Hi! Welcome to the new blog. As you can see, I’ve already put up all the old posts, and added some new pictures and whatnot to them. Readers of the old blog will notice that I’ve expanded the ‘General Thoughts” section into three bits, detailing what’s good, bad, and otherwise notable. And for TV show blogs, every main character gets a section, while they’ll just have to squat in the “Other” sections on movie blogs. Also, I’m not doing the promised Star Trek blog right away, because I figured I’d start with something a bit more… epic. So here’s the awesome and influential ITV series Robin of Sherwood. And when I say ‘influential’, I mean “Prince of Thieves” ripped it off massively. Shall we?
ROBIN OF SHERWOOD (1984-1986)
Man, how am I suppose to write a funny entry about this? It was good. What’s the point of having a snarky blog if there’s nothing to snark about? And why does my word processor’s spell-checking software not acknowledge ‘blog’ and ‘snark’ as words? Ah well. This show was the brainchild of one Richard Carpenter, who wrote nearly every episode. It’s damned good, and has proven very influential to the Robin Hood legend, most notably by adding a Moorish outlaw to the band.
(Our heroes. Except the doofus up front.)
PLOT OF THE PILOT: Robin of Locksley, a poor forester, stops his idiot brother Much from poaching, and are both jailed by the cruel sheriff. They hook up with Will Scarlet, a former soldier, and find themselves outlaws. But you saw that coming. He falls in love with the beautiful Lady Marion; saves her from marrying an evil wizard; frees the wizard’s bewitched slave, Little John; hooks up with Brother Tuck, a novice monk fearful of his abbot; and wins a metal dildo in an archery contest. What? Oh, a silver arrow. Sorry, I was confused on account of it being like the worst prop ever. Anyway, he kills the wizard, gets one more follower, and sets off to have some adventure burgers with action sauce. Oh, and also a god inhabiting the body of a forest shaman gives him a magic sword and declares him “The Hooded Man”, freedom fighter for all England .
Wow. When you write that down, it looks kinda silly.
(Yes, the show could even make this scene thrilling.)
THE GOOD: Just about everything. Casting was dead-on, The fighting was prooty awesome, too. The network was concerned about violence, so thrusting with swords was out, and only slashes across the stomach were allowed. Likewise, arrows had to make clean shots into the chest or back. This sounds lame, but the stunt coordinators actually manage to make it work, with creative choreography, keeping things just offscreen, etcetera. Also, the Merry Men are frequently merry. While most ‘gritty’ or ‘realistic’ versions of the legend portray life in Sherwood as one of non-stop hardship, nearly every episode here features at least one brief scene of the outlaws training, eating together, or just goofing around. It’s nice, and allows for a lot of camaraderie and such.
(That is NOT what an arrow looks like)
THE BAD: There is a bit. The hair, for one. There’s some really ludicrous ‘80s mullets, and the like. The fake hair is bad, too. The Sheriff’s mustache never looks quite real, and when Little John wears a wig for a few episodes… well, let’s just say you notice. Most of the bad stuff isn’t really their fault, though. Budgets and stuff. I mean, when you need to make an evil demon, and all you can afford is something that looks like a transvestite foam rubber eel, it’s an issue. Much is also really really bad, but I gots a whole section to bitch about him,
(Robin always wins when people talk about how weird their boss is.)
THE OTHERWISE WORTHY OF MENTION: The music for the show was done by Enya’s old band, Clannad. Now, far be it from me to suggest that they weren’t pulling their weight, and gosh knows I love a good leitmotif, but there’s like four pieces of music in the series total. And you will hear each of them over and over and over again.
(I grow weary of writing captions. from now on, all captions shall be from a German fansite babelfished into English.)
Also, as you have already divined (HAR!), there is MAGIC in this series. I was… hesitant about that. But it’s well done for the most part. There’s no sparkly lasers or anything like that. Robin’s boss is a god, yes, but not so much a God. And while he protects and assists Robin, It’s not like he gives the guy super powers, just a bit of prophetic guidance. So it’s okay. The only bit that didn’t work for me is a scene where God (You know, the one Tuck’s always going on about.) blinds the Sheriff for reading the Talmud. That was just silly.
(Courageously, young, inexperienced, excellent sheet contactors.)
ROBIN: I love that they fused the classic and new origins of Robin. The old character, a poor forester; with the new story, saving a poacher from guards. It starts us right off with not being quite sure what to expect of him. As it turns out, what to expect of him is a lot of what we’ve seen before. He’s sort of generic. Good leader, friendly and humorous while still authoritative, good planner, good archer, etcetera. He’s got a neat ‘chosen one’ vibe going what with the Herne connection and all, but personality-wise, he’s just the usual Robin Hood. Not that that’s a bad thing. I mean, you still like the guy, and you definitely feel it when the Sheriff kills him at the end of season 2.
(An uncle is king of Scotland, an inconsiderate favourite, and then also still another half brother emerges, the tears into the eyes to really float could.)
ROBIN: DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND? I hope not, ‘cause we got a lot to go. See, just before the end of season 2, Michael Praed was offered the role of D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers on Broadway, and he took it, figuring for his big American break. So the producers decided to take advantage by telling the other side of the legend. Enter Jason "Son of Sean" Connery as Robert "Son of the Earl of" Huntingdon. He gets outlawed AFTER becoming Robin Hood. Nice touch. Basically, they do one episode where he tries the Zorro/Batman style “noble by day freedom fighter by night” gag (Only without a sweet cave), but then decided they’d rather be able to use all of their old ideas and he gets found out. He also gets all hot for Trott and goes after Marian, but she’s in the “I already married a Robin Hood, and look how that went” mindset. If only the show hadn’t got cancelled, there’d be some closure to that.
