Last night, Discovery broadcast the first episode in their three-part miniseries about legendary motorcycle manufacturers Harley Davidson. So, what was the verdict?
Mention Harley Davidson and most people think of the ubiquitous, all-American motorcycle brand; a $10 billion air-cooled monstrosity that has become such an icon it’s almost reached a level of self-parody.
Instead of hot, young rebels like Marlon Brando stepping out, today the brand makes you more likely to think of middle-aged dads hauling their ‘hogs’ out of the garage every Sunday so they can go cruising with fantasies of being young, sexy and carefree again.
But before we reached this stage of baseballs caps and bomber jackets and special-edition Ford F-150s, all emblazoned with the Harley Davidson logo, the company actually had a fascinating story. That’s the subject of the 6-hour TV miniseries event that debuted on Discovery last night, following a Harley-themed episode of Fast N’ Loud.
Starring Michiel Huisman and Robert Aramayo – so, practically a Game of Thrones reunion show – the series kicks off in turn-of-the-century Wisconsin, and sees brainy Bill Harley (Aramayo) and entreprenurial Arthur Davidson (Bug Hall) try to break into the ‘motorized bicycle’ market with their home-brewed, combustion-fueled motorcycle.
The production values are incredible, and the mud and dirt and oil and smoke perfectly captures the grit and spirit of these American entrepreneurs. History – what little of it is actually known – takes a bit of a back seat and some popular tropes fill in for story details that have already been lost to antiquity.
The ‘star’ of the series is Michiel Huisman, who is terrific as hot-headed Walter Davidson. It’s difficult to believe that a Dutch actor, best known as Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones, can pull off such a quintessentially American role; but his accent is flawless and he’s engaging and charismatic.
British-born Robert Aramayo – another Thrones alumni, who played a young Ned Stark in flashback scenes – is similarly competent as the brainy, introverted Harley. He’s played a little more to type – as a nebbish young man who sacrifices his college career to try and turn Harley Davidson motorcycles into a legitimate commercial venture.
There’s a certain Lifetime feel to the storyline – such as an exaggerated rivalry with Indian motorcycles, and storylines that focus on female and African-American headliners in the brand history – but it is all seamlessly entertaining and I know that I got swept into the miniseries entirely by accident, and stayed up way past my bedtime to enjoy it.
Episode 2 played last night, with the conclusion tonight, and I’ll be sure to let you know how it all hangs together.