"His mother was an ice-cold wind; his pa a fiery rock."
April 13, 2015 3:51 PM   Subscribe

The Highwayman (1987-88) was a 60-minute sci-fi/action tv series from Glen A. Larson starring Sam J. Jones (1980's Flash Gordon). Jones played a federal marshall with a high-tech 18-wheeler "supertruck" that had advanced weaponry, the ability to turn invisible and a cab that turned into a helicopter. He patrolled America's highways and fought crime in the futuristic world of... 1992. A pilot movie, Terror on the Blacktop (starring Claudia Christian, G. Gordon Liddy, Jimmy Smits and Rowdy Roddy Piper) kicked off the series, which lasted nine episodes before driving off into the cancellation sunset.

The Highwayman was one of Larson's three flops of the 80's. It aired on NBC.

Wikipedia has background on the show and notes it had a post apocalyptic Mad Max meets Knight Rider feel.

Christian, Liddy, Smits and Piper were not in the series. A new cast included actors Tim Russ, Mark "Jacko" Jackson and Jane Badler. Jackson's truck is destroyed in the first episode, and he is given a truck which separates into a futuristic car. Wikipedia says the truck was later used in the first episode of Power Rangers Time Force.

Episodes
Pilot: Terror on the Blacktop
1) Road Lord
2) The Hitchhiker
3) Til Death Duel Us Part
4) Summer of 45
5) Send in the Clones
6) Billionaire Body Club
7) Frightmare
8) Warzone
9) Haunted Highway

The Truck
The original the Highwayman truck (the one with the Gazelle helicopter cab) was designed and built by Jon Ward Motor Sports of Alpine, Texas. A 1980 Kenworth cab-over with an 8V92T diesel, it was converted at a cost of $287,000. Ward held onto it after the show ended, began to turn it into a one-of-a-kind futuristic mobile home but eventually gave up. It was eventually fully restored and is currently owned by a mobile tattoo service called ‘Highwayman Ink’ in Sulphur Springs, TX.
posted by zarq (54 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
This post is a followup to an FPP of mine from last year on Glenn A. Larson's failed shows (linked above.) At the time, The Highwayman wasn't available online.
posted by zarq at 3:53 PM on April 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


I remember really liking The Highwayman but I was also smack-dab in its target demographics at the time. Oddly, I have no memory of Claudia Christian being in the pilot at all.

Somewhere out there, there must be Tropic Thunder/Highwayman/Desperado crossover fic, but I'm afraid to look.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:04 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


fifteen scghnitzengruben, Blue Thunder, perhaps?

Find me some Airwolf or Blue Thunder+Highwayman crossover and my 14 year old former self would like some alone time...

Even 3+ decades later I think this'll be some background while I clean the house this evening...
posted by straw at 4:17 PM on April 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Max Vov Sydow. Topol. Holy crap.
posted by Splunge at 4:17 PM on April 13, 2015


[BJ and the Bear + The Road Warrior] x Knight Rider = The Highwayman
posted by mattdidthat at 4:27 PM on April 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I remember the truck so clearly but am shocked to find out that Jacko and Jane Bader were in this, which I don't remember at all.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:28 PM on April 13, 2015


Topol

TRADITION!
posted by Artw at 4:29 PM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have the same vague memories of this as I do Manimal, Automan, and Cop Rock.
posted by brand-gnu at 4:33 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Teen me was delighted by Jacko to no end. That dude cracked me up.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:42 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


To understand what Highwayman was attempting, you have to know a little bit about 80's media, specifically what was being targeted at pre-teen tech buffs.

There's Nightrider, of course. In 1987, it had just been canceled (for the first time).

However, the those in the know remembered wetting their pants when they saw Blue Thunder (1983). The networks had scrambled to capitalize on that with a Blue Thunder series which was put out of it's own misery in the midseason. Much more successful was Airwolf, but by 1987, after three seasons, that too was getting a bit tired.

So the time must have seemed right. That's why the Highwayman looked like a product of carnal relations between a helicopter and an 18-wheel truck (IMO). They were trying to scoop the audiences left behind by the cancellation of the mysterious agent who drives a cool talking car show and the mysterious operatives who fly a really cool helicopter shows. I'm sure, by the second season, they had plans to make the Highwayman fly.
posted by bonehead at 4:44 PM on April 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's hard to imagine this as an 80s show because it looks so contemporary. Nah, I'm totally lying.
posted by cropshy at 4:57 PM on April 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


..... "Nightrider"?!
posted by webmutant at 5:22 PM on April 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Needed more chopper shots.
posted by clavdivs at 5:29 PM on April 13, 2015


Does this have anything to do with 18 Wheels of Justice? Or was G. Gordon Liddy involved with two completely different crime-fighting truck franchises?
posted by compartment at 5:39 PM on April 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Jacko, the Australian footballer with the peroxide-bleached hair? In Australia, he was best known for starring in Energizer ads, where his catch phrase was “OI!”. I think he may have had a novelty record of some sort out at some point.

