Roar TV series

Roar

1997 - United States

This brilliant little series has been treated unfairly: it was marketed poorly and largely ignored when it was first broadcast, and is now remembered - if it can be said be said to be remembered at all - only as the late Heath Ledger's first substantial leading role. 

Heath Ledger and cast of Roar

Ledger is indeed astonishing: still in his teens, he gives a performance of extraordinary authority and maturity, the first flaring of a talent that burnt so brightly but all too briefly.

He plays a young Irish prince determined to unite the many hostile tribes of Ireland against invasion by the Roman Empire. The historical evidence for such an invasion is dubious to put it mildly, but there are hints that there may have been Roman incursions into Ireland, and the Romans certainly made plans to that end, so it is not entirely impossible. 

Roar TV series cast

This serves as pretext for a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to cash in on the late-90s fashion for historical fantasy established by Hercules the Legendary Journeys and Xena Warrior Princess. Following their example, Roar benefits from some first class photography and beautiful scenery, with Queensland in Australia apparently standing in for Ireland! 

Vera Farminger in Roar

It also benefits from a superb support cast: Lisa Zane and Sebastian Roche are a fine pair of commendably three-dimensional villains; Vera Farmiga and Melissa Georgeare both charming and feisty as Ledger's potential love interests; and, best of all, John Saint Ryan is perfect as Ledger's veteran right-hand man - the interplay between the older man and the youngster is one of the great delights of the series. 

John Saint Ryan and Heath Ledger - Roar

An unusually erudite script takes an intelligent view of politics, history, Celtic culture, and religion, with an unorthodox but by no means irreverent take on early Christianity. Indeed, its only weakness is that it tries to cram too much into thirteen 40-minute episodes, so that its rich texture is sometimes obscured and the advances in the story can seem a bit perfunctory. Yet there is still enough to suggest that there could have been something really extraordinary here, if only it had been given more time and space to grow.

About the reviewer: John Winterson Richards 

An experienced freelance writer as well as a consultant, John Winterson Richards has been commissioned and paid to write over 500 articles in print and online. He was a regular guest on the Mind Your Own Business podcasts and a major contributor to that website's blog. 

He is the author of 'The Xenophobe's Guide to the Welsh' and the 'Bluffer's Guide to Small Business.'

Under the name Charles Cromwell, John is the author of three novels, 'Young Herod,' 'Seven Days in Jerusalem,' and 'Leonardo Investigates: Death in Pisa.' All can be downloaded from Amazon.

He is the co-writer, with Andrew Harman, past Head of History at Filton High School, of 'The Context of Christ: the History and Politics of Judea and Rome, 100 BC - 33AD', also available on Amazon Kindle.


Published on September 16th, 2019. John Winterson Richards.

Read Next...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy The Vampire Slayer went for the emotional jugular then finished the viewer off with an adrenaline-powered stake to the heart. It was hot, sassy and sexy. It's was also a hellmouth full of fun.

Also released in 1997

Drake's Venture

Swashbuckling adventure on the high seas starring John Thaw as Sir Francis Drake during his circumnavigation of the world in the sixteenth century, and the growing alienation between himself and his life-long friend Thomas Doughty

Also tagged Swashbuckling Drama

The Practise (USA)

David E. Kelley series centring on the partners and associates at a Boston law firm.

Also released in 1997

I'm Alan Partridge

An inept broadcaster whose inflated sense of celebrity drives him to treachery and shameless self-promotion.

Also released in 1997

Treasure Island

The first TV serial adaptation of RL Stevenson's classic story.

Also tagged Swashbuckling Drama

The Count of Monte Cristo 1975

Richard Chamberlain leads an all-star cast in the 1975 television adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic novel about a beleaguered young seaman who, after being wrongfully imprisoned for many years, plots his revenge

Also tagged Swashbuckling Drama

Arn: The Knight Templar

Arn, the son of a high-ranking Swedish nobleman is educated in a monastery and sent to the Holy Land as a Knight Templar to do penance for a forbidden love...

Also tagged Swashbuckling Drama

Cold Feet

Unfairly described as an English version of Friends, Granada's comedy/drama Cold Feet rose from humble beginnings to become an award winning ratings winner with a healthily average audience of 10 million viewers.

Also released in 1997

Black Sails

In the Golden Age of Piracy, on New Providence Island, a lawless territory controlled by history's most notorious pirate captains, the most feared is Captain Flint.

Also tagged Swashbuckling Drama