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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reviewing the "Ride with Norman Reedus"

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In the interest of full disclosure.  I have never seen one episode of the "Walking Dead."  I would not have known Norman Reedus if he stepped on my toe.

That being said, I have reached one hell of a conclusion.  Norman Reedus must be a very, very good actor.  He's managed to survive on a show that's been known to kill off the main characters on a regular basis for seven seasons.  When you read his biography on his official website you begin to realize just how talented this guy is.

Then why don't I like Ride with Norman Reedus?  So far I've watched the first three of the planned six episodes and I feel that is enough to get a basic of idea of what works, and doesn't work, with the show. 

I think Reedus lacks a certain gravitas.  The show is definitely modeled after Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.  The two shows are very similar.  Reedus and a special guest riding partner travel certain roads, talking motorcycles, meeting interesting people and partaking in something odd and unusual.  To me, where the two shows differ is in gravity.

Bourdain's show always had a certain weight to it.  Even during the jokey silly parts Bourdain maintained a certain aloofness.  He realized when he was witnessing history or greatness and treated it accordingly.  Bourdain's show was never about food,  it was about culture and humanity.  Ride with Norman Reedus just doesn't seem to have that focus or power to me.

Don't misunderstand me, Reedus does a good job.  I like the guy, he seems like the guy you want to chat with at a dinner party.  He's educated, engaged and interested in talking about life.  His interactions with the fans and his friends are natural and unforced.  I just wish the show would spend a little more time on that.

I've no issue with the shots of Reedus and company riding the Pacific Coast Highway or the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It is, after all, a show about motorcycle travel.  He meets with a biker's church.  He meets the producers of a motorcycle podcast (see episode #149)  He spends some time at the Howling Moon Distillery.  He partakes in a outhouse race.

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Where as Bourdain could have spun five minutes of good television out of an outhouse race...Reedus partakes and it's over.   "That was fun." is basically the only comment we get.  The race itself lasts about 100 feet and is over in about a minute.

As any biker will tell you though, it's about the view and the journey, and the show does a wonderful job of capturing the beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway, Death valley and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The PCH in general was just amazing and the crew makes use of a lot of drone footage to give us an idea of the panoramic views.

What do we hear out of Reedus?  "Wow."  "That's beautiful."  "Amazing."

We also get to meet some of his friends, other bikers and builders.  He spends some time riding their creations.  This is where the show sort of bothers me.  I understand that Roland Sands is a amazing builder, and motorcyclist.   Do we really need to see him stunting on the highway?   Considering how the show has all the riders decked out in safety gear at all times and there is a cute scene in the second episode where Reedus drops his pants in the desert to adjust a out of place knee pad.  Really, what biker hasn't had to do that at least once?

Other than Sands stunting, the riders all seem to be obeying motorcycling rules - in group rides for example they ride staggered.  It's a small thing but something that I don't often see in other motorcycle related programs. 

Reedus does ride a lot of different styles of bikes in the show and that is one of the things I like.  Each rider is different and each bike he rides has it's own style and quirks.  In the Blue Ridge episode they visit the Broken Spoke motorcycle shop, his riding partner goes into full geek mode looking over the old parts and historic bikes.  It's one of the better moments on the show.  Hie enthusiasm is contagious. 

Sometimes all we can say is "wow".
At the end of each show Reedus reflects on the events he's just taken part in.   Much like Bourdain did in No Reservations, but again where Bourdain would hit you with a universal truth or shocking realization...Reedus seems to almost resort to cliches.

In the end it's not a bad show.  Norman Reedus is a fun guy who know motorcycles and biker culture.  He's able to slip in and chat with anyone anywhere...and that is what makes the show fun at times.  He is a biker and his knowledge shines through at times.  I just wish the show would have a little more weight.

Yea, I know that riding a motorcycle is not going to change the world.  It's a highly personal thing and we all do for our own reasons.  Maybe that's why it seems to be full of cliche' at times.  Because ever rider knows that moment when you crest a hill and the beauty overwhelms you....and you have to resort to a simple, gentle "Oh Wow."

Overall is the show worth an hour of your time.  Yes, in the end it is.  However it's a light weight affair and sometimes we need a distraction.    Save it for a rainy or snow filled day.

1 comment:

Trobairitz said...

I too have never seen a single episode of Walking Dead.

Some work mates of hubby suggested he watch this show and we gave it a go Sunday night. I think we made it a full 10 minutes before we were bored and turned it off.