Did you ever watch an early episode of a hit TV show and wonder how it ever survived to be a hit? I just had that experience with Highlander. I discovered the show late in its run and enjoyed the imaginative worldbuilding and the swordplay, in addition to liking the characters. I received the Season 1 box set for my birthday and sat down to watch it. However, I thought some of the acting was really not very good (not the principals, but the guests). I know there are great actors in Canada--I see them on TV every week, especially on the SciFi network--but they didn't often appear in the early episodes of Highlander.
And seeing one more ignorant rube villain with a wretched abomination of an excuse for a Southern accent might've been the end of the box set. However, I persevered. About halfway through Season 1, the show seemed to hit its stride. The principal actors found a rhythm. The guests seemed much better. The stories felt tighter. Also, there were fewer fake-Southern rubes.
The chemistry between Adrian Paul and Alexandra Vandernoot was also great. The show did a good job, I felt, from its very beginning in exploring the complexities of a relationship between a man who can live forever unless somebody cuts off his head and a woman who's fated to grow old first. The series touched on this theme several times. It also addressed the effect of living with someone who has people literally out for his head. Vandernoot's Tessa was spunky without being unrealistic.
Duke alumnus Stan Kirsch also found his feet pretty quickly. His first appearance foreshadowed something bigger for him, but the series kept it under wraps for the rest of the season. He and Paul had an interesting dynamic, mentor and protege but not always a smooth interaction. My friends who attended Highlander conventions described the cast members as friendly and welcoming to their fans.
So the series had some good things going for it. In addition, it was based on a successful movie franchise starring Christopher Lambert as the original Highlander, Connor MacLeod. Like Stargate SG-1, it had a built-in fan base because it spun off from a successful movie. The movie also had a great "buddy" relationship that evolved from mentoring, with Sean Connery as the mentor-turned-buddy-turned defeated Immortal. And what better excuse to include a photo of Sir Sean in the blog? To his credit, Lambert helped launched the series and appeared in at least one of the TV-movie sequels, Highlander: Endgame.
The swordplay was way cool, also. The DVD extras in my box set include swordmaster Bob Anderson (who "worked with everyone from Errol Flynn to Darth Vader" and taught swordplay on the--speaking of Sir Sean--uneven Arthurian picture, First Knight). He talks about the efforts they made to keep the swordplay safe, and there are other bits about choosing different blades for the individual guest stars. And there was that rockin' music by Queen.
The last episodes, introducing more and varied Immortals, such as Darius and Fitzcairn, and the concept of the Watchers, gave greater depth to the world. So did the Parisian setting, though I have to wonder whether just anyone can tie up a barge across from the Ile de la Cite.
If you visit here often, you know I love Stargate SG-1, with Carter being my favorite character. Yet she had some really, truly, deeply cringe-worthy lines in the first few episodes. They were not just in favor of women's equality but were strident. The show lasted, though, and the characters gained depth. Maybe being on cable helped. I didn't ever glom onto Highlander fandom, but I wonder if the fan base was what kept the show going until it found its feet. Anybody know?
Have you ever hung on to a show that seemed far from fulfilling its promise and then been delighted when it finally reached its stride? Have you done that with a book or with a life endeavor? Have you hung in and been disappointed? Delighted?