Genuinely exciting reboot alert: The Hollywood Reporter reports that NBC, along with producers Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi, are looking for a head writer to reboot the ‘90s-era cheeseball fantasy hit Xena: Warrior Princess. The original show was a 1995 spinoff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys but quickly surpassed its predecessor in reputation, largely because of the onscreen charisma of New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless, who starred as Xena. (She went on to have a strong career in sci-fi and fantasy TV, playing characters on Battlestar Galactica and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
As with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the original Xena got a lot of attention not just for having female lead characters who kick butt, but for showing women who are actually friends, not catty rivals. Xena took it a step further by heavily implying throughout much of the series that Xena and her female friend and traveling companion Gabrielle are lovers.
The time is ripe for a Xena reboot. The popularity of Mad Max: Fury Road has shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that audiences will pay to see warrior women onscreen so long as the action and story is good. Game of Thrones has demonstrated that mainstream audiences can embrace a fantasy setting as well, even if fantasy isn’t usually their go-to genre. Not every superhero story has to have some pseudo-scientific explanation for the hero’s powers, as happens in the Marvel universe—maybe it’s time for a little more out-and-out magic.
As Rob Bricken at io9 points out, advances in special effects since the first Xena and generally higher audience expectations for story complexity both mean that a reboot can enhance the franchise “as opposed to just trotting it back out because people remember the name.” Perhaps Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship can be openly lesbian this time around. Maybe the storylines can be more complex or the world-building can be less lackadaisical. Maybe they could find a way to make it grittier without giving up the elements that make it fun. As shows like The Flash have demonstrated, you can pull off a campy all-in-good-fun tone without losing quality in storytelling or action. Let’s just hope they nail the casting as perfectly as the 1995 show did with Lucy Lawless.