Stay Tuned: Enjoy the ‘Ride With Norman Reedus’
Posted Jun 28, 2016 at 11:04 AM
By Melissa CrawleyMore
First thing’s first. There are no zombies on “Ride With Norman Reedus.” The actor, who plays Daryl Dixon on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” leads this six-part series as himself, the very amiable Norman, who hits the road riding his motorcycle across a beautiful, zombie-free America. A kind of meditative travel guide for motorcycle lovers, Reedus’ road trip is a treat for his fans who get to see him outside his “Walking Dead” persona but it’s also an appealing reality show featuring an interested and interesting guy whose enthusiasm is contagious.
It’s tempting to dismiss “Ride With” for its obvious public relations value for AMC — Reedus stars in one of the network’s top series so it’s easy to use his celebrity to drive ratings to another show — but that would do “Ride With” a disservice because it stands on its own as an engaging series. Certainly, part of its appeal is watching Reedus outside his “Walking Dead” role where he plays a tough man of few words. The Reedus of “Ride With” is still a man of few words but those words are filled with curiosity and a shared passion for travel, bikes and the eccentric places across America that many people rarely get to see. Reedus is happy to meet fans, walk through a quirky tourist attraction, tour a bike shop and even good naturedly offer his thoughts on the best motorcycle to ride during a zombie apocalypse. (For the record, he reckons the answer is a quiet electric bike because zombies are attracted to noise). He’s a nice guy. A guy you would want to hang out with on a road trip.
Reedus’ amiable personality helps the show when it stumbles over a few tour guide moments that are not as interesting on screen as they probably seemed on paper. In episode one, he travels along the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Cruz with his friend Imogen, a jeweler designer. One of their excursions is to stop and drive dune buggies, an activity that isn’t visually exciting. In another pit stop, they tour a house built from junk, which oddly takes place at night with only the light from their cell phones to illuminate it.
Where the show works better is when Reedus interacts with the “outsider” communities he visits, the clubs of motorcycle enthusiasts who warmly embrace him. Again, this interaction relies heavily on his popular culture status as “Daryl” but it also reflects a genuine connection.
Narrating the series, he talks about what counter-culture meant to him when he first arrived in California. It was a community that made him feel accepted and gave him a sense of belonging.
The narration allows Reedus to get personal, which overcomes some of the less introspective moments where he relies on simple descriptions and reactions to the scenery or an activity.
More importantly, it showcases his authentic appreciation for the people he meets along the way, making “Ride With” a trip worth taking.
“Ride With Norman Reedus” is on Sundays at 10 p.m. EDT on AMC.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.