”We’re gonna scorch their arses!” bellows Conor, the perpetually hoarse freedom fighter in the wearyingly deafening Roar, a new sword-and-sorcery adventure series brought to you by producers Shaun Cassidy (American Gothic) and Ron Koslow (Beauty and the Beast). Conor is a cutie-pie circa A.D. 400, with a fetching little blond braid hanging down the right side of his face; indeed, actor Heath Ledger looks not a little like a Celtic version of Cassidy during the latter’s teen-idol days. Possessed of a mighty battle roar, Conor is preparing to scorch the posterior of glowering 400-year-old supernatural bad guy Longinus (Sebastian Roche), who actually looks only a few months older and much cheerier than Lance Henriksen on Fox’s Millennium.
Conor has a faithful sidekick, a handlebar-mustachioed oak tree of a fellow, Fergus (John Saint Ryan), plus female companionship in the form of Catlin (Vera Farmiga), described in the press notes as ”a beautiful former slave,” so you know she knows her place in the show. Together, they spend a lot of time clapping each other on the back, whenever they’re not lustily skewering muddy-faced enemies with their long, gleaming blades.
What Roar has going for it is what it is not — another campy hour in the manner of the series that started this trend, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. And that’s a relief. Ever since Hercules and its spin-off, Xena: Warrior Princess, have become hits, we have been pelted with such syndicated imitations as The Adventures of Sinbad, Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, and The New Adventures of Robin Hood, which begins its second season this week. Roar doesn’t pull that Hercules trick of inserting modern slang and sensibilities into an earlier era; it’s more an attempt at the brooding romanticism of Koslow’s bodice-ripping 1987-90 schlock-fest, Beauty and the Beast. And Ledger, a knockabout Australian, is handsome and muscular in a refreshingly non-bodybuilder way, though also too lightweight to pull off the sort of lamentations for his freedom that the producers regularly crib from Mel Gibson and Braveheart. The result is a TV show that looks great — all dark green forests and deep blue skies — but if it wants to distinguish itself from its genre, it has to get a lot more moodily grim. C+