In Depth

Master of Fantasy: Rob Tapert

Rob Tapert, executive producer of ABC Studios’ syndicated series “Legend of the Seeker,” is returning to the syndie market after several years of being frustrated with the business.

Mr. Tapert, along with his partner, director Sam Raimi, produced notable fantasy first-run syndication staples including “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.”
After “Xena” wrapped in 2001 (racking up 134 episodes in the process), Mr. Tapert said the syndie market wasn’t what it had been.

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“First-run syndication was being driven into the slums,” he said, adding that the quality of first-run syndicated fare had slipped. After a lengthy run, Mr. Tapert and Mr. Raimi turned their focus toward their horror film company, Ghost House Pictures.

Several years later, Mr. Raimi introduced Mr. Tapert to Terry Goodkind’s “The Sword of Truth” book series, which both thought would translate well to television, and they turned back toward syndication as the medium.

Shot in New Zealand, “Legend” follows woodsman Richard Cypher, who discovers he has magical powers. Teaming up with the mysterious Kahlan and the wizard Zedd, the group sets out to stop an evil tyrant.

“At heart, Sam and I are independents and mavericks,” Mr. Tapert said, adding that removing the network from the equation erased a level of bureaucracy for the show to go through.

While the budget is slimmer than that of a broadcast show, syndication guarantees 22 episodes, which allows for stronger story planning, key to a fantasy-based show focusing on the characters and their journey.

“What we love about sci-fi and fantasy are the heroes and the journeys they go on,” he said. He added that sci-fi and fantasy on TV allows viewers to stay with the characters longer than a 90-minute film would.

Mr. Tapert didn’t rule out appearances of “Xena” star Lucy Lawless, his wife, or “Hercules’” Kevin Sorbo in “Legend,” but they won’t be appearing in the first 22 episodes. As for Sam Raimi pal Bruce Campbell, who shows up in nearly all of Mr. Raimi’s productions, “Legend” might be the exception.

“I don’t think he’s available to us,” Mr. Tapert said, due to Mr. Campbell’s prominent role on USA’s “Burn Notice.” But frequent collaborator Ted Raimi, Sam’s brother, is appearing in “Legend.”