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Fox Likely To Shake Up The Ratings With Its ‘Roar!’

James Endrst The Hartford Courant

I’ve never seen “Braveheart,” but I’ve seen the clips, and that’s enough to know that “Roar” is “Braveheart: The Series.” You know, a lot of guys waving their fists and crude weapons in the air and yelling “Arghhhhhh.” Or in this case, “Roar!”

Genuflecting to “Excalibur,”’ with suggestions of “Xena: Warrior Princess” and a nod to “Beauty and the Beast,” “Star Wars,” “Robin Hood,” you name it, “Roar” comes charging onto Fox on Monday.

The hourlong action-adventure series - a sweaty mix of myth, hazy history and Romeo-and-Juliet fantasies - is the creation of Ron Koslow (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Shaun Cassidy (“American Gothic”), which explains why this show is a cut above the usual.

Set in fourth-century Celtic Ireland, “Roar” stars newcomer Heath Ledger as Conor, a 20-year-old prince whose family is slaughtered (in lockstep with a very sensitive point in his personal development, we might add) by a band of Roman-backed marauders, compelling the boy-man to take up the mythic sword of his dead father.

Conor’s mission, one he reluctantly accepts, is to take a ragtag band of freedom fighters (is there ever any other kind?), beat back the evil Roman Empire, and unite his people.

In a feature film, Conor would have the whole thing wrapped up in two hours. But because this is television, it could take years, if Fox and everyone else involved is lucky.

All of the elements of a broad-based hit are here, starting with Ledger. He’s a poster boy, to be sure, but Koslow and Cassidy wisely offer up his still-developing talent in small, effective doses, sparing both the actor and the audience.

Ledger also gets a lot of creative support from the cast, the script and the production. Joining Conor in his valiant struggle to preserve “the ancient ways” are: Tully (Alonzo Greer), a teen-age apprentice magician; Catlin (Vera Farmiga), a beautiful slave girl (is there ever any other kind?); and Fergus (John St. Ryan), a one-man A-Team.

There’s a little something here for everyone: for girls, romantic entanglements, boy-meets-girl boy-loses-girl motivations, and just plain old-fashioned lusty clenches; for boys, testosterone-fueled displays of swordsmanship and brawn; for the bookish, myth and legend; and, for the pocket-protector types who’d rather not live in this world, overwrought “Star Trek”/”Star Wars” drama.

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