Ryan Gosling in YOUNG HERCULES is due to a peculiar situation.
During the fourth season of HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, series-star Kevin Sorbo suffered a series of strokes. This led to partial vision loss and paralysis, anxiety attacks, trouble walking, fatigue, dizziness, and being unable to stand for more than 5 - 10 minutes.
While waiting for Sorbo to recover, Season 4 began episodes of HERCULES with minimal Hercules. There were episodes where Hercules went missing or had an offscreen mission and his friends Iolaus and Salmoneus and Autolycus had to take over. Writers pitched an episode where Hercules became a monkey, but due to the difficulty of securing trained monkeys, Hercules instead became a pig.
There were several episodes that focused on Hercules when he was a teenager and actor Ian Bohen took over the role.
For reasons I don't understand, the studio, Renaissance Pictures, decided to do a YOUNG HERCULES pilot with Ian Bohen and had Kevin Sorbo write Universal a letter saying that a YOUNG HERCULES spinoff series would be great for the franchise.
This is nonsensical to me. Teen and adult Hercules characters were the same character. What would be the point of having the same HERCULES show twice over?
Maybe the idea was that YOUNG HERCULES would have a 13 episode order to air between seasons of the adult HERCULES show.
The YOUNG HERCULES pilot was a successful TV movie, but Universal passed on doing a full YOUNG HERCULES hour-long syndicated show. Later, Renaissance and Universal pitched it to FOX Kids as a half-hour children's show.
FOX Kids picked it up for one season of 50 of 30 minute episodes at 50 million for the entire season... but then actor Ian Bohen declined to do the series, saying he didn't want to move from Los Angeles to New Zealand full time to do the show.
This is confusing: how could Renaissance Pictures have hired an actor to do a pilot but not secured him for the series?
I have to wonder if maybe, when Universal decided not to have two HERCULES shows with basically the same character, the cast contracts expired. Then came the opportunity to sell YOUNG HERCULES to the half-hour Saturday morning market, but all the actors needed new contracts and Ian Bohen decided not to sign a new agreement.
The YOUNG HERCULES TV movie aired in February 1998 and then in September 1999, I eagerly tuned into FOX Kids expecting to see Ian Bohen. But instead, it was Ryan Gosling in the costume.
It really threw me off. Gosling's presence alienated me from the show and I ended up not watching it. But I have become more relaxed about the recasting now.
I'm not familiar with Ryan Gosling's work, but watching HERCULES and XENA today: it's obvious that continuity is just whatever the writers can vaguely remember on a good day. Roles are frequently recast; guest-actors often play multiple characters across the shows (Lucy Lawless played two other roles in addition to Xena). The Bohen-Gosling change doesn't feel like a big deal anymore.
I don't think I saw more than 3 - 4 episodes, but looking at the Wikipedia entries: the show 'only' lasted one season of 50 episodes (!!) and is often described as a "failure" for this.
To me, 50 half hours strikes me as pretty solid and FOX Kids was, after all, a kids programming block that wouldn't have wanted to see the cast age into their 20s.
(Yes, POWER RANGERS had 145 episodes after three years, but POWER RANGERS was cannibalizing action and special effects footage from Japanese TV shows.)
YOUNG HERCULES was done very cheaply with one director shooting four episodes in one block using the same locations, guest-actors and sets across the four installments.
Due to the filming schedule, episodes were completed and aired out of order: characters would be part of the regular cast but then be introduced for the 'first' time, characters would leave the show in a departure story, but then be present for more episodes. Characters would be aware of certain secrets, but then learn them in a shocking reveal. Even on DVD with the episodes in production order, some misordering remains.
I wonder if it's any good. Some fans have provided a continuity-based episode order, so I'm looking forward to watching the series without those glitches.