and in another show 20 guys come up to me and I flip them around like nothing? Why can Xena and Iolaus do as much, sometimes more, than I do, and they're mortals? Don't forget the fact that Hercules is half god. For somebody to come up behind me and hit me in the head with the butt end of a sword and I get knocked out - I'll argue that. I have boulders hit me in the head. It bothers the fans. The fans aren't stupid! Don't treat them that way. Sometimes we paint these pictures that are so connect-the-dots. I don't like that.

 

01.02.97
E! Special
'Inside Hercules and Xena' (TV)

Kevin Sorbo: "We had to go back over two thousand years to find a hero for the '90s."

 

02.97
Starlog #235
Salesman of the Gods

by Joe Nazzaro

Motivation, according to Salmoneus, and to actor Robert Trebor, falls into two categories: work and love. "The desire is to live as comfortably as possible in difficult times. He's not a fighter or a farmer, he has to earn a living. In fact, he's the only person in the show that actually has to earn a living, and many people relate to that. I don't have a god protecting me, and while Hercules can save my bacon when he's there, he's not going to put it on my table. I've got to do that myself, so I'm very enthusiastic about my job." <> Whether it's selling air sandals or sundial watches, creating the first Happy Hour and Olympic games or becoming the son of Zeus' official biographer, Salmoneus can find a way to make a few dinars out of almost anything. "There's a slightly touchy area about being Jewish, which [producer] Eric Grundemann and Kevin Sorbo are very sensitive to. There was a line at one point where a character said, 'Oh, he's just that moneygrubber Salmoneus,' and we changed it. <> I'm not opposed to pulling faces, doing schtick or funny voices, but it all must come out of something."
The key to good comedy is often in finding the right straight man, and in star Sorbo, Trebor has the perfect foil. As the show's eponymous demigod, Sorbo is constantly onscreen, providing him with a long, uncomfortable shooting day to survive. "He hangs in there and makes it pleasant and doesn't grumble, so you say, 'Well, damn it, if he can do it, I guess I can too, and if I'm physically uncomfortable, it's not going to help the project to complain about it.' Kevin's funny, he's appreciative - I would come up with bits and another actor might say, 'This is going to steal the scene,' but he says, 'If it works for the character, then I don't care; I'm in this enough, so if you have a scene where you take the focus for a while, that's fine,' and I'm absolutely grateful to Kevin for doing that. He's a terrific guy, he has a big heart and he enjoys a good laugh. He's the kind of guy you can sit down and have a beer with."
Trebor's journey with Hercules actually began with a major role in "Hercules and the Lost Kingdom", one of five two-hour movies produced as part of Universal's Action Pack. <> In the end, Waylin turned out to be a popular character, and when Trebor went to the wrap party for the five movies in June '94, the producers expressed their interest in using the actor again if Hercules went to series. <> "I like the show, and for what we do, I think it's a hoot. It's a one-hour vacation, with a little bit of social commentary. There's a little bit of a message so it's not pure eye candy, but it's also visually thrilling, they're attractive and funny people, and there are interesting special FX that you don't normally see on television. For what we're doing and within the time constraints we have to do it in, we're putting out one hell of a product."

 

07.02.97
Detroit News
'Hercules' and 'Xena' power their way
to the front of the TV fantasy brigade
by Dennis Anderson

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the heroic TV fantasy series Hercules must be getting a swelled head. In recent months, such fantasy adventure shows have popped up faster in syndication than Friends clones hit the networks. Following the path of H:TLJ are new offerings drawn from such staples of the old cliffhanger genre as Robin Hood, Tarzan, and Sinbad.
Rob Tapert (executive producer) describes his creations as "a guilty pleasure for professors, relevant for kids" and populated with scantily clad women "for the guys who can't find the keys to the pickup. <...> We wanted action, we wanted monsters and, for those who catch on, they'll find it funny."
The Hercules character played by Kevin Sorbo talks like a surfer guy and makes his warrior move with the ease of quarterback Joe Montana. He regularly dispenses lines like "Come on, guys!" or observes sagely, "That's a big dragon."
The tone delivers a show adults can laugh with and kids can revel in. "I just wanted to make the kind of show that I would have watched," Tapert said. "The kind of show I would have fought my parents to watch." But adults are watching, too. A recent fan convention in Burbank drew 4,000 people.

