Greek and Roman mythology provided the basis for
this beefcake adventure series that was spun off from several made-for-TV movies
aired during 1991.
Hercules was half man and half God, with greater
strength than any mere mortal. His father, Zeus, was the King of the Gods and
his mother, Alcmene, a beautiful woman.
At the beginning of the first episode, Hercules'
wife, Deianira (played by Tawny Kitaen in the made-for-TV movies), and his
children were killed by his evil stepmother, Hera. Hercules, trying to cope with
this loss, traveled from place to place helping people and battling the
terrifying creations of Hera and the other rogue Gods. In addition to other
humans, he fought hydra-headed monsters, dragons, demons, and even a giant
Cyclops. On occasion, he used techniques that looked similar to contemporary
martial arts. Despite all the violence, there was plenty of time for romance and
fun, and the series had a pronounced tongue-in-cheek quality about it.
Iolaus, Hercules' best friend since they were
children, traveled with him and reveled in the many fights they got into. Among
the recurring characters were: Salmoneus, a talkative but cowardly peddler
forever looking for his big score; Autolycus, "the prince of thieves," a
likeable crook who was almost as cowardly as Salmoneus; Ares - the God of War,
Hercules' malevolent half-brother who was obsessed with seeing Hercules dead;
Strife, Ares's aide, and Aphrodite, the playful Goddess of Love.
In May, 1998, Hercules' mother died and he
decided to join his father, Zeus on
to rule the other Gods, but he changed his mind and returned to Earth. Later
that year, Iolaus's body was taken over by Dahak, an ancient demon, and several
episodes were spent with Hercules trying to exorcise the evil spirit. In
January, he succeeded, with the help of Nebula and Morrigan, with whom he had
fallen in love, destroying Dahak and releasing Iolaus's spirit so that it could
go to Heaven. A few weeks later, another Iolaus, who had been a jester on an
alternative Earth, returned with Hercules to our Earth to replace the hero's
dead friend. The new Iolaus was very timid and really didn't want to fight - but
he adjusted. Hercules and Morrigan, who had gone their separate ways, got back
together on a trip to
reminiscing about their romance. In May, Iolaus II and his beloved Nautica,
daughter of Triton - God of the sea, left to live in the ocean. The following
week, the Gods allowed the original Iolaus to return to Earth to travel with
Hercules once again.
An early spin-off series was Xena: Warrior
Princess (1995). Two other Hercules series surfaced on network TV in
September 1998. On weekday afternoons, Fox aired Young Hercules, starring
Ryan Gosling as Hercules and Dean O'Gorman as Iolaus, produced by the same
people responsible for the grown-up Hercules, and ABC premiered the animated
Disney's Hercules on Saturday mornings.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
and Young Hercules were both filmed on location in New Zealand.