On one hand, the debut of Legend of the Seeker this weekend should be cause for happiness, the return of original scripted programming to a syndicated TV landscape dominated by tough-talking judges, paternity tests and makeovers.
But the show itself — from the folks behind Xena and Hercules, two of the last big syndicated hits — is a bit of a disappointment. Fans of the show’s source material and of the fantasy worlds conjured up in those previous shows will probably find some things to like, but at the moment Legend of the Seeker doesn’t look especially legendary.
The Seeker in question is Richard Cypher (Australian actor Craig Horner), who when we meet him has no greater worry than finishing construction on a small footbridge over a creek near his home (work he naturally does shirtless). That changes pretty quickly with the arrival of Kahlan (Bridget Regan), a witch who has crossed the Boundary (capital B definitely required), the magical barrier separating Richard’s peaceful land from the turbulent realm of evil ruler Darken Rahl (Craig Parker, whose role will presumably grow from his handful of scenes in the two-hour premiere).
Richard soon learns that he’s destined to fight the forces of Darken Rahl, and that the goofy old man who lives on the hill, Zedd (Bruce Spence), is actually a wizard who’s been keeping an eye on him all these years and will now give him some on-the-job training.
Thus begins a pretty familiar hero’s journey, with the sometimes impulsive youngster having grave responsibilities thrust on him, along with a more worldly and wary partner (who in this case also happens to be a gorgeous woman) and a wise old sage showing him the way. If you’ve seen Star Wars, read Harry Potter or otherwise consumed any number of other, similar works, you’ll be familiar with the setup.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it’s a good premise, which is why it’s been used so many times. But there aren’t enough distinguishing details in Legend of the Seeker to make it stand out from all those other stories, which given its auspices is a bit of a letdown.
The series is based on Terry Goodkind’s "Sword of Truth" novels, and among its executive producers are Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, who brought Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess to television in the mid-’90s. And while it shares a genre with those shows, Legend of the Seeker isn’t as fun as either of them.
The new show offers up precious little in the way of humor (a quality that helped Xena and Hercules appeal to pretty wide audiences). The action scenes aren’t anything to write home about either. There are a number of 300-style slow-motion sequences in the premiere, but the swordplay and stunt work looks about like you’d it expect it to look for a mid-budget syndicated series.
Legend of the Seeker isn’t likely to inspire the sort of devotion that some previous Raimi-Tapert efforts have. If the show can find its inner jokester, though, it could broaden its appeal beyond the fantasy fanatics who are likely to tune in.
Legend of the Seeker premieres the weekend of Nov. 1 in syndication. Check your local listings or LegendoftheSeeker.com for times and stations.