 

22.02.97
Richmond Times Dispatch
Strong, Leather-clad Macho Men Dominate Escapist TV Worlds

by Douglas Durden

They're brave, they carry big weapons, and they have a lot of hair. They're the macho men of TV. Hercules, Highlander, Renegade and Robin Hood.
To the uninitiated, these are shows distinguished by their bad scenery, bad dialogue and indifferent acting [Huh?!!]. They would be missing the point, however. What these shows are really about is escapism. Who is the most manly of all? We provide the following macho meter based on a scale of one to 10.
Hercules - 1) Hair apparent. Long, but not excessive compared to his macho competitors. 6 points. 2) Accessories. Leather arm bands. 5 points. 3) It takes a strong man to be gentle. In a recent episode, 'Herc' was willing to give up his superpowers for the woman he loved. 9 points. 4) Clothes make the macho man. Sleeveless open shirt, the better to display his biceps; pants of latticed leather. 7 points. 5) A macho man is known by the company he keeps. The faithful Iolaus makes up for his lack of superpowers with super sarcasm. 6 points. 6) Courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Herc's chief enemies are those 'petty and cruel' gods; special effects often add dragons and centaurs and hydras, oh my. 8 points. 7) Distinguishing characteristics. Superpowers, sense of humor. 8 points. 8) All in a day's work. To free his friends and family from the grip of a deadly poison, he took on the wrath of Hera, his spiteful stepmother. 7 points. 9) Bonus points. Viewers might actually learn something about mythology by watching the show. 7 points.
Total: 63 points. No contest. Hercules, with his brawn tempered by good-natured humor, is the macho man for all seasons.

 

07.03.97
Entertainment Weekly

by Bruce Fretts and Ken Tucker

The combination of cartoonish violence, anachronistic jokes, and voluminous cleavage (both male and female) has made H:TLJ and "Xena" huge hits in syndication.

 

14.03.97
Source unknown
"Hercules" Actor Kevin Sorbo

As the demigod hero Kevin Sorbo has fought giants, centaurs, cyclops, a tri-tailed snake woman with serpentine arms, a three-headed Cerberus. As for the actor himself, a handsome 6'3" thespian with flowing brown locks and azure eyes, his fiercest opponent has been equally mythological - The Mighty God Nielsen - whom Sorbo has conquered not by brawn alone, but by an unlikely combination of muscle, wit and charm.
H:TLJ, currently the #1 action hour in syndication, has earned wide praise from the critics with its portrayal of superhero, as Newsweek notes: "When he kicks butt, it's with empathy." Sorbo tackles a role rich with humor in a skimpy chamois tunic and woven leather pants, fighting all things savage while surrounded by outcroppings of cleavage. Taking the torch from those Hercules before him, Sorbo holds out a hither to unseen beacon of intelligence and humanity.

 

20.03.97
Hollywood Reporter

Sales closed in 53 markets for H:TLJ - "The only territory still not licensed for the series is Japan, but that will be completed soon."
Britain, Germany, France, Nethelands, Italy, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Israel, Kuwait and South Africa.

 

03.04.97
Mr.Showbiz
Xena, Hercules Embarrass Star Trek


The latest national Nielsen charts reveal a startling development: a posse of New Zealanders has taken over the syndicated airwaves, knocking Star Trek and its spawn out of the top rank. "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" tied for first place as the top season-to-date weekly hour-long shows. Both cleavage-bearing heroes received a 5.8 rating, edging out "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". The crew of DS9 should be ashamed of itself; for the past ten years, either "Star Trek: The Next Generation" or DS9 has been No. 1, but now that honor has been stripped by the two primitive warriors.

