Hog heaven as Harley is born
The mere mention of Harley-Davidson motorcycles brings to most minds the Hell’s Angels gang. Despite these associations, the Harley remains a symbol of freedom, tradition and community, a metaphor for a particular American lifestyle.
Harley and the Davidsons, part of Discovery Channel’s move into scripted drama, celebrates the story behind the symbolism and the way the bike became a piece of American history, as familiar as Coke or Levi’s. Based on the true story of founders Walter and Arthur Davidson, and their friend Bill Harley, the three-part, six-hour miniseries, which uses 80 specially built replica motorcycles, charts the birth of the iconic bike beginning at the turn of the 20th century.
Knockabout former rancher Walter (Michiel Huisman), younger brother Arthur (Bug Hall) and engineering genius Bill (Robert Aramayo) risked their entire fortune to launch the budding enterprise. Each of these men faces very different challenges.
The first episode shows Arthur and Bill’s struggle to create a machine with a small but powerful petrol engine; an engine not much larger than a lady’s foot, but strong enough to provide the required horsepower. Eventually, after Walter joins Arthur and Bill, they determine to build something different to the many other machines of the time. “And we build it tough,” says Walter. “I want ours to go anywhere.”
It’s all a bit boy’s own, capably directed by Ciaran Donnelly, the big races alone worth the price of admission, aimed squarely at true believers. As The Hollywood Reporter said, this is “hog hagiography, pure and simple”, and on that level it is utterly enjoyable. Discovery. Thursday, 8.30pm,
Robert Aramayo, Michiel Huisman and Bug Hall play the men who created the Harley-Davidson motorbike