The Highwayman is an American action-adventure themed television series starring Sam J. Jones, set in "the near future." It was created by Glen A. Larson and Douglas Heyes. The pilot aired on September 20, 1987, and was followed by a short-lived series of nine episodes, with significant changes to the cast and format, that ran from March 4 until May 6, 1988. It was summed up by many reviewers as a cross between Mad Max and Knight Rider.
Opening narration by William Conrad (all episodes after the pilot):
"There is a world, just beyond now, where reality runs a razor thin seam between fact and possibility; where the laws of the present collide with the crimes of tomorrow. Patrolling these vast outlands is a new breed of lawman, guarding the fringes of society’s frontiers, they are known simply as ‘Highwaymen’... and this is their story..."
The movie (aka "Terror on the Blacktop") and subsequent series follow the adventures of "The Highwayman", one of a mysterious group, presumably of U.S. Marshals, conducting crime-fighting missions and solving bizarre mysteries. Each Highwayman in this group is equipped with a high-tech, multi-function truck.
The pilot movie used a different opening narration, also voiced by William Conrad:
"They say he came into this world from someplace off the clock. And his mother was an ice-cold wind; his pa a fiery rock. It's told that on some starless nights his rig could up and glow, And folks who say they saw it coming swear they didn't see it go.
Now you hear a lot of legends told when you ride the long hard slab, From some who say the man is good and some who say he's bad. But all agreed who've ever tried to play a cheatin' hand;
You only get one chance to draw against "The Highwayman."
Most crimes in our society begin or end on some stretch of road, where laws often terminate at county lines. Combatting these legal blackouts is a new breed of lawman; working the fringes of society's frontiers, and known simply as Highwaymen.
This is the story—and the legend—of one such man: The Highwayman."
The lead character is more mysterious than any of the other Highwaymen in that his real name is never revealed (he is only known as "The Highwayman" or "Highway"). He drives a large, black, computerized truck with a bullet-shaped cabin, which is the nose of a concealed helicopter (an Aérospatiale Gazelle) which can detach from the rest of the truck. The truck can also operate in "stealth mode" to become invisible. A concealed futuristic sports car (a Lotus Esprit) can emerge from the truck's rear. Some elements of the futuristic dashboard design were re-used from Knight Rider.
Claudia Christian co-starred as the Highwayman's liaison, Dawn, and Stanford Egi as technical wizard Mr. Toto.
After the 1987 pilot film, only Jones returned for the weekly series. The retooling of the premise eliminated the truck's stealth mode, which was never mentioned again. The Highwayman was joined by a new sidekick, Australian outback survival expert Jetto, played by Mark "Jacko" Jackson; Jane Badler as the Highwayman's boss, Ms. Tania Winthrop, and Tim Russ as D.C. Montana, who was responsible for the maintenance and modifications to the vehicles. The show was also filmed entirely on location in the American Southwest. Unusually, the show even switched production companies (the pilot was the last co-production between Glen Larson Productions and Twentieth Century Fox Television, the series was independently produced by Larson's New West Entertainment). (The name "D.C. Montana" is a pun on the name of D.C. Fontana, famed TV script writer who worked on many shows including Star Trek.)