 

06.04.97
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Young Musicians Play to Be Ranked

West Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association Solo and Ensemble Festival at Kingsbury High School - Jimi Hayes, 42, a judge in the festival and a French horn player in the Germantown Symphony Orchestra, asked students if they watch H:TLJ and "Xena" on TV because they feature great French horn music.

 

10.04.97
Detroit News

Birmingham composer/producer Joseph Lo Duca, who scores his work from his home and sends it electronically to Hollywood, will be honored this month by the American Society of Composers and Publishers for his work on the TV series "Xena" and H:TLJ.

 

(04).97
Mr.Showbiz

by Gillian G. Gaar

"I think Herc can be vulnerable," mused Sorbo. "He can still have things to learn. The way the character is now, he makes fun of himself. He'll make mistakes. That's what I think is his charm - he's an easily approachable guy."
Q: Where would you like to see the character go?
Kevin Sorbo: I want to be challenged more as an actor, so I want more dramatic beats brought in. I want to make the show a little darker. The comedy will always be there. We ad-lib like crazy, so the comedy I think will always be there, but I would like to go more dramatic.

 

25.04.97
"Top of the Morning" (NZ Radio)

Q: Hercules, he's sort of warm and out-going and soft inside as far as you can see, and resisting the approaches of all these women.
Lucy Lawless: He's a good guy. He's the man with the white hat, he's the ultimate hero. The blurb from our producers is that Hercules is the hero you hope is out there. Xena is the hero you hope is inside you.
Q: Well, he's very much the superman hero isn't he? He's good, good, good. He's never bad.
LL: Yeah. Yes, he's a family hero.

 

05.97
Playboy

Playboy: If Xena were to marry Hercules, what labors would she require him to do around the house?
Lucy Lawless: He would be very handy for picking up that centaur poop. However, no one's yet written that episode because it's so, well, unattractive. She'd have him in a French maid's outfit. She'd subjugate him, make him wear a collar. Actually I doubt the wisdom of a match between Xena and Hercules. He's innately good-natured, and her pendulum swings violently. It would just be a vortex of misery. Xena would be whining to Gabrielle, "He's not passionate enough! He's so nice." I see a match made in hell.

 

05.97
Entertainment@Home magazine
Heroic Hercules, the fair Xena

by Michael J. Nelson

In these dark and desperate times, when a Chris Farley movie lurks moistly around every corner, America searches for a hero. But does it have to be Kevin Sorbo? 'Fraid so.
Sorbo, a meaty, affable beefsteak of a man, has come to kick butt and chew ambrosia - and he's all out of ambrosia. Sorbo stars as Hercules, the goofy demigod. The show's popularity derives in large part, I think from the charisma of Kevin Sorbo. Obviously, the show's partial mission is to update the legend; to make it palatable to men and women who shop for Joe Weider products at General Nutrition Centers. In this role, Sorbo excels. The ladies and the guys I'm told seem to like him. Hundreds of websites dedicate their pages to him; he's on the cover of magazines; he's starring in an upcoming movie. So does Kevin Sorbo live up to the hype? Well, he's not bad, and the show is entertaining enough, if you don't expect much at all-say, if you like Chicago Sons or Nash Bridges.

 

06.05.97
Associated Press

Entertainment News

"I don't liken "Highlander" to "Xena" or H:TLJ because I think "Highlander" is a little bit more cerebral than those shows are," Adrian Paul [Highlander star] says. "I think it has a little more class than those shows do. That's my personal opinion. I'm not knocking them, I think they're great for what they are."

 

28.05.97
NZ newspaper
Plundering the classics

The creator of the Hercules television series, Christian Williams: "TV series about doctors, policemen and lawyers suffer from high demographic specificity," he says. But "sword operas such as H:TLJ, with their dramatic stories and simple distinctions between right and wrong, have, on this argument, a universal interest."

