Cable television shows its motorcycle love

DEC 03, 2015 - Step back in time a few years and it would be fair to assume FX was the cable channel that absolutely loved motorcycles, in no small part because of its original series, Sons of Anarchy, a record setting show by any standard.

However, FX might want to leave room in the studio parking space for AMC’s motorcycle leanings which has seen cult success with the motorcycle, using our favored two-wheeled past time in a variety of ways while tapping into several genres.

Clutch and Chrome writes about motorcycles appearing on both the big and small screen with our article ‘The Outlaw Biker - From motorcycle gangs to biker’ as well as our series of ‘Motorcycles on the small screen’. The motorcycle has been the ‘easy button’ for writers and directors, using them to paint an instant image of a character depending on how they ‘dress’ the prop.

It would be unfair to brush AMC with this broad brush of the biker easy button with the motorcycle being used in some unique ways, some of which were never used before.

Indeed, this could be one of the reasons 'Sons of Anarchy' was as successful as it was, its creator Kurt Sutter used motorcycles and the resident gang as a vehicle and setting for the Shakespearean-inspired story rather than a clichéd crutch.

Riding through the zombie apocalypse, viewers were introduced to a character which would become one of 'Walking Dead’s' more popular survivors. Leather-wearing, chopper riding Daryl Dixon never appeared in the comic book series the hugely successful television show was based on. Instead, the character was created by writers Frank Darabont, Charles H. Eglee and Jack LoGiudice specifically for Norman Reedus. Reportedly Reedus gave such a great audition for the role of Merle Dixon the writers created an additional character for him.

Appearing in the third episode of the first series, Daryl is a skilled hunter, preferring not only to use a crossbow but ride his blacked-out chopper. Everything about the motorcycle was meant to help give an insight into how the character was written. A small-engined motorcycle denotes a person with simple needs. The matte black paintwork featuring the World War 2 Nazi symbol of the SS, mini-ape hanger handle bars and basic leather saddlebags hints to the troubled life of this independent character.

While Daryl’s first motorcycle may’ve been a prop to paint his personality, his second ride was as different as it was commercially focused.

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The motorcycles of Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) - Source AMC

Introduced as a pile of parts in season five, episode sixteen, Daryl’s recent motorcycle can be considered a MacGuffin. This is a writing term which describes an object used as a plot device with the most famous example being the bird statue in the iconic ‘Maltese Falcon’. In the case of motorcycles and zombies, this was meant to show Daryl piecing together the changes in not only the featured group’s situation but the growth of Reedus’ character. With the character’s new outlook on life in The Walking Dead, Daryl’s ride goes from the moody chopper to a dual-sport, café-style ride.

The story behind the story is as interesting as the motorcycle itself. Actor Norman Reedus is an avid biker who pointed Walking Dead producers to Classified Moto motorcycle builders, the builders that created the pieced together look seen through seasons five and six.

The zombie series wrapped up its sixth mid-season with a trailer teasing the undead adventures for the shows return in February 2016. This featured every Walking Dead’s fan favorite rider being confronted by a group of bikers sporting a variety of cruisers.

Mid-season trailer/teaser

Biker faces bikers, what's not to love?

However, AMC hasn’t limited its motorcycle passion to the land of walkers but another strange distant future where technology is no longer, but spectacular martial arts are.

Called a futuristic martial-arts saga, the main character of AMC’s ‘Into the Badlands’ is Regent Sunny, a highly-skilled fighter who represents one of the show’s rulers, known as Barons. The show is a retro-post-apocalyptic fantasy in which America has returned to a not-quite-preindustrial state offering a production design incorporating antique cars and motorcycles.

Adorned in a long length, red leather jacket, swords on his back Regent Sunny roars from adventure to adventure on a dual-purpose motorcycle. Much like the bike seen in ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘Into the Badlands’ enhances its look with the current media fascination of steam punk. Considered a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy, steam punk incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.

This leads to brushed metal and tints of copper roughly beaten to shape to create the various parts of this café-inspired motorcycle.

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Into the Badlands - Source AMC

While the series is considered a companion piece to ‘The Walking Dead’ Sunny’s motorcycle hasn’t enjoyed as much rider attention nor media press as Daryl getting his last ride. Giveaways and a multitude of articles heralded the creation from Classified Moto for ‘The Walking Dead’. It’s hard to find anything other than a passing mention to the motorcycle featured in ‘Into the Badlands’.

Maybe this is why AMC has given a six-episode order to an unscripted series featuring ‘Walking Dead’ star Norman Reedus exploring motorcycle culture around the country and not the actor who plays Regent Sunny, Daniel Wu.

‘Ride with Norman Reedus’ hails from Left/Right Productions. Each hourlong episode will follow Reedus and a friend touring a different city via motorcycle and checking out bike shops, tattoo parlors, bars and restaurants frequented by chopper enthusiasts. Reedus’ companions will range from actors and artists to local bikers.

Actor Norman Reedus in a publicity photgraph for his upcoming series Ride with Norman Reedus

The series is targeted to air in 2016.

“There is nobody more passionate about motorcycles than Norman Reedus,” said Joel Stillerman, president of original programming and development for AMC and SundanceTV.  “He is an avid rider and aficionado who is deeply immersed in motorcycle culture. There is also nobody more fun to hang out with. This show will bring those two elements together for a weekly ride into the incredible world of motorcycles and the people who live and breathe them.”

With all the two-wheeled efforts detailed above, it would be easy to give AMC the cable TV motorcycle-edge, but the channel might want to watch those nobbled tires of theirs.

Kurt Sutter’s latest television offering, ‘The Bastard Executioner’ didn’t survive its first series. The news of FX, along with Sutter, cancelling the series on November 18, 2015 reopens the door and opportunity for a ‘Sons of Anarchy’ prequel. Sutter’s latest thoughts and discussions set a possible storyline so far from Northern California it avoids stepping on the Sons of Anarchy mythology that’s already been told.

Regardless which road is taken, two wheeled entertainment looks to be riding across our small screens for our immediate future, which can only be considered a good thing.

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