Tarzan in the Big City

When I was in middle school I started reading the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. My dad had the whole set (all 24 of them) and I read them all. I was totally obsessed and to this day I lament the disappearance of most of those books. Because of the Tarzan series I read more books by Edgar Rice Burroughs so I know who Frank Frazetta is and I’m not lost when the name John Carter of Mars comes up. Edgar Rice Burroughs may be my own personal most-read author.

I’ll admit, his writing is a bit cheesy, mostly in the dialogue area. Of course, I’ve never read anything else written between the 1910s and 1940s – that I know of – so it could just be the era it was written in. But the fact of the matter is that Burroughs could write a good pulpy adventure story and I loved every minute I spent reading the Tarzan series, not to mention his numerous other works.

At this point you may be wondering why I’m bringing up books written by a man who’s been dead since 1950. Well, it’s because I finally watched the WB’s Tarzan – all eight episodes – and I feel compelled to review.

If you know nothing about Tarzan, you’re about to get a quick schooling (and shame on you for not knowing the real story of Tarzan, not the Disney-fied version). Lord and Lady Greystoke (AKA John and Alice Clayton) were on their way to the west coast of Africa were John was to investigate the treatment of black British subjects by another European power; they never made it. They were instead marooned in the middle of nowhere on the coast of Africa. Within nine months John, Jr. was born. A year later John, Sr. and his wife were both dead and the baby was being cared for by a great ape that had lost her own offspring in an accident.

The baby grew up as an ape and was called Tarzan. During that time he taught himself to read and write English from books his parents had brought with them and were still in the hut his father had built (though obviously he didn’t know anything about his real parents). About 20 years later he was introduced to the American Jane Porter and her father Archimedes, as well as several supporting characters that don’t really matter in a brief history of the real story of Tarzan. BTW, you saw that right, Jane is actually an American in the original story. Anyway, many mishaps and adventures befall the group, Tarzan saves Jane, Tarzan falls in love with Jane, eventually Tarzan and Jane get married and have a son named Jack, which is, in itself, a whole other story.

Being as it is that I know the original Tarzan story I’m probably harder to please than most people when it comes to film and TV adaptations involving one of my favorite characters. Even before I read the books I liked the idea of Tarzan (yes, at one point I wanted to be Jane so I could swing through the trees with Tarzan). So forgive me if I concentrate too much on odd details as this review goes on.

I’ve long felt that there hasn’t been a really good Tarzan adaptation to film or TV – at least not recently. Greystoke annoyed me (and I’ll tell you why when I get around to reviewing that film) and almost every other adaptation has been utterly forgettable. I’m not kidding, I know I’ve seen a few and I remember nothing about any of them. It’s a travesty, really, and one I’d like to see remedied. Enter WB’s Tarzan.

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