 

07.97
Interview Renee Witterstaetter with Kevin Sorbo in Auckland, NZ

Renee Witterstaetter: Do you have to walk a tightrope when you do Hercules? Since he is half-god do you run the risk of him being too perfect?
Kevin Sorbo: Yeah. It becomes too easy. You know what's going to happen every show if you aren't careful. But he makes fun of himself, makes mistakes. He doesn't walk around thinking he's the most perfect person in the world. He knows it, but at the same time... one of the things I can relate to as the character is that he's not afraid of failure. <...> It's much easier to do nothing and try to be cool, you know. That's why I can relate to Hercules myself. It's like his character is not afraid to walk into the middle of a fight and break it up. Which, ironically, is the biggest difference between the two of us.
RW: The show has struck a cord with its viewers. Why do you think?
KS: <...> In mythology he was the most celebrated hero. That's why we're making a television series about him. I think people like his relationship with Iolaus too. I think they like the special effects and I think they like the humor. They like the fight sequences. They like the drama. There are so many different things involved in the show that reaches so many different people, that there's something for everybody. I get so many letters from schools, churches, from families - this show is watched by a variety of people.
RW: What do you think the relationship between Herc and Iolaus (Michael Hurst) adds to the show?
KS: Iolaus is someone who even though he's a great fighter and those other things he has going for him he's someone people feel they can be. As opposed to not being able to be Hercules. They feel "I could be Iolaus and I could hang with Hercules." It's sort of like that. And that's why his character is so likable. You need somebody like him on the show. Hercules - he's the rock. He is the one who basically has to keep the show together while there's chaos all around him. Iolaus is the spark plug of the show. He's this wacky, fun, hot-headed guy. Hercules is good-tempered. He can get mad certainly, but you have to push Herc quiet a bit to get him mad. They are alter egos of each other in a way. Herc wishes sometimes that he could be more like Iolaus in terms of letting out his anger, letting out his frustrations. And the reverse is that Iolaus wishes he could hold his temper, be more cool and rational and use his brain before his brawn as Herc does. And that's why I like this Hercules because he does try to be a MacGuyver of B.C. He tries to think things out first before he does anything stupid.
RW: The relationship does work.
KS: Sure, oh yeah. There's a camaraderie. I know we can get laughs just off looks we give to each other. There are things we can do with each other that the audience just really, really likes.

 

(07).97
On-line Chat AOL Live Olds Celebrity Circle

Q: What major do's and/or don't are there regarding Hercules' character?
Kevin Sorbo: Don't make Hercules look stupid. I do that on my own very well, thank you. Don't let the bad guys beat me up. Always tell the director of photography to film me in hero positions only.

 

07.97
People Online Profiles
Kevin Sorbo. Mythic heavyweight

by Lorraine Goods

It's not easy being superhuman, as Kevin Sorbo, the buff, blue-eyed star of H:TLJ can attest. At the center of the over-the-top action/fantasy series, Sorbo plays the half-man, half-god of ancient Greece, protecting humankind from capricious deities, evil centaurs, fire-breathing dragons and other assorted bad guys. That translates into a lot of kick-boxing, sword-fighting and additional acts of prowess worthy of a demi-god. Sounds exhausting, but for Sorbo, 38, who performs many of his own stunts, such feats are all in a day's work. And, the flaxen-haired actor says, he tops off those long days on the set with a strenuous workout, keeping those muscles - and his 43-inch chest - up to snuff. Yet as fans of the show can attest, the actor is more than just a hunk in leather pants and chamois shirt. Much of the show's appeal stems from Sorbo's own personality - an affable mix of wholesome Midwestern and laidback surfer dude - making this modern-day Hercules more complex and human than the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno cartoon-type characters more typical of the sword-and-sorcery genre.
"Strong yet sensitive" is how producer Eric Gruendemann describes Sorbo's portrayal of the mythological he-man. "Working with Kevin is very easy, no pressure," Michael Hurst, who plays sidekick Iolaus told the Arizona Republic. "I think we're all so lucky that he's so easygoing and generous." Sorbo's accessible appeal has helped make him, and the show, an international hit. A consistent high-ratings winner, H:TLJ is shown in nearly 40 countries and has spawned a cottage industry of conventions, action figures, CD-ROMs, books, and other tie-ins.

 

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