I wasn't aware of him having a US TV career, but if he did, I could imagine it being in a B-grade Mad Max-alike, or perhaps a low-tech Max Headroom-alike.
posted by acb at 5:54 PM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


They were trying to scoop the audiences left behind by the cancellation of the mysterious agent who drives a cool talking car show and the mysterious operatives who fly a really cool helicopter shows.

All I can say is, thank goodness MacGyver came along when it did.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:57 PM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have always held that "co-starring Jacko as Jetto" is surely one of the most cocaine-infused credits lines ever put to video.
posted by Drastic at 6:10 PM on April 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


I don't remember this at all, but I was at college without a TV. My first though on reading this FPP was that '87 seems a little late in the 80s for this amount of cheese, but obviously I'm being too generous.

If anyone has watched Twin Peaks for the first time lately and is wondering why it blew everyone's minds in 1990, it's because most of us at the time had only seen TV aim about this high.

I just had a Sam J. Jones moment because I've been rewatching Stargate SG-1 and got to his episode and couldn't remember who the hell he was, but he was so obviously a valued guest to someone involved with the show, and um, he sure has done a lot of TV. Can't say I really care for his acting, though.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:17 PM on April 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I still remember being mildly appalled that someone thought it was a good idea to hire G. Gordon Liddy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:35 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Before the turn of the millennium I was living in Tokyo where I taught English to middle schoolers. Most of my job revolved around being strange and different, haircuts were an expense I didn't want, so I took to razor-shaving my head every day.

One afternoon I was leaving Harajuku to walk down to Shibuya when I espied G. Gordon Liddy on the sidewalk in front of the big shrine entrance. As I passed, he looked up and said "Hey, nice trim."

I smiled and said, "Thanks, not a bad one yourself."
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:06 PM on April 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Although I lived through this era and was part of the target demographic, I have zero recollection of it. Coming upon it now, it seems more like it should have been satirical than in earnest.

Sort of like The Big Bus.

Side note: I had always assumed The Big Bus satirized Supertrain (op cit) but now I find that the former actually predated the latter. What do you call it when the thing being satirized is made after the satire? Because the Supertrain folks should have watched The Big Bus and thrown in the towel right then.
posted by adamrice at 7:21 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Cheese, Squeak Attack, Cheese? Are you telling me that in a post-apocalyptic SciFi world based on an update of C.W. McCall's Convoy that the trucker cum lawman wouldn't be listening to the contemporary adult rock of Huey Lewis?

I reject your vision of the future. Now where's my can of AquaNet?

Besides, who can resist an anti-hero so eloquent as to express "What I'm doing might be wrong, but I'm doing it for a right reason."

I mean, that's setting up the pathos of the climax so eloquently...
posted by straw at 7:30 PM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Heh, I remember this show airing in Pakistan. Saw a couple of episodes, if I recall correctly. Knight Rider, Airwolf, Manimal, those were big hits. My brother and I watched them fanatically.
posted by bardophile at 7:40 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


am shocked to find out that Jacko ... was in this

The show fell squarely in the middle of Jacko's 15 minutes of US fame. After his Energizer commercial ("Oi!") and his novelty record but before his action figure as I recall. Thank God for Mad Max & Crocodile Dundee, tho, or there'd have been no Jacko. Shit, we might not have had shrimp on the barbie either!

(My college roommates and I loved this show. I think we watched every episode while getting absolutely plastered on fuzzy navels.)
posted by octobersurprise at 8:09 PM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


How is it that I could be hooked on Knight Rider, the A-Team, BJ and the Bear, Magnum PI, Automan, Manimal, Blue Thunder / Airwolf, Firefox and Street Hawk and have never heard of this before?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:27 PM on April 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


For your viewing pleasure - Jacko's I'm An Individual.
Bonus - the followup single My Brain Hurts.

And while I'm here, the FPP title made this get stuck in my head.
posted by quinndexter at 8:32 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


All I really remember about this show is that I was shocked and confused by Sam Jones as a brunette. I mean, he was Flash (Ah-AH!) Gordon, posterboy for blondes.
posted by zardoz at 8:37 PM on April 13, 2015


I wonder if it might also have been influenced by Battletruck, a.k.a "Warlords of the 21st Century", filmed in New Zealand.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:43 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


The 80s were a golden age for oddball Australian pop celebrities to wash up on America's shores.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:50 PM on April 13, 2015


OK - so I'm watching the pilot, and the gang guy in the metal helmet made me think "Tin Man!" then I thought, who are the others? And then when he's driving the truck and talking to Dawn, she mentioned "Toto"...

