Crossbow: The Complete Series (also sometimes known as The Legend of William Tell) is very much in the vein of syndicated shows like Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. However, Crossbow is actually older than those shows and didn’t air in syndication (it aired on The Family Channel instead). Still, it is very, very similar to those action-adventure shows from that time period and one that a lot of people have probably never heard of.
Crossbow: The Complete Series is about a real-life Swiss folk hero called William Tell, who used a crossbow to split an apple placed on his son’s head to avoid his execution. The show takes place during the Swiss uprising in the 14th century and follows William Tell (Will Lyman) as he helps the people of the land and attempts to defeat main villain Gessler (Jeremy Clyde), the Austrian Governor. Crossbow ran for three seasons and 72 episodes and was shot in France in co-production with a French network called FR3. The show includes guest appearances by a pre-Buffy Sarah Michelle Gellar, Steve Buscemi, Robert Guillaume, and Roger Daltrey.
After watching a significant portion of the first season for this review, I have to say that I don’t really have much to say about Crossbow and my opinions about the show aren’t particularly strong either way. Crossbow: The Complete Series is extremely safe entertainment (not surprising considering it aired on The Family Channel) that is somewhat fun to watch due to it being a cheesy ’80s action-adventure show but certainly not something that you need to watch. There are plenty of fight scenes but little to no blood, deaths are quickly cut away from, and so on making Crossbow perfect family entertainment due to the overall lack of violence. However, these fight scenes are at best, extremely cheesy and fun to laugh at and at worst, absolutely terrible (probably about 50% of them fit into each of those categories). They are basically exactly the type of fight scenes you would expect a cheap show from the ’80s to have.
One thing I give Crossbow a lot of credit for is finding an absolutely great villain. Jeremy Clyde is wonderful as Gessler. He’s almost cartoonishly evil (and Game of Thrones Joffrey-like at times) but that’s perfect for a show like this. The music in this show is also pretty awesome (especially the theme song) but admittedly the up-tempo music doesn’t really fit the subject matter very well. Crossbow is also funnier than I expected and not just in a cheesy, B-movie like way (where you are mostly laughing at the show). It certainly isn’t laugh-out-loud funny but there is some subtle humor every now and then. The show is semi-serialized (mostly involving Gessler trying to capture William Tell) but most of the episodes are mainly about Tell helping a new group of people out each week (usually ones that are being treated poorly by Gessler’s men). Most episodes are also extremely predictable, to the point where I could sometimes predict everything that would happen in the episode after just a few minutes had aired.
As far as I can tell, this is the first time Crossbow: The Complete Series has ever been released on home video in the United States (it hasn’t even been released digitally from what I can tell). Other than a digital copy so you can watch the show on Mill Creek Entertainment’s online service, there are no bonus features included. However, as usual for these older and more niche TV show releases, I never really expected anything to be included in the first place. The video quality is actually pretty good for a show from 1987 but the episodes do vary in quality a bit. For example, the first episode actually looks quite great but some of the subsequent episodes looked a bit more iffy. For those worried about the way Mill Creek tends to package complete series releases, worry no more since the six discs are in trays (they usually only use sleeves for complete series releases with at least 8 discs from what I can tell).
As I wrote earlier, my feelings on Crossbow: The Complete Series are pretty mixed and not very strong either way. Overall, I enjoyed the episodes I watched but they were just so safe and predictable. That wouldn’t be a bad thing except that we are currently in the golden age of television and mediocre shows aren’t really going to hold viewers attention anymore. I would definitely recommend the show for fans of Xena, Hercules, and other similar shows like that (it feels like it would fit right in with those kinds of shows). For all other viewers, I can’t really commit either way. You may enjoy the cheesy action or you might think Crossbow is a complete waste of time. For a show like that, I think a rating of 2.5/5 is about right.
Crossbow: The Complete Series was released on DVD on March 6, 2018.
We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copy of Crossbow: The Complete Series used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.