Kevin Sorbo Is God!
"Yes, Virginia, There Is a Hercules" Plot Summary:
Rob Tapert awakens from a nightmare about the episode "Atlantis," in which a warlord fires a phaser at Hercules. Tapert, the series' executive producer, receives a phone call from set producer Eric Gruendemann, who asks whether Tapert survived the recent L.A. earthquake. Then tells him something which causes Tapert to panic. Tapert calls producer Liz Friedman (who's been punching Tapert's image) to pass on the bad news. She calls writer Jerry Patrick Brown, who's involved in a paintball re-enactment of the Vietnam War, and writer Paul Robert Coyle, who's gambling in Vegas. When all have convened at Renaissance Productions, Tapert awakens writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and announces to them all that star Kevin Sorbo is missing.
Tapert sends production assistant David Scott Pollison to search the world for Sorbo. Brown thinks a war-heavy episode about Ares could fill in, and recalls clips from "Judgement Day" to prove it. Friedman complains that it makes more sense to do a feisty Callisto episode, using flashbacks from "Surprise" to illustrate her point. But others point out that both Ares and Callisto are bad guys who couldn't do much other than playing scissors, rock, paper without Hercules around to fight.
Tapert's assistant Melissa Blake tries to poison him and then stab him, but in his rush to go fishing, he doesn't notice. Then Blake gets a call announcing that studio head B.S. Hoffinfoffer is on his way over. Teams come out of the woodwork to dress everyone up and change the posters on the walls. B.S. arrives to announce that his chandelier fell on him during the earthquake, and he had a vision: a musical Hercules! He describes the episode "...and Fancy Free," which impresses everyone, but a call from Pollison alerts the exec to the fact that Sorbo is missing. Coyle wonders aloud why they couldn't do an episode with the Sovereign, like "Stranger in a Strange World," but Friedman points out that since Sorbo plays the Sovereign, this is an idiotic idea. B.S. fires the entire staff, then re-hires them and demands that they find a new Hercules.
Casting director Beth Hymson brings in her hot gardener to audition; he does a lousy job with the speech to the infant from "Two Men and a Baby." So do the mime and the Elvis impersonator. Gruendemann calls to announce that the crew has learned that Sorbo is missing, since he tried to pretend to be Hercules himself; the producers hear him being tortured over the phone. Blake asks why they don't do a Young Hercules series and spins out ideas for a cocky younger version of the character, but nobody pays attention. B.S. returns around 4:15 to announce that the show will be cancelled if they don't come up with an idea by 5 p.m.
Friedman says she wishes they could do away with actors altogether, which gives Tapert the idea of doing a Hercules cartoon - he has visions of The Battle For Mount Olympus, but Friedman points out that they'd still need Sorbo's voice. Kurtzman and Orci present Chimpules, an idea they've been working on for months about a series starring a monkey, but Tapert ridicules them and a fistfight breaks out. Suddenly everyone freezes, and Ares and Strife show up. They discuss the earthquake that they caused in Los Angeles, which kept Hercules busy so the show would be cancelled, thus permitting Ares to watch Millennium in peace.
Hercules enters, disguised as Sorbo. Ares expresses disgust that his brother rescued Los Angeles from the earthquake, but Hercules says the world isn't ready to know that he is real. Ares sneers and challenges him, but Hercules says Ares' people will have to call his people. He un-freezes the staff, who are delighted to see him and accept "Kevin Sorbo's" excuse that he was caught in traffic. In the background, the news reports that a mystery man prevented people from dying in the earthquake.
HOWL! This episode is probably funniest for true aficionados who know something about the staff members and their reputed personalities, but anyone who manages not to fall on the floor laughing when the male staff stands at urinals singing the Hercules theme music is stronger than myself. A rundown of the cast list: Bruce Campbell (Autolycus) plays Tapert, Kevin Smith (Ares) plays Brown, Hudson Leick (Callisto) plays Friedman, Michael Hurst (Iolaus) plays Coyle, Ted Raimi (Joxer) plays Kurtzman, Robert Trebor (Salmoneus) plays Hoffinfoffer, Gina Torres (Nebula) plays the casting director, Joel Toback (Strife) plays Pollison, Lisa Chappell (Dirce) plays Blake, and Johnny Pinko (Darnell) plays the first replacement tryout. Oh, yes, and Hercules plays Kevin Sorbo. I would not swear to it, but I am pretty sure there were cameos by the real Tapert and Gruendemann, too.
This episode went for camp all the way: actual red carpet rolled out for studio execs, Blake pouring rat poison into Tapert's drink, an illicit smoker setting off alarms which cause rotating disco balls to drop from the ceiling as well as oxygen masks. When Brown claims to have survived Korea, Friedman demands to know when he was there, to which he replies, "The Olympics! It was hell!" The actors impersonate people fairly close to the characters they usually play - Friedman's depicted as a devious shrike with a mean left hook, Brown's obsessed with wargames, B.S. just wants to make a buck - his suggestion for the musical, which features Hurst in drag dancing with Sorbo, is, "Like La Cage Aux Folles, only better!"
Kurtzman and Orci, dismissed as the morons who came up with the chimp story, wrote this episode, in which every good idea the franchise has had recently is featured - from the cartoon to Young Herc to some great episodes which were shown in flashback. While I was sorry they couldn't come up with a way to drag Xena into the proceedings (the show's usual ratings booster, plus Lucy Lawless is Tapert's fiancee), I thought they did a great job parodying the scrambles they must have gone through when Lawless last season and Sorbo this season were out with injuries.
One interesting nitpick: Strife was alive and well this episode, but we just saw Callisto kill him with hind's blood in "Armageddon." I don't know whether that means that this episode was aired out of order or if Strife is actually coming back, but it did present a jarring moment which I half-expected some extradiegetic commentary about on the part of the "writers."