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'Tarzan' talks a good game

Travis Fimmel stars in the WB's version of "Tarzan."
Travis Fimmel stars in the WB's version of "Tarzan."
Timothy White, The WB

HOLLYWOOD — The show that the producers of "Tarzan" described to TV critics sounds like a pretty good one. Too bad it's not the show you're going to see Sunday night.

Actually, this isn't even the title of the show that the WB picked up back in May. Originally, this was supposed to be "Tarzan & Jane," but, apparently, Jane isn't quite as important as originally conceived.

This latest permutation of the Tarzan legend finds our young hero (Travis Fimmel) "rescued" by his billionaire uncle, Richard Clayton (Mitch Pilleggi of "The X-Files") and brought back to New York City. In Sunday's premiere (8 p.m., Ch. 30), Tarzan isn't happy about being away from the jungle. And he meets up with a police detective, Jane Porter (Sarah Wayne Callies), who catches his attention.

It's all rather dull. Which might be remedied. Maybe.

After the premiere, the producers are bringing in a new character — Tarzan's aunt, Kathleen (Lucy Lawless of "Xena, Warrior Princess").

"She and Richard sort of battle over Tarzan's soul," said executive producer Eric Kripke. "And with control of Tarzan comes control of Greystoke, this corporation. So it's this massive struggle between two very powerful titans of New York City."

Which puts Tarzan in the middle.

"The heat is going to be on him to a pretty intense degree," Kripke said. "His aunt is able to protect him in some ways because she's working to protect him from Richard, who is trying to control and contain and basically cage Tarzan."

Which sounds a lot more interesting than the first episode. Maybe.

As for Jane, well, she'll still be around. "The show is essentially an action-adventure show with romance," said executive producer Laura Ziskin, who insisted that the title change came because, "We think it's misleading to say 'Tarzan & Jane' because it implies that they get together immediately, which isn't going to happen."

"This relationship between them will be an ongoing tension," she said before backtracking. "It's not a relationship. There will be lots of obstacles. It's going to be a difficult relationship to consummate. But it's essential to the show."

Which may not be a good thing, given the lack of chemistry between Fimmel and Callies.

"Tarzan" is obviously still a work in progress. If the producers do what they say they're going to do, it might work out. Maybe.

"We want a very edgy and modern and mature take on this legend," Kripke said. "And we really want to reinvigorate it for modern audiences. It's really going to be a Tarzan that people have never seen before."

Assuming, of course, anybody who sees the premiere ever watches another episode.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com