Was this show supposed to eventually be some extended Wizard of Oz metaphor?
posted by symbioid at 8:52 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't believe I'm actually watching this thing and enjoying it!
Also - definite Dukes of Hazzard vibe. And wienermobile.
posted by symbioid at 9:20 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The badass black car of power, the badass black helicopter of power, the badass black semi of power and even Street Hawk, the badass black motorcycle of power: by far the least convincing of the lot, IIRC it was just black fairing slapped on a lightweight stunt bike.

If it had been allowed to go on we'd have the badass black skateboard and the badass cybernetic track shoes. And I'm pretty sure Back to the Future II did both of those anyway.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:35 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Heh, I remember this show airing in Pakistan. Saw a couple of episodes, if I recall correctly. Knight Rider, Airwolf, Manimal, those were big hits. My brother and I watched them fanatically.
Bardophile, when were you in Pakistan? all I got when I was there was Rockford Files, Kojack and and the old British "Avengers".
posted by boilermonster at 11:17 PM on April 13, 2015


Holy shit that intro music (on the TV series not the pilot) is pure Darkplace.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:28 AM on April 14, 2015


Also featuring Claudia Christian!
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:49 AM on April 14, 2015


Bardophile, when were you in Pakistan? all I got when I was there was Rockford Files, Kojack and and the old British "Avengers"

This is mid- to late-80s that I'm talking about. The Rockford Files I know I've seen, but that would be in the 90s, I think, once there was more than PTV. Never saw Kojak or the British Avengers in Pakistan. When are you talking about?
posted by bardophile at 2:15 AM on April 14, 2015


The problem was that it was ahead of its time. Surely this could be successfully rebooted.
posted by Renoroc at 4:53 AM on April 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


There were only three seasons of AirWolf? While my memories aren't terribly specific, I too was in its target-market-crosshairs, and I would have thought it went on for more like five or six years.

Hunh. Funny thing, memory...
posted by wenestvedt at 6:41 AM on April 14, 2015


The show fell squarely in the middle of Jacko's 15 minutes of US fame. After his Energizer commercial ("Oi!") and his novelty record but before his action figure as I recall.

"We're assault. . . ."

"and battery!"





Utterly shamless.
posted by Herodios at 7:03 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


OI!
posted by Chrysostom at 7:10 AM on April 14, 2015


I would have thought it went on for more like five or six years.

I'd have said it ran for longer than three seasons, too. Maybe it only seemed like forever.

Anyway, the peak of Jacko's rise to US celebrity was the Oi! Jacko Gym, an action figure wearing an Energizer tee on a skateboard in a box that commanded the buyer to DO YOUR PUSH UPS WITH JACKO. See it here, where the mighty Jacko is described by a baffled millennial as "some sort of middle aged, weight lifting Sting impersonator from Australia."
posted by octobersurprise at 7:39 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I need to see The Highwayman vs. MEGAWEAPON.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:50 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would have thought it went on for more like five or six years.

There was a fourth season where they rebooted it with a new cast.
posted by willnot at 8:15 AM on April 14, 2015


The thing about Airwolf is that it was amazingly expensive to shoot the helicopter stuff. Which is part of what makes The Highwayman so amazing: while Knight Rider had to treat their backup/stunt KITT very delicately because of budget, this show went out and spent a quarter of a million bucks (back when that was real money) on their primary vehicle.

In that same era I remember seeing the same shot of a Jeep over a cliff in several different action shows for the series, in The Highwayman they're not only wantonly destroying those police cars (admittedly on what looks to be a completely unremarkable 1970s chassis), in the 1/1 episode they drive that whole damned car carrier off the cliff.

We're talking major motion picture budgets, all to justify Jocko & Flash posing in Road Warrior leathers..

(The pilot and the first episode got me through the house cleaning last night, and, really, that's kinda filled my '80s quota for a year or two.)

But helicopter-wise: The flying in The Highwayman pilot episode made me long once again for that era when airframes and operating costs were apparently cheaper than they are now, and the U.S. had a surplus of former Vietnam war helicopter pilots flying for Hollywood...

