I blame Rosie O'Donnell and Phil Collins for lots of things, but this version
of "Tarzan" is not their fault.
The WB's "Hot Teen Tarzan" debuted, preened for a while, and now
it's off the air, possibly nevermore to return. And lo, the cry has gone up
from concerned Hot Teen Tarzan fans to save it.
Consider this the beginning of my anti-petition.
I understand The WB's reasoning for making this show. They scored with one
pop-culture icon in "Smallville," then tanked with "The Lone
Ranger" in a TV-movie that I reviewed here on the site. They're one for
two, why not try for the rubber match?
Unfortunately, while they called the show Tarzan they didn't do a show about
Tarzan. That might have done fine. Instead, the show is about Jane and Tarzan's
aunt and uncle -- the name of the show should be "People Who Know Tarzan."
I do not begrudge any show that gives Mitch Pileggi and Lucy Lawless steady
paychecks. They are both fun actors who have given me many an hour of entertainment.
But their characters are new additions, superfluous to the Tarzan mythos. They
do add something to it -- their smothering presence.
There are a bunch of things one could do with a regular series about Tarzan,
and this show did exactly none of them. There is something about "Smallville"
that FEELS like it's bigger than life, that it's about a superhero. "Tarzan"
-- not so much. The books are swashbuckling high adventure. This show is teen
soap opera. I read an interview with the show's producer, who basically said
that the trappings of Tarzan were stupid, so he took all of them out to do this
show. Nice. Next, he should adapt "Gilligan's Island," but take out
that part about 7 people being shipwrecked.
In this show, Tarzan is a handsome enough young man who wears a designer shirt
and slacks with no shoes. Now, I'm not saying he should wear a loincloth and
swing from ropes. But give me something!
Tarzan himself is not the star of the show, he's the MacGuffin -- the target
of a quest being undertaken by the rest of the cast. No joke. Tarzan isn't onscreen
for long chunks of the show, but the rest of the cast talks about him. Where
did he go? And why doesn't he have a freaking monkey?
Here's an example of how unnecessary Tarzan is to his own show. Let's replace
Tarzan in the plots with the Ruby of Pellucidar.
Jane finds herself strangely attracted to the Ruby of Pellucidar, although
she knows it will get her in trouble. Her boyfriend is jealous. This ruby has
ruined their lives together. Mean Uncle Greystoke wants the ruby for himself,
so he can get richer. Good Aunt Greystoke cares about the Ruby of Pellucidar
and doesn't want it to be harmed.
The Ruby of Pellucidar -- er, Tarzan -- is played as a brave soul with a strong
sense of justice. And that right there is where the similarity to anything resembling
Tarzan stops. He's in the jungle for only about 2 minutes in the first episode.
Sure, book Tarzan spent 95 percent of his time there, but hey man, that's just
a book! But I held out hope, briefly. Then instead of it being about how Tarzan
heroically adapts to his new surroundings, it's about how everyone else adapts
to having a very handsome blond guy around.
And the lord of the jungle has butterfingers! Jane's boyfriend is dangling
off a building, and Tarzan does the ol' fumble-roonie and the poor jerk falls
to his punk death on the street. Smooth.
Tarzan gets in fights with thugs, and the show seems to take the side of the
thugs. Jane seems disturbed when she sees the brutally pummeled thugs afterwards.
Tarzan / Jane is a classic love thing right up there with Superman / Lois Lane,
except that Tarzan gets the girl and keeps her by the end of his first book.
But in this show, they have to drag that out. They drag it by making Tarzan
very much like Jane's puppy. She wants him to be protected by people who love
him. She says this out loud.
The only other time a Tarzan story was really about Jane was the movie "Tarzan
The Ape Man" with Bo Derek. And unlike "Ape Man," on this show
we don't get to see Jane's naked breasts.
After the Tarzan cartoon, I was convinced that nothing would rescue Tarzan
from all-singing, all-dancing Disneyana. Thanks, WB, for proving me wrong. Here,
all traces of high adventure are replaced by teen angst -- on the part of Jane
and the aunt and uncle, who aren't even teens! Tarzan says he wants to go back
to the jungle. I would, too. Anything to get away from these people. All they
do is yak, yak, yak.
At least Phil Collins doesn't do the theme song.