2016 marks the 20th anniversary of “Tarzan: the Epic Adventures”
By Colin Hickson, Staff Writer
Arguably the most iconic jungle hero in the world, Tarzan is no stranger to the small screen, both in live action and animated form. However, most adaptations done in the former tend to take a more realistic look at the character’s mythos (or about as realistic as the story of an incredibly strong and agile man raised by apes can get). The exception to this came in the form of the short lived TV series, “Tarzan: the Epic Adventures,” which debuted in first-run syndication in August 1996.
One of the many shows created to replicate the success of “Hercules: the Legendary Journeys” and “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Tarzan: the Epic Adventures” did what no previous live action Tarzan series had done by adding the more fantastic elements of the original Tarzan stories.
Opening with the two-part pilot “Tarzan’s Return,” the show begins with the ape man (Joe Lara) in Europe, having taken his place as Earl of Greystoke, but being disenchanted with the world of man. However, Tarzan returns to Africa when he learns of a plot by rogue Russian noble, Count Rokoff (Andrew Divoff in the pilot, Stephen Macht in a later episode), and soon comes into conflict with the reptilian flesh eaters, the Mahars. After foiling Rokoff’s plans, Tarzan stays in the jungle, and continues to fight against the forces of evil.
While many are quick to dismiss this as a “Hercules” wannabe, the show does have many positive factors in its favor. For one, the show was actually filmed in Africa, and natural beauty compliments the world of Tarzan, and Joe Lara is a decent enough choice for the lead, portraying the character as the intelligent, well-spoken person he was written as. Plus, the more imaginative elements are fairly true to the original stories, as Tarzan encounters the likes of evil sorcerers, monsters, demons, and aliens. There is also some rather good character development for both Tarzan and his friend, Temba (Aaron Seville).
However, the show is not perfect. The stories tend to be a bit repetitive, and some of the acting is as wooden as it can get. Also, some of the episodes are just confusing to follow, and, due to airing in syndication, the show had some rather graphic deaths, but other than that, the show is still worth a look.
Sadly, the show only lasted one season. A second season was planned, with actor Xavier DeCelie replacing Lara as Tarzan, but DeCelie claimed in an interview the show was cancelled due to budget issues. Yet for all its’ flaws, “Epic Adventures” was a worthwhile attempt to return Tarzan to his more incredible roots. Maybe at some point, someone will consider rebooting this series, as at this point, shows like “the Flash” and “Once Upon a Time” are enjoying success with their own science fiction/fantasy elements.
The show is currently available on Hulu, so those curious to see this show may want to sit back and enjoy this take on the Lord of the Jungle.