Syndication was much more popular in the 90’s. After the incredible success of Star Trek: The Next Generation, other shows began to follow the same route. Hercules was perfect nerd bait for a teenage me. Greek mythology in a somewhat serialized format. The personification of Greek myths, though slightly altered, this show sent me to the library were I devoured books on the subject. Knowledge I still retain today. Anyways, Kevin Sorbo!
Filmed in New Zealand, Hercules followed the titular character as he fought against his evil step-mother Hera, who murdered his family. Often accompanied by his sidekick, Iolaus, the duo would fight different monsters, warlords, and defend people from the selfish machinations of the gods. Of course, all manner of greek gods made frequent appearances; Zeus, Hades, Aphrodite, Ares, etc. The latter two were frequent guest stars. The best guest star was Bruce Campbell as Autolycus. The self proclaimed king of thieves carried a grappling hook up his sleeve. With his Errol Flynn character design and smarmy Bruce Campbell-ness, how could you not love him?
The show was so successful, a number of similar ones based on public domain characters like Tarzan, Sinbad, Robin Hood, and Conan were created. Each had a similar style with various degrees of success, though no where near the level of Hercules. However, one show did manage to outshine them all; Xena: Warrior Princess. Starring Lucy Lawless as a spinoff character from Hercules, the show became more popular than Hercules. The two became juggernauts, spanning over 100 episodes each with action figures, video games (all terrible), and even an animated feature.
Hercules only lasted 6 seasons though, ending in ’99, two years before Xena. I always thought this odd, especially considering a number of latter episodes inexplicably didn’t feature Kevin Sorbo. As it turns out, while promoting Kull the Conqueror, he suffered three strokes from an aneurysm in his shoulder. He appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman shortly after one occurred (within hours), and seemed completely incoherent. The producers changed the production schedule for Sorbo for seasons 5 and 6 (the latter only lasting 8 episodes), allowing him recovery time, keeping his health a secret.
The famous, or perhaps infamous writing duo of Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (Mission Impossible III, Transformers 1 & 2, Star Trek) started their writing careers working for this show. They wrote an incredibly funny/meta season 5 episode titled “For Those of You Just Joining Us.” The crew of producers and writers (mostly portrayed by their real life counterparts) go on a weekend retreat to work on better story ideas for the show. Kevin Sorbo goes as well to provide ideas as he’s the secretly still-alive Hercules, using his own adventures as suggestions.
All 6 seasons of the show are on Netflix. While it isn’t for everyone, it’s still something fun and lighthearted to watch, and a good indicator of how serialized shows rose in popularity.
What did you think of The Legendary Journeys? Miss shows like this? Comment below!
No way producers would let a guy with so little muscle play Hercules now.