There are few better known, more successful sitcom writers than Roy Clarke. The creator of Last of the Summer Wine, Open All Hours, Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt! and Keeping Up Appearances, genteel, Northern, comedies of manners and silliness are his forte.
Which makes The Wanderer, a short-lived 1994 series about reincarnated medieval knights in modern times on an eternal quest for one of their graves, somewhat of a surprise. The show starred Bryan Brown (FX: Murder By Illusion, Cocktail) as two twin brothers, the good Adam and the evil Zachary. Originally born in the 10th century, the two are fated to fight each other at the turn of each millennium, the winner influencing whether the next millennium will be 'good' or 'evil'.
Reincarnated in the 20th century, Zachary wants revenge on Adam for killing him a millennium previously, but he also wants to take advantage of the growing superstition arising from the turn of the current millennium, planning to have Adam die in front of witnesses so that he can pose as his dead brother. But for his plan to work, he needs a magic item from his 10th century grave, and only Adam knows the location of that. Or at least the original Adam did – modern day Adam? Not so much, although he's prone to the occasional flashback to his original self, which helps him on his quest to retrieve the artefact first so he can stop Zachary.
Both have helpers in the modern day: Beatrice (Kim Thomson), Zachary's lover in the 10th century, has been reincarnated as well and accompanies him on his journey, helping him with her witchy magic; while Adam's helper, Godbold (Tony Haygarth), was a monk in the 10th century but is now a wrestler and plumber. And then there's Clare (Deborah Moore), Adam's lover in both centuries.
A co-production between YTV and Sky in the UK, ZDF in Germany, and Antena 3 in Spain, the show ran for 13 episodes, with Adam wandering the world each episode looking for Zachary's grave, Zachary occasionally cropping up to be extrovert and annoying in comparison to the introverted and dull Adam. Indeed, the whole show was intensely annoying: as well as Brown's acting and the light entertainment vibe that Clarke apparently couldn't escape adding to the show, The Wanderer had 'Into The Labyrinth syndrome', with the first season concluding with Zachary's grave being found, the two brothers ready for their clash to begin… only for it to be revealed that another artefact needed recovering and a new quest had to begin. Cue the second series that never materialised.
The show hasn't been repeated or released on DVD since it originally aired, but you can at least have its title sequence and some clips, unfortunately mostly dubbed into various foreign languages. The last collection is in English, though, so you can judge the quality of the acting for yourselves.
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I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.