tek's rating: ½

Wizards and Warriors, on CBS
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This ran for just eight episodes in early 1983, when I was seven years old. It's one of the earliest shows I specifically remember watching when I was a kid, but I don't remember much of anything about it from that time, except that I liked it. For many years, I wished I could see it again, but I very much doubted it would ever be available. However, it was finally released on DVD in 2014. I got it for Christmas that year, but somehow didn't get around to watching it until spring 2016. Now that I've seen the show again, pretty much nothing about it was familiar to me at all, beyond the vague memory that, as the title suggests, it involved wizards and warriors. I'm not even sure how aware I was, when it first aired, that it's as much comedy as fantasy adventure. (I'm sure I had no concept of "campy" back then.) I mean, I must have known there was some humor in it, but I don't recall realizing at the time how redonkulous it was. (Though "redonkulous" is another concept I wasn't aware of yet, probably because the word hadn't been invented yet.)

So... I guess there's this continent called Aperans, which is divided into two kingdoms. To the north, there is Karteia, which is currently ruled by the evil Prince Dirk Blackpool. To the south, there is Camarand, which... has at least two kings, in different areas. The one we mainly see is Edwin Baaldorf, who has a wife named Lattinia and a daughter named Ariel (Julia Duffy). The other king is Richard, whom we only see in one episode. But the main character is Richard's son, Prince Erik Greystone (Jeff Conaway). He's betrothed to Ariel, though at the start of the series they've never met, and I guess their parents aren't going to force them to get married unless they decide they want to. Which I'm not sure they will. We rarely see them spending much time together, and they have fairly different personalities. Erik is all about fighting evil, while Ariel is very self-centered. Anyway, there's a war between Camarand and Karteia, so Erik spends most of his time fighting the forces of Prince Blackpool. Erik is always accompanied by his friend and loyal vassal, Marko (who is supposedly the strongest person in Camarand). They also occasionally get help from Erik's roguish brother, Justin. But Justin is usually off having fun, and avoiding responsibility. Even more rarely, they get a bit of help from an elderly wizard named Tranquill. And there are a couple of times that Erik gets visions of a woman named Belldonna, who conveys messages from Tranquill. (Marko can't see or hear Belldonna, so he thinks Erik's imagining it. But on the other hand, Marko talks to animals, especially his horse. So Erik probably thinks that's a little crazy. Although Marko is the nephew of Tranquill, so maybe he really has inherited a magical ability.)

Anyway... Dirk Blackpool is only in charge of his kingdom because his father, King Saris, is in a coma. He also has a brother we rarely see, Prince Geoffrey, who isn't very smart, but I guess he does lead Dirk's army. The character we see most often assisting Dirk is a wizard named Vector. However, Dirk and Vector never completely trust each other. To ensure Vector doesn't betray him, Dirk has stolen a crystal called a "monocle" from him, without which Vector's power is somewhat limited. So throughout the series, he's constantly scheming to get it back from Dirk, whether that means tricking him into returning it (which Dirk never falls for), or trying to arrange Dirk's death (which he can't cause directly, because apparently wizards can't kill mortals). And actually, I guess Vector's monocle was stolen for Dirk by a very hot and scantily-clad witch named Bethel. I think she and Dirk are lovers, and certainly she hopes he'll marry her, because she wants to gain political power.

And, um... there's obviously a lot of interesting backstory that is rarely touched upon. Dirk's father used to be friends with both Baaldorf and Richard, before the war. And I guess Erik and Dirk were friends, growing up. And I think even Vector once genuinely cared about Dirk, whom he knew since Dirk was a child, and Vector served King Saris. And there's probably any number of other things that could have been explored, storywise, if the series had lasted longer. (It might have been nice to see Marko start a relationship with Ariel's handmaiden, Cassandra. And I would have liked to learn more about Belldonna.) I do think the final episode worked quite well as a season finale, opening up some new avenues for plot development. So it's really a shame the show ended after just one season, especially such a short one. Then again, it might have gotten irritating if it had lasted much longer. I found it all reasonably amusing, and it had potential to get better, but... like I said, it was redonkulous. And while that's a quality I can often enjoy, it's a quality best enjoyed in small doses. (And it's kind of paradoxical that I think I enjoyed the show more now, on a certain level, than I did when I was a kid, but on another level I probably enjoyed it a lot less than I did as a kid.)

I also want to mention that, aside from the title and basic concept, there are two facts I definitely did remember from the first time I watched it: I remembered that Julia Duffy was in it (probably because she was on Newhart starting the same year as this), and I remembered something her character said in one episode. (As I rewatched the series on DVD, I kept waiting for her to say it, and eventually I started suspecting I might have only dreamt it, when I was a kid. But she finally said something close enough to the line I remembered, in the final episode, so I was really happy to know the one thing I remembered happening in the show had actually happened, even if it wasn't exactly as I remembered it.) It was something about Ariel having different synonyms for "beautiful" that she used to describe herself at different times of day. Seriously, that is like the most utterly random thing I could have possibly remembered, but I suppose it appealed to my seven-year-old sense of humor and nascent appreciation for absurdism (or just plain silliness) than any of the other humor in the show. (But like I said, I hadn't yet developed an understanding of camp.) Anyway... I'm really glad to have seen the show again, it's been very nostalgic for me. And I guess that's all there is to say.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot something I wanted to mention about Blackpool. As evil and menacing as he was, when I watched the series on DVD I found it incredibly amusing how mundane his entrances and exits from scenes could be. He has a tendency to just say "Hi," in a very casual way, before launching into his evil monologues or whatever. And just as casually to say "Bye," when he's finished. It's just such a nice, quirky, unexpected touch, but I probably like it more than I should....


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