Take a wild ride through the history of Harley-Davidson on Discovery Middle East
The story behind one of the most iconic automobile brands takes to the road this week, with the start of Harley and the Davidsons on Discovery Channel.
It sounds like the title of a kids cartoon adventure, but the historical drama tells how three working-class young men – brothers Walter and Arthur Davidson and their friend Bill Harley – set out at the turn of the 20th-century on a quest to revolutionise the motorcycle industry in the United States, at the time dominated by the manufacturer Indian.
They put their lives and livelihoods on the line to create their dream bike – and were rewarded with a place in the annals of American cultural history for their creation. Harley-Davidson has a cult following in the Middle East, just as in many parts of the world, though while the name is familiar to most people, it is not exactly a part of mainstream culture.
However, actor Bug Hall, who plays Arthur Davidson, says the three-part mini-series will appeal far beyond devotees of biker culture. “You know, they’ve really done something special here,” he says. “On the one hand they have a historical piece that’s really appealing from a historical perspective. On the other hand, we have this otherworldly slice of Americana, which appeals to, I think, a whole different type of crowd.
“On top of that, you’ve got this action-packed, racing-driven plot ... because it’s Indian versus Harley-Davidson and it’s just race, race, race, and crash, crash, crash – which I think appeals to a younger audience and guys more like me.”
Discovery Channel prides itself on the educational value of its shows, so beyond all the racing excitement, we can presumably expect plenty of interesting historical details about the era and the people being portrayed.
“There is some I’ll say to watch out for,” says Hall. “When we were researching these guys, we discovered that they always buttoned only their bottom suit buttons. There’s a lot of little stuff like that.
“But for the most part, Discovery was way ahead of us on what the story was and what the history was in the context, and it was our job really to just dig into the men themselves and bring that to life.”
Robert Aramay, who plays William Harley, was impressed by the history of the bike itself. “There is along the way, some points in the story where you see specific developments of parts of the bike,” he says. “For example, the introduction of a certain gas tank or something like that, so there is trivia on the development of the bikes in the story also.”
An almost mythical scene has developed around the Harley- Davidson thanks to its portrayal in film and on TV over the years, with numerous films featuring marauding biker gangs. More recently, acclaimed TV drama Sons of Anarchy has kept bad-boy biker image alive.
However, Hall says this side of motorcycle culture is a relatively recent development. “We don’t touch on that much in the show only because it didn’t exist for so long,” he says. “Motorcycles, I think, have always been associated with a kind of rowdiness. There is a certain interior rowdiness that leads you to want to get on a bike, and you know, nearly kill yourself day in and day out. “As far as the crime itself, that really didn’t come along until much later.” Aramayo says the early signs of this bad-boy culture is hinted at.
“I do think that Michiel’s [Huisman, who plays Walter Davidson] character is a stereotypical bad boy,” he says. “I mean, he loves to ride, and that’s all he wants to do.
“We have a few characters like that in the show. I think we see the beginnings of a culture develop throughout our show, through various different forms. I think that culture has changed over time and people’s perception towards it has changed – however, I think we have the beginnings of a culture.”
• Harley and the Davidsons begins on Discovery Middle East on Thursday September 29 at 10pm
Published: September 27, 2016 04:00 AM