(Updated 02 January 2016; Originally Published 05 August 2015)
Santa Monica, CA — Lucy Lawless has made headlines speaking to rumors of a possible re-boot of her iconic role, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, at struggling NBC.
Lawless originated the role more than 15 years ago as a guest-star on THE ADVENTURES OF HERCULES and was subsequently rewarded with her own spin-off. Both series were created by Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and John Schulian. Both were successful shows in syndication, and both properties are owned by NBC/Universal.
Full disclosure: I was/am a fan of both series, but it was Xena that really captured my attention and viewer loyalty. The characters were better. The stories were more engaging and emotional. They even did a musical episode that furthered the storyline (which would inspire many other series like Buffy to do their own).
Do I want NBC to re-boot Xena? Sure.
Do I want NBC to remake such a terrific series without the original’s principal cast, producers, writers and directors? Probably.
If you are Bob Greenblatt, NBC’s ultimate creative executive, this is where it gets tricky.
The time is right for The New Adventure of Xena & Gabrielle thanks to the popularity of George R.R. Martin’s masterwork, Game of Thrones, and HBO’s splendid adaptation which has become an international hit that will make money for decades to come. NBC has clearly taken notice.
One fan-favorite character on GOT is none other than Brienne of Tarth, a female knight and literary kinswoman of Xena.
Also, Warner Bros. has a little indie movie coming out next March called Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice that features a much-loved character with a difficult recent cinematic history known as Wonder Woman.
The newest incarnation of the Amazonian princess bears more than a passing resemblance to Lawless’ Xena.
This introduction of Wonder Woman is very important to Warner Bros. as she is a pivotal character in DC Comics’ Justice League franchise and is slated to headline her own standalone movie in 2017. This must really irk Scarlet Johannson.
NBC can beat Wonder Woman to the punch and/or draft off her invisible jet.
Smart thinking, but can they pull it off? The network hasn’t exactly created a terrific track record with its re-boots. Heroes: Reborn has been a modest success and created a much-needed foothold for Thursdays. Anyone recall the recent Bionic Woman, Ironside failures, though?
Still, CBS continues to score with its re-boot of Hawaii Five-O, so success, even a mild one, can be had.
As always, it starts with The Writer. NBC has wisely hired Javier Grillo-Marxuach (The 100, Lost, Middleman) to craft the re-boot of everyone’s favorite Warrior Princess.
SyFy gets credit for the best re-boot in recent memory with Battlestar Galactica, but no one deserves more kudos than Executive Producer/Writer Ron Moore, who is currently wowing international audiences with his take on the time-jumping Outlander on Starz.
Moore used the same premise of BSG from the ’70s series on ABC, but updated the characters, deepened the mythology and explored the villainous Cylons to fantastic results.
Original series star Richard Hatch, who played “Apollo”, was re-cast in a supporting role as a corrupt Vice President of the Colonies to good effect.
Which brings us to Lucy Lawless, who coincidentally absolutely killed it on the SyFy re-boot of BSG playing the villainous “Three” model of Cylons.
Lawless herself has said she’s too old at age 47 to play “Xena” on a regular basis as the role is too physical with all the swordplay, horseback riding, and night shoots.
That said, Xena Number One craftily used social media outlet Twitter to show fans and network executives alike that she and former co-star Renee O’Connor (“Gabrielle”) are still alive and kicking and looking very well (i.e., cast them now).
She’d be up for a TV movie or a feature re-boot but nothing more which is understandable.
Now, what does NBC & Marxuach do? The network has a property with a built-in fanbase that will help market the show, however, that doesn’t mean they’d accept a new update of Xena without Lawless. Without the right take on the re-boot with the best writer and without the right actors to play Xena and Gabrielle, failure is a likelihood.
A one-off movie doesn’t really do NBC any good and de-values the property. Perhaps, they’ll take a note out of Fox’s playbook and re-boot Xena for six episodes with Lawless just as Chris Carter has done with The X-Files and its original stars, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. This would be the safest route to go.
Finally, an updated new series with new actors and a new storyline would seem to be the longest shot at success, however, this approach has the biggest upside should the new version work. NBC needs a hit.
Super Women are on the rise, too. The time seems to be Now.
CBS has Supergirl which premiered strongly this Fall but has leveled off to very modest numbers. It looks like a winner…just on another network other than CBS. I predict Supergirl will end up on The CW at some point.
In the feature world, Scarlett Johannson has been wowing audiences as “Black Widow” in The Avengers, Captain America, and Iron Man films. Marvel, for some reason, hasn’t given the character her own standalone film, though.
Jennifer Lawrence has turned the meta-morph Mystique in the X-Men franchise from villain to heroine in Days of Future Past. And, let’s not forget Lawrence’s other notable franchise heroine, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games which concludes in November with the release of Mockingjay Part 2.
Warner Bros. and DC Comics have a lot of money riding on Gal Godot’s performance as Wonder Woman. And further down the pike sits an as yet-uncast actress to play Captain Marvel for Disney/Marvel.
Television has missed a butt-kicking heroine ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alias went off the air. No offense, Peggy Carter.
Finally, Lawless has gone on record as saying the most important aspect to get right in any update of Xena is the relationship between Xena and sidekick Gabrielle. The series hung on its vitality from beginning to end (even as it jumped the shark numerous times via crucifixion, battling demons in Hell, and killing off the Olympic and Norse gods).
I agree with Lawless, however, I’d also add how much I enjoyed the introduction of Greek mythology, the portrayals of the Olympic Gods, and the series humorous tone. Xena could be wry. I liked it.
And, I loved Xena’s villains. They didn’t just die. They suffered defeats and kept coming back for more until finally achieving the redemption Xena herself desired (i.e., the fantastic Calisto). To this day, one my favorite moments of Television dialogue is spoken by Xena while killing the seemingly undefeatable Calisto, “No more Life for You.” It was that memorable because it was that good.
NBC has a tall order to fill should they attempt to re-boot Xena: Warrior Princess and some big shoes, er boots, to fill should they proceed without Lawless.
Up Next: Fall TV Surf Report (Poor to Fair Conditions expected!)