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Tube Tuesday : ABC Studios seeks syndicated success with "Legend of the Seeker"

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Tube Tuesday : ABC Studios seeks syndicated success with "Legend of the Seeker"

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How many of you have fond memories of "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" ? You know, those syndicated action-adventure shows that were shot on location in New Zealand back in the 1990s?

Well, the folks at ABC Studios are hoping that there's an awful lot of you out there who really miss those two series. For they've reassembled the talented team behind "Hercules" and "Xena" -- Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Ned Nalle -- and then had them create a new action-adventure show, "Legend of the Seeker."

Copyright 2008 ABC Studios. All Rights Reserved

Based on Terry Goodkind's best-selling "The Sword of Truth" fantasy series, "Legend of the Seeker" is ABC Studios' first foray into broadcast syndication. This hour-long action-adventure premiered in 50 of the U.S.'s top television markets over this past weekend with a special two-hour long episode which served as an introduction to this new fantasy world.

So how was the "Seeker" ? Let's start with the good news: This new ABC Studios series has terrific production values. Its fight scenes are skillfully staged. And -- thanks to some terrific camera work, clever use of CG as well as New Zealand's naturally beautiful scenery -- this action-adventure show has an almost epic quality to it.

The only problem is that the first two hours of "Legend of the Seeker" were so weighed down by exposition -- with all of the characters that had to be introduced and all of the rules of this realm that had to be establisned -- that the show just got bogged down after a while.

"Wizard's First Rule," the Terry Goodkind
that "Legend of the Seeker" is based upon
Copyright 2008 Tor Fantasy
All Rights Reserved

As for "Seeker" 's storyline ... WARNING ! THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD ! If you don't want to know anything in advance about this new ABC Studios series, you'd best bail out of today's article ASAP ... it deals with Richard Cypher (Craig Horner), a simple woodsman who has no idea that he is actually this child of prophecy. 20 years previous, Richard had been spirited out of the Midlands by a powerful old wizard known as Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander (Bruce Spence). Who then took this newborn through the magical Boundary that separates the Midlands from Westland.

"And why did Zedd take Richard beyond the Boundary?," you ask. Because this child of destiny was actively being sought by Darken Rahl (Craig Parker), an evil tyrant who rules the Midlands. Rahl believes that Richard could be the true Seeker. The one who would eventually strike Rahl down, free all of the people that he's enslaved and then restore peace to the land. Which is why -- in order to prevent this prophecy from coming true -- Darken orders that all of the Midlands' firstborn be slain.

This is why Zedd had to take Richard to Westland. So that this newborn would then survive the senseless slaughter in the Midlands and eventually grow up to take on Darken.

Kahlan Amnell (Bridget Regan, L) seeks to aid the one true Seeker
Copyright 2008 ABC Studios. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, we don't actually find out about Richard's chosen-one backstory 'til Hour No. 2 of "Legend of the Seeker." During the first hour of this new action-adventure series, we follow Kahlan Amnell (Bridget Regan), a Confessor who uses magic to breach the Boundary. So that she could then deliver the Book of Counted Shadows to the true Seeker.

Unfortunately, Ranssyn Fane (Andrew Robertt), one of Rahl's most trusted commanders, is also able to slip through this temporary hole that Amnell creates in the Boundary. And once he's inside of Westland, Fane does whatever he has to in order to recover that book. Up to and including killing Richard's father (Jeffrey Thomas) as well as convincing his brother Michael (David Lautour) that Richard has now been bewitched by a powerful sorceress (AKA Kahlan).

You see what I'm saying about "Legend of the Seeker" 's backstory? It's dense & involved and just goes on for days & days. I mean, I haven't even talked about the Sword of Truth yet. Or how Zedd falls deathly ill after he's attacked by shadow creatures. Or how Chase Brandstone (Jay Laga'aia)'s daughter gets kidnapped by Fane.

Chase Brandstone (Jay Laga'aia) defends Westland 
Copyright 2008 ABC Studios. All Rights Reserved

The upside is -- once this exposition heavy, two-hour-long introductory episode is over -- "Legend of the Seeker" 's overly convoluted storyline has been significantly simplified. Fane is slain. The Book of Counted Shadows has been destroyed. And Richard -- now armed with the Sword of Truth -- enters the Midlands with Zedd and Kahlan, eager to fulfill his destiny. Which is to defeat Darken Rahl and free all of the people that this tyrant has enslaved.

Which -- all by itself -- should be enough of a storyline to sustain the first season of this new syndicated series. ABC Studios has ordered up 22 hour-long episodes. With the hope that -- should "Legend of the Seeker" actually catch on -- the 11 books in Terry Goodkind's "The Sword of Truth" series will provide enough fodder for at least 4or 5 years worth of shows.

Me personally, while I have to admit that I have not read any of Mr. Goodkind's books, I wish that "Legend of the Seeker" had more of that tongue-in-cheek, campy quality that made "Hercules" and "Xena" so much fun to watch. Right now, this new syndicated series feels a bit too serious, a little too earnest for its own good. And given that "Legend" is already burdened with Richard & Kahlan's love-that-can-never-be-fulfilled sub-plot ... Trust me, folks. This is a show that could really use some lightening up.

Craig Horner (L) and Bridget Regan (R) in "Legend of the Seeker"
Copyright 2008 ABC Studios. All Rights Reserved

But -- then again -- we're only talking about the first two episodes here. I'm sure that -- once the "Seeker" 's production team get a few more shows under their belt -- they'll then figure out how to fold a bit more fun into this new fantasy series from ABC Studios.

For further information on "Legend of the Seeker" (including when this new ABC Studios series will be airing in your television market), please visit the official "Legend of the Seeker" website.

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  • Jim, that warning of your's should also mention that adults or anyone with half a brain might want to bail out of today's article early as well.

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