Before Xena and Hercules filled filled mid-90s television with humorous Sword and Sorcery, their was a TV show called “Wizards and Warriors”. Are you asking yourself, “Why have I never heard of this show?” Well that’s because it had a very short life. It premiered and was canceled in 1983 and although it developed a fanbase, it was never large enough to save the show.
The show was created by Dan Reo of “Blossom” fame for Warner Bros. and it had its full 8 1-hour episode run on CBS. Most of the 8 episodes were directed by Bill Bixby who, as always, did a great job. Now I bet your next question is who was cast as the lead of this show? Your thinking a body builder? Perhaps a Schwarzenegger or maybe even Marc Singer type ass-kicker? Not even close. Try Jeff Conaway of “Grease”, “Taxi” and “Celebrity Rehab” fame. He was joined by Walter Olkewicz, Duncan Regehr, Clive Revill and the surprisingly well cast Julia Duffy. Its hard to explain the show if you have never seen it, but I will give it a shot.
Conaway plays Erik Greystone who is engaged to princess Ariel. She is the daughter of the King Baaldorf and Queen Lattinia who rule the virtuous land of Southern Aperand. Erik and his pal, Marko, who is the strongest man in the kingdom are constantly foiling the plans of the neighboring kingdom’s Prince Dirk Blackpool and his wizard adviser Vector. Also from time to time Erik’s brother fun-loving/cowardly brother Justin shows up to screw things up.
When you ask people who have seen this show what they thought of it, you will get mixed reactions. The show IS silly. Sometimes people seem to slip out of character and the lacks of a consistent accent in this fantasy work is distracting. That being said. The show has moments of sophistication and quiet jokes that you really need to watch to appreciate. For example in the first episode their is a great bottomless pit joke. It involves a tough castle guardian being thrown down said bottomless pit and we only here the audio as he continues to plummet for what sounds like more than a minute. A few moments later we hear the guardian’s grunts. How did he live? The special FX are passable for an 80s show. Laughably, they use stock footage from the film Excalibur for battle scenes and the sword work is a step or two up up from basic stage fighting. The show was raw, but it showed potential. It really is a shame they didn’t give it a chance, “Wizards and Warriors” really could have been an earlier version of “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”.
Jeff Conaway – Prince Erik Greystone
Walter Olkewicz – Marko
Duncan Regehr – Prince Dirk Blackpool
Julia Duffy – Princess Ariel
Clive Revill – Wizard Vector
Thomas Hill – King Baaldorf
Ian Wolfe – Wizard Tranquil
Tim Dunigan – Geoffrey Blackpool
Jay Kerr – Justin Greystone
Julie Payne – Queen Lattinia
Randi Brooks – Witch Bethel
I really need to talk about my two favorite people on the show. New Jersey (yeah NJ!) born Walter Olkewicz is great as strongman Marko. He has an affable “good buddy” quality that is difficult to find on television. You might recognize him from his work on dozens of shows including Seinfeld, Twin Peaks and Night Court. His work on Seinfeld, where he played “The Cable Guy” is one the great moments of that show:
Great character actor – he is double-plus good. Another stand out on the show is Julia Duffy who plays the spoiled princess Ariel with remarkable aplomb. She brings a charisma to what could have been an unlikable character. Upon re-watching I found myself looking forward to her scenes. I can see why she was asked to revise a similar role on Newhart.
So you are interested and want to see the show for yourself? Well as far as I know the show is not in syndication. I had to order my full copy of the series off eBay, but I will keep my eyes open and will post if the show is ever released on DVD.
Enough of me babbling. Here is a show intro along with Opening Credits:
Need more? How about a gallery of “Wizards and Warrior” screenshots?
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