Sunday, March 02, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Tarzan: The Epic Adventures Stinks Up Syndication

About a year ago I looked at the syndicated BeastMaster TV series from the mid-'90s. That show emerged as a result of the huge success enjoyed by Universal's Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and there was a long line of cheapie offerings that showed up around the same time to try and grab some of that reflected glory. Among the cheapest of these cheapies was 1996's Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, which took a thesaurus to "The Legendary Journeys" and attempted to reinterpret the scope, majesty, and mystery of Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic literary character minus the actual scope, majesty, and mystery.

Starring former model Joe Lara (who'd previously played Burroughs' jungle man in a 1988 TV movie called Tarzan in Manhattan, unrelated to this series), The Epic Adventures' big selling point before its debut was that it would literalize the fantasy and sci-fi stuff that was layered into the various Tarzan books (lizard men, lost kingdoms at the center of the Earth, etc.) but which was rarely associated with the character in the eyes of the public thanks to decades upon decades of screen Tarzans doing battle with poachers, hunters, etc. In concept, that's not a bad idea, but when an ambitious premise collides with an unambitious budget, you get this:

That's the first part of the feature-length debut, "Tarzan's Return," and I'm guessing you made it about thirty seconds into the title sequence, if that, before clicking away in a hurry. It's worth noting that this Tarzan inexplicably wore a loincloth...and boots! Wotta wuss. Anyway, before Tarzan: The Epic Adventures had even premiered in late August 1996, there was already marketing campaign in place, with a whole assortment of action figure tie-ins from the now-defunct Trendmasters lining shelves (presumably they're defunct because they licensed stuff like this). Here's a TV spot:

As far as the show itself, the writing was terrible, the acting was worse (with the wooden Lara, upon whose shoulders the whole thing rested, the most egregious offender), and the dime-store CGI effects made Hercules look like Avatar. Needless to say, Tarzan: The Epic Adventures failed to catch on. Given that we're talking about the same era when Baywatch was a global sensation, that's really saying something. After 22 eps, Tarzan swung away for good (as did Lara's acting career). Weirdly, up until a little while ago, I couldn't even find proof it'd ever existed, but someone was good (bad?) enough to upload the entire series onto YouTube.  Enjoy.

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