Wizards and Warriors (1983) Was a Real Show on TV and I Can Prove It

wizards & warriors ad 1983

wizards and warriors ad 1983

Real, yes. Good? No. Wizards and Warriors was developed and produced by Don Reo, a comedy veteran who had previously worked on M*A*S*H and Private Benjamin. He describes the origin of the show in a 1983 issue of Cinefantastique:

“I think the problem that most people have with fantasy is that so much of it is very grim,” said Reo, who got the idea for the show when his kids introduced him to Dungeons and Dragons. “I’ve gone to see films like EXCALIBUR, CONAN and CLASH OF THE TITANS, and those pictures were really somber. There just were not any lead characters that had a sense of humor, and when they tried it on NBC with FUGITIVE FROM THE EMPIRE, the show was so grim and boring that I was lost after the first five minutes.”

Actually, that grimness is precisely what drew us to fantasy. There was enough fluff and meandering optimism in the ’80s. Surely Reo knew how hugely successful John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian had been. Was he unfamiliar with the popularity of Robert E. Howard and Frank Frazetta, the godfathers of the grim, bloody, Romantic fantasy hero? Even The Lord of the Rings, the cornerstone of the fantasy genre, is an epic adventure as well as a sobering work about the nature of evil and the horror of war. The good-hearted humor in the series was not comedy but comic relief. Tolkien, Howard, and Frazetta were and are the main inspiration for D&D.

It takes a stroke of genius to make the fantasy-comedy combination work. The only screen example I can think of is The Princess Bride. Yes, Monty Python and the Holy Grail gets more brilliant each time I see it, but it’s pure satire. Maybe satire is what Reo was shooting for on Wizards and Warriors. He missed. (Today, he’s a writer and producer on Two and a Half Men.)

Reo mentions a show called Fugitive from the Empire, a pilot that premiered in April of 1981. The full title was The Archer: Fugitive from the Empire, a.k.a. The Archer and the Sorceress. From what I can tell, this was the first attempt at a feature length, live-action sword and sorcery movie produced for TV. The first post-D&D feature film in the same genre was Hawk the Slayer (1980).

As of now, you can watch the first episode of Wizards and Warriors here. Fugitive from the Empire is here.

(TV Guide images via eBay)

3 Responses to “<em>Wizards and Warriors</em> (1983) Was a Real Show on TV and I Can Prove It”


  1. 1 Steve March 30, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    I remember the first episode… There were probably more, but I can’t testify to that. First one dealt with a magical neutron bomb, while introducing the intentionally camp characters. Only good moments, ironically enough, were the battle footage lifted from “Excalibur”.


  1. 1 Wizards and Warriors: The Complete Series (1983) Now On DVD | 2 Warps to Neptune Trackback on July 29, 2014 at 5:54 pm
  2. 2 The First Sword and Sorcery Movie Was Almost Thongor: In the Valley of the Demons | 2 Warps to Neptune Trackback on January 14, 2016 at 4:36 pm

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