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The Series

Conan the Adventurer is a live action television show that premiered in the U.S. on September 22nd, 1997. The Conan television series initially cleared in fifteen countries and 85% of the U.S. market. The show was distributed by Western International Syndication, and was produced by Keller Entertainment, the same production company responsible for the low quality series Tarzan: The epic Adventures and Alcapulco Heat.

Conan the Adventurer was a weekly one hour action-adventure series that ran for 22 episodes. Actual production of the show began in June of 1997, and the two hour pilot was filmed in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. The series was taped on location in Mexico.

The role of Conan was played by Ralf Moeller (AKA Rolf Muller), two time Mr. Universe, a native of Germany, and friend to Arnold Schwarzenegger. The rest of the ensemble cast included Danny Woodburn (Otli), Robert McRay (Zzeben), T.J. Storm (Bayu), Aly Dunne (Karela), and briefly, Andrew Craig (Vulkar).

The dismal script for the 2 hour pilot was written by Steve Hayes, the head of Project Development for the series. The show was not promoted to be "authentic Conan", but rather a mixture of Arnold Schwarzenegger's and John Milius' interpretation of Conan, but they couldn't even get this right. The writers and directors for the TV series were/are some of the worst in the business. So that these writers and directors recieve proper "credit," a listing of their names and the wretched episodes in which they participated follows:

RED SONYA Scott Thomas & Charles Henry Fabian Mark Roper
THE CHILD Dennis Richards & Charles Henry Fabian Frank Wayne
SHADOWS OF DEATH Scott Thomas & Charles Henry Fabian Mark Roper
CRYSTAL ARROW Scott Thomas & Charles Henry Fabian Mark Roper
RUBY FRUIT FOREST Harry Ackerman & Charles Henry Fabian Rob Stewart
HEART OF THE ELEPHANT I&II Dennis Richard & Charles Henry Fabian
LAIR OF THE BEASTMEN Dennis Richard & Charles Henry Fabian
SIEGE OF AHL SOHN-BAR Teagan Clive and Charles Henry Fabian Rob Stewart
A FRIEND IN NEED Scott Thomas and Charles Henry Fabian Frank Wayne
THREE VIRGINS John Bull and Charles Henry Fabian Mark Roper
HOMECOMING Scott Thomas and Charles Henry Fabian Rob Stewart
THE TAMING Molly Glenmore and Charles Henry Fabian Rob Stewart
THE CAVERN Peter Collins & Charles Henry Fabian
THE ANTIDOTE Peter Collins & Charles Henry Fabian

In it's first season, Conan the Adventurer recieved a dismal 1.7 Nielson Rating primarily because of low production values, bad directing and terrible writing. This show was far worse than its animated counterpart (also named Conan the Adventurer) which was produced back in 1991.

The series was in grave danger of being cancelled after its first season, and foreign and domestic networks were beginning to drop the show. In response, Western International Syndication, a television distribution and marketing firm which had been Keller Entertainment Group's partner in this venture decided to "buy out" their partner/production company in order to bring in a new production company to produce the Conan series... and hopefully retain their current clients by raising the quality of the show. Whether or not they succeed is yet to be determined...

UPDATE: 12-31-2005:
Indeed the death knell of Conan the Adventurer was heard far and wide, and there was very little the producers could do to save the show. The series lasted that one season and then ended, to the relief of every Conan and Howard fan. It is unfortunate that so many people lost money on this endeavor, but that's what happens when producers, directors, and writers treat a classic work of adult literature as if it were childish non-sense... mere "fantasy."

The the themes found in Robert E. Howard's original stories are sophisticated and complex, and many are profound. The content level in Howard's Conan stories is aimed at "young adults" (between the ages of 18-30), and a story aimed at anything less always strips the character and the stories of their drama and appeal. A movie might be made that is rated PG-13, but a Conan or television show would more likely be rated R. Central to the Conan character is violence. It is a primary theme that can not be avoided because Howard was trying to make a point... that the world is run on violence, that people are inherently violent, and that barbarism will always ultimately triumph... that civilization is merely a thin, hypocritical veneer obscuring the true barbarism upon which society is built and operates. This is only one of the important thematic elements that makes up the Conan character, but it is one that easily illustrates why every incarnation or adaptation that deviated from the essense of the Conan character failed miserably... if for nothing else, because the adaptations were too peaceful, too cuddly, too childish. It should be said, however, that mere violence is not the only important theme that if lost will spell doom to any Conan adaptation. A simple hack-and-slash Conan movie will fail just as miserably if it does not have any of the other philosophical and personal thematic elements that are found in Howard's Conan stories... the adult themes are what make these stories what they are-- and Howard's rebellious, intellectual, heart-felt world-view. It is tricky to pull off a sword and sorcery movie or television show... it too easily succumbs to dull wittedness and stupidity. Howard's brilliance shines through in the success of his stories. The tales are second only to J.R.R. Tolkien's in the entire fantasy genre world-wide, and are hugely popular. Howard worked out a formula that led to success. Future movie makers, television producers, and writers would do well to study Howard's literature in depth before attempting to adapt his work... what most people see on their first reading of the stories touches only the tip of a gigantic iceberg of meaning that will kill any Conan project if lost. A successful adaptation is possible, but only if the work is treated like the work of literary genius that it is, studied and adapted respectfully with meticulous attention to detail and tremendous thought regarding Howard's themes and thematic elements found in the Conan literature. Not an easy task to be sure, but one that would bear fruit on the level of the recent Lord of the Rings film adaptation... and perhaps beyond.

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