Friday, January 15, 2016

‘Sheena’, the series

Premiering in 2000 at the tail end of the syndication boom of the 90’s, “Sheena” is a colorful, entertaining, action adventure drama, based on the character created by Golden Age comic book legends  Will Eisner and S. M. "Jerry" Iger.

Like the cult classic 1984 film starring Tanya Roberts, the series retains the spirit of the original comic book, plus works in some added supernatural elements.

Somehow I missed this show during its initial two season run. It may have poorly distributed because I do not even recall seeing it on or ever even promoted, and was not even aware of the show until years later when I purchased a slew of back issues “Femme Fatale”  magazine and saw a cover story about the series.

Finally, I saw the show was now available on DVD, and decided to take the plunge.

I am now five episodes in, and you know what? I like it. As a matter of fact I am enjoying the show quite a bit. I like it a lot.

First off, the ridiculously gorgeous Gena Lee Nolin is perfectly cast as Sheena. She exudes a raw, primal sexuality and has the charisma to pull off such a larger than life character.

Oddly enough, even though she is sporting way more clothing (most of the time anyway) than Tanya Roberts did in the 1984 film, it actually works in favor of the show. Sometimes keeping the sexuality just below the surface makes it more erotic. Keep in mind, this is all done in the context of a PG 13 friendly presentation. But like Conan and Tarzan, primal eroticism is woven into the narrative and subtext and finding a way to tap into it is a key factor to any successful adaption of these works. And thanks to Gena Lee Nolin—as well as her supporting co-star (the muscular, charming   John Allen Nelson), this show manages to pull it off surprisingly well.

Another thing I really like is that both the series, and the main character, have a philosophy. Sheena is serious about protecting her jungle, and I absolutely love this!

So far the storylines have been strong with good guest stars (Peter Onorati , Jennifer Hammon, and Ron Ely—Tarzan from the 1966 NBC series yet to come!).

Both major supporting characters are fairly well-developed. The aforementioned muscular Cutter (John Allen Nelson) reminds me a bit of Michael Douglas’s character from “Romancing the Stone” mixed in with a dash of “Indiana Jones”. Sheena’s stepmother Kali, played by the beautiful Margo Moorer, is a wonderful character.

Not having the benefit of a feature film budget to shoot on location in Africa as the 1984 film did, or in Mexico like the Ron Ely “Tarzan” NBC series, this show opts for a studio look, mixing in local Florida locations for outdoor jungle scenes. This works fine actually, because the shots are well composed and the sets nicely designed.

Along with Gena Lee Nolan, the show’s greatest asset is its feature film quality music. The score was composed by Sean Callery, who has since gone on to immense success with “24” and “Homeland”. Add this soundtrack to my list of unreleased Holy Grails.

Bottom line: If you are a fan of Robert E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs, or Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones type stories, then the entertaining “Sheena” is a show you might like.

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