And can I just once again marvel at the structural technologies that the '80s had for hair. It's amazing how much hair technology we've lost, even as carbon fiber and other resin/fiber techniques have become commonplace.
posted by straw at 9:19 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, there were four seasons of Airwolf. As willnot mentions, the fourth was a reboot with a new cast. Possibly because Jan-Michael Vincent had been rumored to earn an extraordinary $200,000 per episode. It was the highest for any actor in American television at the time. Vincent struggled with drug and alcohol abuse throughout his career, and his post-Airwolf life has apparently been challenging. There were reports in tabloids last year that he had to have a lower leg amputation.

55 episodes aired on CBS. 24 aired on USA Network, in an effort to boost the number of episodes of the show that could be sold for syndication. So of a total of 79 episodes produced, 75 are available on Hulu Plus, although that may actually be all of them. Sometimes two part episodes are combined into one long single ep on Hulu or Netflix. (It's the sort of thing that tracking down drives me insane when making large posts about a single series.)

Per wikipedia:
The original cast was written out of the fourth season: Jan-Michael Vincent appears in a first transitional episode; a body double for Ernest Borgnine seen only from the back represented Santini, who was killed off in an explosion; Archangel was said to have suddenly been assigned overseas. "The Firm" was replaced by "the Company"; no mention was made of Caitlin. St John Hawke, played by Barry Van Dyke, was suddenly revealed to be alive, having been working for many years as a deep undercover agent for American intelligence, contradicting characterizations in the previous three seasons. St. John replaced Stringfellow as the central character. Production moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with a reduced budget, less than one-third of the original CBS budget. The production crew no longer had access to the original Airwolf helicopter, and all in-flight shots were recycled from earlier seasons; the original full-size studio mockup was re-dressed and used for all interior shots. Actress Michele Scarabelli, who played Jo Santini, said in a Starlog magazine interview that all 24 scripts were in place before the cast arrived, leaving the actors little room to develop their characters.

posted by zarq at 9:55 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


The BSG on earth with the kids seems so much more reasonable now.
posted by Artw at 10:54 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


See also the final A-Team season where they work for the CIA destabilizing South American governments, though I may have hallucinated that one.
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


In Australia, [Jacko] was best known for starring in Energizer ads, where his catch phrase was “OI!”.

Is there a word for "thing from your childhood that you had completely forgotten, but suddenly remember fully with a force that is almost physically painful"?

I bet it's German.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:00 AM on April 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh god. This show. The was part of the pantheon of shows that formed the grade school gofargogo. Some of the others have all been mentioned: Knight Rider, Airwolf and Streethawk, and Tails of the Golden Monkey. I recently tried to show it to my wife because I 'remembered' it so well. Turns out, I didn't remember it well at all. Except for one moment: Jacko (on a motorcycle) and the suit guy (big truck) swap vehicles. As jacko drives away, the suit guy wails "But I don't know how to ride!"

And my 11 year old self made a solemn pact to learn how to drive/operate as many vehicles as I could, but especially motorcycles. At 16, much to my parents dismay, I bought a vepsa and not long after a motorcycle. While there have been long stretches where I haven't owned a car, I've always had a bike.

I haven't yet learned how to drive a big rig, or a big rig/helicopter combo, which is the obvious next choice. But I've driven lots of different cars, trucks, scooters, bikes, mopeds, buses, etc..etc.. I keep thinking I'll get my pilots license next but the cost keeps putting me off. Then maybe trains if I can swing it....
posted by gofargogo at 10:52 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Have you considered becoming a Thunderbird operator?
posted by Artw at 6:51 AM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


brand-gnu: I have the same vague memories of this as I do Manimal, Automan, and Cop Rock.

I'll have you know this is all your fault. :D

Thanks for the idea!
posted by zarq at 6:52 AM on April 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


The BSG on earth with the kids seems so much more reasonable now.

Rewatch it.
It doesn't.
Even with Jacko in this.

I watched this as a kid, and loved it. Mad Max for kids, with Flash doing Knight Rider. 7:30PM Friday's on Seven if I recall at all. I was annoyed when it ended.

But I am astounded that Ms Christensen was in it. Although, having seen some of her non-B5 work (like Arena, which was TKO meets Robot Jox) maybe I shouldn't. I still dig Ivanova, though. Especially in the Hour of The Wolf. Or the one in which God sent her. Gods. Good source material lifts actors.

(I suspect The Highwayman was not that source material).
posted by Mezentian at 4:51 AM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


To be fair, Claudia Christian was only in the pilot episode - although Tim Russ, who went on to play Tuvok, is in the regular series. Rent's got to be paid - and even a terrible nationally broadcast TV show is a pretty sweet gig.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:12 AM on April 18, 2015


That Tim Russ hasn't yet made a fan film of this? Shocking.
posted by Mezentian at 5:28 AM on April 18, 2015


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