When this aired on television years ago, I watched a few episodes. And that was it! I thought the character of young Hercules was miscast. Here's why: at the time I was a regular viewer of Hercules The Legendary Journeys. Ryan Gosling looks nothing like Sorbo or Ian Bohen(whom played young Herc in that series). It was just really odd seeing Ryan in the role and I couldn't get into it at all. Fast forward 14 years later. Young Hercules shows up in one of my subscription services. So I give it a try. Guess what? I absolutely loved it! Better than Hercules TLJ! For the exact reason I couldn't watch before, Ryan Gosling.
What's different now? I rarely watch Hercules TLJ anymore. Maybe once a year I'll watch an episode or two. That's it. So I didn't find it so odd seeing Ryan in the role this time around. It turns out he has heaps and heaps of charisma and warmth. He's very cute and funny and you can already see how talented an actor young Ryan is. He made this show very enjoyable. He is the number one reason why I liked this better than Hercules TLJ. In comparison to Sorbo, he's like a breath of fresh talented air. His portrayal of young Hercules was never boring. His acting never wooden. Can't say the same for Sorbo or his portrayal. Even Ian's performance was dull in retrospect. I think he tried too hard to imitate Sorbo's style. And he's not an actor anyone should ever imitate. Thus this series wins out over it's predecessor. Let me be clear, I'm not a Ryan fangirl/boy. In fact, I've only ever seen him in two movies. It's just that my perspective has changed given that I'm no longer a regular viewer of Hercules TLJ, and I was able to give Ryan and the show a chance that I couldn't seem to before, and stunned myself at how amazed I was at Ryan's performance, and how much fun I had watching this.
Logically I know this show was meant for teens/pre-teens, however my interest now and then for giving it a try was because it was in the Xena Hercules vein. I was interested in seeing how some of the same characters were portrayed, and how, if any, it would pre-explain anything that ever took place in Hercules or Xena, story-wise or character-wise. Now I'm very glad I gave it a try and watched the entire series. The series itself has 50 episodes. I had no idea there were that many. How lovely for me. They are a half hour each. Filled action, adventure, mythology, silliness, and those famous wink wink moments as it's predecessors. And of course the beautiful New Zealand scenery that takes your breath away, plus another amazing sound track by Joe Loduca.
The series revolves around Hercules and his friends Iolaus and Jason, and their time at a training academy for warriors. The three of them have great chemistry and camaraderie together. The stories are quick, yet neatly wrapped up. All of them very lighthearted. You see many of familiar characters, such as Ares, Discord, Strife, Alcmene, Hephaestus, Bacchus, Cheiron, Orpheus, the Centaurs, the Amazons. You'll also see many of the same actors from Xena and Hercules TLJ, in different roles. It was kind of fun to spot them. Plus there were many new characters that were shown.
One thing that bothered me was Ares. They wrote him as over-the- top immature. He is a little immature in Xena, way more so in Hercules TLJ, but here it's almost ridiculous. Kudos to the late Kevin Smith for his portrayal, however. He gave it his all. He was absolutely wonderful in an episode where he sang, plus another where he played an Ares look-alike. Don't get me wrong, I liked Ares here too. It's just that it was a little jarring that the writing for the character wasn't more evenly done. Another thing I didn't like was the Strife character. He was, believe it or not, even more annoying here than in Hercules TLJ. He's a character I could have done without altogether on both shows. There are some inconsistencies in relation to Herc and Xena, such as The Golden Hind. In Hercules TLJ, Herc gives no indication that he knew about them before. Well they made it up here that he did meet up with them. There's a few things like that throughout the series. For me it was something I could easily overlook. This is not masterpiece theatre, OK, just a fun ride! Other than those few minor complaints, everything else was good.
If you watched Hercules TLJ and/or Xena and loved either one of those, and are looking for something similar and lighthearted, I highly recommend this for you. Ryan Gosling truly made a wonderful and believable young Hercules. With his warmth and charm, and humour, he's quite adorable to watch. It's too bad there weren't more episodes. From what I've read around online, it seems many thought the same as me years ago, that the role was miscast. But really it wasn't. It was perfectly cast! I only wish I knew it then. 7/10