Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive TV Grab Bag - WIZARDS AND WARRIORS and BEYOND WESTWORLD ""

Monday, August 18, 2014


So I came of age in the era of Dungeons and Dragons and being that the game's publisher TSR was headquartered in Lake Geneva Wisconsin, I think it that made it a bigger deal as that was my home state. So Dungeons and Dragons was first created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson around 1974 but it didn't seem to really boom into the popular zeitgeist until almost a decade later. 1983 saw the start of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS cartoon show which I remember loving as a kid. I think a lot of kids that were my age around that time also fondly recall that show. What many of them (myself included) don't recall is that there was a live-action fantasy show that debuted early on in the same year. It's a little trickier to draw the line from DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS the game to WIZARDS AND WARRIORS, but it seems obvious to me that the game and its popularity influenced the show. CBS aired WIZARDS AND WARRIORS as a mid-season replacement in early 1983. CBS had dabbled in D&D related content the year prior when they produced and air the movie MAZES AND MONSTERS (starring a young Tom Hanks). That film centered around a group of friends playing a role playing game very much modeled after D&D. So that movie airs in December of 1982, then comes WIZARDS AND WARRIORS in February of 1983 followed later in the year (September) by the D&D cartoon (also on CBS). I think it's safe to say somebody at CBS was a fan of the game for sure.
WIZARDS AND WARRIORS sadly only lasted 8 episodes and was cancelled due to less than stellar ratings. The cast was headed up by Jeff Conaway (most remembered as "Kenickie" from GREASE)  who was coming off a great TV success after having been a regular on the smash hit show TAXI. The other player in WIZARDS AND WARRIORS people may recognize is Julia Duffy, who rose to memorable prominence as "Stephanie" on the TV show NEWHART, right after WIZARDS got the boot. Fans of classic 80s cinema may also recognize Duncan Regehr as Count Dracula from THE MONSTER SQUAD (he is "Prince Dirk Blackpool" in WIZARDS). I'm pretty sure that Fred Dekker must have seen Regehr's arch villain scenery chewing in this show prior to casting his film. The WIZARDS cast also includes Walter Olkewicz who plays the somewhat rotund but quite funny sidekick to Jeff Conaway's character (they play off of each other quite well). You'd be hard pressed to not recognized Olkewicz if you were any kind of regular TV watcher in the 1980s. You may also know him from a small role in TWIN PEAKS (which recurred in FIRE WALK WITH ME).
 The show's creator was Don Reo who has a long and varied history with television. He is primarily a writer/producer and has worked on things like ROWAN AND MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN, SANFORD AND SON, RHODA and most recently TWO AND A HALF MEN. Another TV connection the show had was in that most of the episodes were directed by actor Bill Bixby. Lastly, I found it notable that the first episode of the show was written by Bill Richmond, who teamed with Jerry Lewis on some of his most fantastic movies (THE LADIES MAN, THE ERRAND BOY, THE PATSY and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR). So it's a sad thing that despite all that cache, this show never took off, but it has certainly been remembered fondly by fans for many many years and has never been available on home video to this point so it's a pretty neat thing that it's finally come out. 
In poking around online I found some memorable things relating to the show. The first is an old CBS Promo for the show (as part of their Saturday night lineup):

And here is (a less than amazing quality version of) the intro for the show. The theme music can certainly be classified as "rousing" and "adventurous":

Lastly is a 3-minute clip of the show that Warner Archive has selected to give you a sense of it:
I have to say that, as a nerd for this kind of fantasy story stuff, I was fascinated and tickled to see WIZARDS AND WARRIORS for the first time. It's a show with a great sense of humor about it and I really appreciated that. It kind of felt like a combination of KRULL and THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD by way of a sitcom (or like ICE PIRATES in a fantasy world context). I'm really quite excited it can finally find an audience 30 plus years later.

I don't know about you, but I am kind of a big fan of all things WESTWORLD related. If you haven't seen that movie, you really must check it out ASAP (WBHV ha s put out a lovely Blu-ray). It's all about a quasi-futuristic setting wherein folks take a hovercraft out to the middle of the desert to go to this amazing adult amusement park/resort which was split into three "worlds". There Medieval World (which was set up to look like medieval Europe), Roman World (like old-world Rome) and West World (like the American old west). All of these worlds were populated by (then) sophisticated android robots who the guests could interact with. They could talk to them, kill them or have sex with them. Pretty debaucherous place right? Well Richard Benjamin, James Brolin and Dick Van Patten (stars of the 1974 film version) thought so. Debaucherous and fun until things go terribly wrong. The androids start flipping out and it doesn't end well. Sound familiar? Writer and director Michael Crichton would do a similar little story of an amusement park gone awry with dinosaurs some years later. AIP snapped up the rights to WESTWORLD followed it up with a less-than-awesome "sequel" called FUTUREWORLD in 1976. Well this TV show, ignores that sequel and picks up right where WESTWORLD left off. It focuses on the goings on at the amusement park's parent company called Delos. The story features a  malevolent scientist type who wants to use robots for world domination. A little silly, but kind of a fun soap opera in a WESTWORLD context so I enjoyed it. I don't imagine Crichton was a big fan, but then again his filmmaking output was somewhat questionable at times. One big plus for the show is that Connie Sellecca is one of the stars and she is just cute as all hell.

Here's a fun promo that CBS did for the premiere of BEYOND WESTWORLD:

BEYOND WESTWORLD only lasted five episodes starting in March of 1980. Apparently, it was one of the shortest-lived genre shows in the history of network television. Regardless of the quality (or lack thereof) of BEYOND WESTWORLD,  WESTWORLD still rules and there's even been talk of HBO producing their own show based on the property.

Both WIZARDS AND WARRIORS and BEYOND WESTWORLD are available via Warner Archive:

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