Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nostalgia Theater:
Pulling Over The Highwayman

With my post from earlier this week expressing utter befuddlement at the possibility of a Manimal movie, I realized that it had been far, far too long since I followed through on my promise to...*ahem*...celebrate other entries from the cavernous catalogue of crap created by TV maven Glen A. Larson. I'm back with a beauty this week, though. Witness: The Highwayman.

Debuting as a pilot movie that aired on September 20, 1987 (twenty-five years ago this week), The Highwayman was completely schizophrenic about its premise -- a result, I can only assume, of taking three vaguely related concepts for shows and soldering them together wherever convenient. One the one hand, it's set in the post-apocalyptic Southwest of 1992 (the world of tomorrow!), a la Mad Max. One the other hand, it's about a group of mysterious "Highwaymen" who covertly right wrongs with futuristic vehicles, a la Larson's own Knight Rider.

Only, the thing of it is that they're not covert, because they ride around in big, damn trucks unlike anything anyone has ever seen, presumably even in the far-flung future of 1992, right out there in the open. Ah, but then again they don't need to be covert, because they actually represent the absolute authority in this nuked out wasteland. Only they don't, because they occasionally get into scuffles with local law enforcement. Oh, hell, just watch the intro, with saga sell narration by William Conrad, and see if that makes sense of any of it:

Hmm, yeah. No help there. And nothing like snazzy synth music and video toaster effects to instantly date a show, is there? Did that ever look and/or sound good?

The show starred Sam J. Jones (the title character in 1982's Flash Gordon -- which has spawned a cult reputation that completely belies its actual quality) as a Highwayman called "Highway." That's his name. For a little perspective, that's sort of like having a cop show called Policemen where the main character's name is "Police." Also of note in the cast: Jane Badler, a.k.a. the rodent-eating villainess at the center of TV's V, and Tim Russ, who would become perpetually-peeved Vulcan Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager a few years later.

The Highlwayman garnered enough eyeballs in the initial airing of that pilot film to spawn a blink-and-gone weekly series the following spring, which ran off the road after a mere nine episodes. Heck, the only reason I even became aware of it is that I lived abroad at the time, where local TV stations happily aired whatever American cast-offs landed on their doorstep. Historically speaking, this would mark the last time a Larson-created series would air on a network, and the last Larson sci-fi until NightMan had its way with audiences in syndication ten years later. Jump over here to see how that turned out.


Anonymous said...

In Brazil is a cult
called "The Future Warrior " !

Anonymous said...

Man, I loved the Highwayman! I've been looking for that on DVD for ages. Yeah, I know the show is crummy. But I remember Jacko the Australian Energizer battery commercial guy was in it. And I remember the cool vehicles...

That show was a lot like Knight Rider, which I still love. It even had a similar opening narration. And a similar thing at the beginning where someone comes on the screen and give the guy his assignment. I remember "Terror on the Blacktop" was the opening pilot.

I remember my friends and I hanging out on Friday nights, hoping to catch that show. And then being disappointed when it stopped coming on.

Oh, and Flash Gordon rocks! Yeah, I know in the movie he never actually DOES anything. But it stars Ornella Muti and has a soundtrack by QUEEN! What the hell else does a guy want??? LOL

Thanks for the nice write-up. Good memories, there :)

Clint the Cool Guy