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Series / Tarzan: The Epic Adventures

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Tarzan: The Epic Adventures was an American TV series based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan series that ran in syndication from 1996 to 1997. It's notable for drawing a lot more direct inspiration from Burroughs' books than most other live-action adaptations, though characters and story elements are remixed to fit the show's episodic format (and to soften the racial attitudes). It's also notable for being one of the few Tarzan adaptations filmed in Africa — specifically South Africa — and employing local actors in supporting roles.

The pilot begins similarly to The Return of Tarzan, with Tarzan (Joe Lara) separated from Jane and hanging out in pre-World War I Paris with his friend Paul D'Arnot while tangling with the villainous Russian aristocrat Nikolai Rokoff. After an adventure that takes him and Rokoff back into Africa with a side trip to Pellucidar, Tarzan decides to remain in the jungle, where he goes on to meet other Burroughs creations such as the Waziri, Queen La and the Leopard Men.

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The show was cancelled after one season and effectively lost for many years, but in the mid-2010s it resurfaced on Hulu.


Tropes:

  • Action Girl: Jana of Pellucidar is pretty handy in a fight.
  • Adaptation Name Change/Adaptational Nationality: Olga de Coude in The Return of Tarzan was the sister of Nikolai Rokoff and wife of the French Count de Coude. In the show she becomes Rokoff's fiance and Count de Coude's daughter, so her first name is changed to the more appropriately French Colette.
  • Alien Sky: In the Burroughs-verse Earth is a Hollow World with Pellucidar covering the inside surface, lit by a glowing orb in the center. Thus the "sky" looks really weird.
  • "Arabian Nights" Days: The pilot includes a stopover at a decadent Moroccan kingpin's harem, which embodies this trope.
  • Chick Magnet: Tarzan. Must be the abs.
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  • Demonic Possession: The Leopard Queen is a white woman possessed by a powerful demon, though she reverts back to herself when the demon tires.
  • Dire Beast: In the pilot, the temple is guarded by a snake so gigantic that it could swallow a person in one gulp (and almost does).
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: In Pellucidar, our heroes encounter a couple of sauropods and some predator tracks, but sadly the show's time and/or budget constraints don't allow any interaction with them.
  • Eye Catch: After the pilot, the show has a visual conceit that you're reading this in a book (probably to advertise the connection to Burroughs). With the Opening Narration the book opens and shows pictures illustrating Tarzan's past. Then before commercial breaks whatever is in the live-action scene will turn into a picture in the book, then turn back when the ads are over.
  • Fanservice: Oh lordy, between the hero being a Walking Shirtless Scene and the scantily clad women this is pretty much nonstop.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Tarzan feels compassion for all animals, even the ones that try to eat him.
  • Gladiator Games: These are practiced in Castemara, a Lost World inhabited by descendants of Anthony and Cleopatra who preserve an ancient Roman society. Naturally, Tarzan gets thrown into one.
  • Hollywood Natives/I'm a Humanitarian: Subverted in the pilot, where Tarzan and his friend Mugambe are walking through the territory of a tribe that, according to Mugambe, has a reputation for ferocity and cannibalism. They come out of the brush with war paint and spears and surround our heroes... only for the leader to smile and call Tarzan "old friend."
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Tarzan says this almost word-for-word to Athena in "Tarzan and the Lost Legion," when she has her knife to Claudius' throat.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Tarzan has one of these with the Leopard Queen, calling on her human host to regain control.
  • Jungle Princess: The Leopard Queen is sort of this — she's a lost white woman ruling over a bunch of Africans, but it's only because the demon that possesses her has Mind Control powers over the men.
  • Made a Slave: Rokoff and his Moroccan friend try to do this to Tarzan, Colette de Coude, D'Arnot and Mugambe, but they manage to escape at the slave market.
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Timba is a Waziri prince who spent 13 years being educated in Europe. Like Tarzan he feels torn between the two worlds.
  • Mythology Gag: When Tarzan first arrives back in the jungle, he lets out what is clearly a recording of Johnny Weissmuller's famous yodel.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Timba was born in Africa and educated in Europe, yet he sounds remarkably American. Ditto Mugambe in the pilot.
  • Novelization: R.A. Salvatore wrote a novelization of the pilot.
  • One-Gender Race: The Mahars of Pellucidar are all female. The Pellucidar books explain that this was because they killed all the males after working out a way to reproduce without them.
  • Ptero Soarer: The Mahars in their natural form are kind of a cartoon exaggeration of this, being pterosaurs who have evolved since their Mesozoic days.
  • The Queen's Latin: The Castemarans speak with BBC accents, although with some cases of Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping (in fact, it sounds like some of Claudius' lines were dubbed by a different actor).
  • Slave Mooks: The Leopard Men are this to their queen.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Claudius, the testy ruler of Castemara, is prone to this.
  • Television Geography: After they escape the Moroccan slave market, Tarzan and Mugambe grab some horses and ride through some scenic savanna footage to the edge of the jungle, then let the horses go to find their way home. This conveniently ignores the big honkin' desert that's in the way and that the horses could never survive crossing.
  • Voice of the Legion: The Mahar queen has this in her human form, signaling her actual non-human nature. The Leopard Queen also gets this briefly when she's trying to threaten Tarzan.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Mahars are actually intelligent pterosaurs but have the ability to shapeshift into human female form. The Leopard Queen can also change into a leopard.
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