Thursday, May 2, 2013

80's TV Thursday: Wizards and Warriors

Image © Skooldays 2006 to present
Let's set the way-back machine to 1983 and look in on this campy fantasy-comedy show that showed up right around the time that D&D was starting to be noticed by the mainstream media.

Anyone remember this show? It only ran for 8 episodes on CBS in 1983.

The Show Background
"Wizards and Warriors" is about the Kingdom of Caramand, a fictitious fantasy kingdom in a world of witches, unicorns, invisible dragons, evil princes, and, yes, wizards and some warriors. The story centers around the character of Prince Erik Greystone, played by Jeff Conaway of "Grease" fame, and his betrothed, Princess Ariel (and, an aside here - how many Princess Ariels do we need? There's the Disney mermaid version, the Thundarr the Barbarian version, and this one? Why is Ariel such a popular princess name?), played by a young Julia Duffy. Princess Ariel is the actual Princess of Caramand - her father and mother are the King and Queen. I can't quite recall where Prince Greystone is from or why he's a Prince, but he mainly plays the role of a sword-fighter who protects the people of Caramand from the evil Prince Dirk Blackpool, played by Duncan Regehr. You've really just gotta love those names - Greystone, Blackpool... but, then again, this is intended to be a comedy - a parody of the swords-and-sorcery genre that was again ascending into popularity at the time.

The evil Prince Blackpool has enlisted the help of an evil wizard, Vector (yes, "Vector") to do his evil bidding, and Vector goes along with it because the Prince has stolen Vector's "power crystal" with the help of the evil Witch, Bethel. Lots of eeeeeeeeeevil going on there.

The show only ran for eight episodes before being canceled. It was preempted constantly in the U.S. due to breaking news of the day - many important events happened during  the time "Wizards and Warriors" was on air, including the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

This Sounds Pretty Campy
Yep, it sure is. It was the 80's after all, so that's a bit hard to avoid unfortunately. But, unlike something like "The Master" (reviewed last week), which was unintentionally campy, "Wizards and Warriors" was self-aware about its campiness and was designed as a satirical look at pop culture in general and swords-and-sorcery specifically.

Julia Duffy actually does a pretty amazing job as an exaggerated, over-the-top self-important Princess, and it's clear that Princess Ariel became a model for her portrayal later on of Stephanie Vanderkellen, the spoiled riched girl housekeeper that she played on "Newhart."

The show is chock-full of in-jokes and campy lines, like the evil prince warning that he's going to chain someone to the floor and walk over him with his spiked boots. It's completely over-the-top.

One reviewer I read used this analogy - "Wizards and Warriors" is to D&D what "Sledgehammer" is to cop dramas. That's probably a good analogy. Think more "Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie" and less "Lord of the Rings" and you'll get the idea.

Anything Good Here for My Role-Playing Games?
Honestly... probably not a lot. It's very cliche and the character types are built on broad, stereotypical roles that are so prevalent in the fantasy genre that we've all seen them before. There may be a few personality quirks you could pick up to emulate for your PCs or NPCs, but other than that, the main reason to watch this show again would be just for the sake of the comedy and entertainment value rather than as an opportunity to mine ideas for a game.

That said, when this show came out in early 1983, I was 12 and really into D&D and I loved it. I didn't appreciate the campy elements at the time and wished that they'd treated the subject matter that I loved with more respect and a more seriousness tone. But, I watched it just the same and was happy to see some kind of representation of the fantasy worlds I was playing in, even if I felt the depiction wasn't accurate.

Is It Okay for Kids?
There's no parental content guides online for this show, but based on my memory, I'd say yes, it's probably fine. It's probably akin to a modern-day PG movie at worst. It's actually not even that bad from what I remember.

Interesting Tidbit
While doing some research for this post, I discovered that apparently the battle scenes from the show were actually leftover unused footage from the movie "Excalibur."

I would love to hear your thoughts and memories on this show. Post 'em below!

WIZARDS AND WARRIORS
  • Format: 8 one-hour episodes (really about 45 minutes without commercials)
  • Where to Buy: As far as I can tell, this series has never officially been released on DVD or VHS. You can find some episodes on YouTube broken up into various parts. I also found this site which appears to be selling a DVD box set of the series, but I'm pretty sure it's not "official" and I can't vouch for the quality (or the legality) of the item. 
  • Price: N/A
  • Rated: Not rated
  • More Information: Wikipedia "Wizards and Warriors (TV Series)" entry

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Pelegrino sparkling water
Listening: "M62 Song" by the Doves

3 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure this never made it to the UK. I've only come across it once before, in an article when Jeff Conaway died. Sounds like a winner though.

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  2. Yep, I have no memory of it either.

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  3. My group of fannish friends rolled on the floor with laughter watching this show when it came out, but most people didn't understand it. Really cheezy special effects, but very funny writing and acting. I fondly recall Julia Duffy's airhead princess worrying about her nails when about to die, falling off her unicorn named "Pumpkin", and going googly-eyed over Jeff Conaway's hilariously over-intense prince. A very amusing show that was ahead of it's time and cancelled way too soon.

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