(Dear shank with Meg has OF Wickham, which leads to various Sticheleien and Reibereien.)
LITTLE JOHN: At first, I figured this John for another generic type. As always, he’s big, beardy, and besticked. But I still loved him. After a while, I finally got it. The show’s creators wisely made him the emotional glue that holds the gang together. He acts as a brother or uncle to everyone on the show,. When he calls Robert ‘Robin’ for the first time, you really feel it. The portrayal of Little John as the emotional core of the team has held over to most subsequent portrayals of Little John, by which I mean Prince of Thieves ripped it off. Only instead of some ham-fisted marital squabbles and a birth scene, it’s all subtle and groovy. Speaking of marital, John gets some actual character development by way of a girlfriend. Her name is Meg. She’s all tiny, and John gets all bashful around her, which is cute. He actually intends to elope with her in one episode, but then doesn’t, because he’s fucking Little John, and you don’t do Robin Hood without him. Everyone else is expendable, (And yes, reviews sans Marian, the Sheriff, and Friar Tuck are coming.) but you need Little John. And the heart and soul of this version shows you why. Plus he hits stuff real good with his stick.
(It has also a soft core, which comes through only much too rarely.)
WILL SCARLET: A former soldier who meets Robin and Much in jail, where he was put for killing three mercenaries that had attacked and murdered his wife. “‘My name was Will Scathlock,” he snarls. “But it’s Scarlet now!” Apparently Will subscribes to the Sweeney Todd revenge=random name change school of thought. Will continues to be the team crabass/wild card for the run of the series. He’s the one who will tell Robin when he’s making a stupid decision, and the one who’ll fight like a madman. Example: In one episode, he thinks he’s contracted leprosy, and when he finds out it’s all a plot of Gisburne’s, he chases him up a mountain, barefoot, unarmed, and wearing only a thin, short robe. Incidentally, that also treats us to a shot of more of Ray Winstone’s testicles than should be allowed on the telly Saturdays at teatime. The show’s portrayal of Will as an angry, impetuous man has held over to most subsequent portrayals of Will, by which I mean Prince of Thieves ripped it off. Christian Slater? Come on.
(No problem has with the fact that its highest service gentleman behind the forest God Herne plays only the second violin.)
TUCK: Ooh, he’s a young’un. He’s introduced as “Brother Tuck” and is Marion’s bestest buddy. He’s fat and young and shuffles around looking apologetic at everything for some reason, and then halfway through the pilot it’s ba-ba-ba-BAM and he busts out the ass-kick. He’s a formidable fighter, but they don’t go all warrior monk with him. He’s still soft-spoken, devout, and super-cuddly. He’s even down with the paganism, acknowledging that Herne has his place and his role, and it doesn’t take away from his God at all. This warm and cozy Tuck was not ripped off by Prince of Thieves, but it probably should have been.
(Much has a crucial disadvantage - he can too often be caught!)
MUCH: SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP I HATE YOU. Okay, got that out of my system Much is Robin’s brother in this telling. A wise choice, as that’s the only possible explanation for why they’d keep someone this incompetent around for as long as they do, instead of leading him to a quiet spot in the woods, taking out their bows, and telling him about the rabbits. I’m not exaggerating. In one episode, Will idly refers to him as a ‘half-wit’, and he gets angry, pointing out that he may be a little slow on the uptake, but he’s no half-wit. And here I was thinking half was too generous. He’s also useless in a fight, usually getting backed into a corner and screaming for Robin or Nasir or someone to come save him. He falls asleep on guard duty, he lets prisoners escape, he gets captured 5 or 6 times in 24 episodes… I’d think that living in the woods as outlaws, having a dullard like him around would present a liability. But no, apparently survival is less important than having a mascot. Here’s a great illustration of his pointlessness. In the episode “The Betrayal”, a number of King John’s personal guard dress up as the outlaws and wreak havoc among the villages. There’s a fake Will, a fake John, a fake Tuck, a fake Nasir, and a fake Robin. Notice anything missing? Yeah, he’s so useless, he’s not even worth discrediting. While not ripped off, there is no doubt PoT was influenced by this Much, as they feature theirs as little as possible.
(Abbott Hugo, whose marrying plans her by the escape into a monastery to withdraw itself tried - until she meets on Robin.)
MARION: This is a great version of Marian. I mean Marion. I don’t recall and am too lazy to look up if I mentioned that I far prefer a Mari*n to be the inside man spy type, rather than the asskicker or damsel in distressfulness, but if I didn‘t , now you know. Anyway, here I eat my words that I may or may not have said, ‘cause this one kicks some ass. This works for three reasons: 1) She is an outlaw like the rest, and lives in the forest from day one. (I imagine this is an inconvenience to her for a few days a month, but going into further detail would require me to look up how they dealt with that in the middle ages in the first place.) 2) She marries Robin at the end of the first episode, so we don’t have to deal with all that flirty crap they always pull. 3) They don’t get hung up on her being a woman. In like the second episode, everyone comes to grips with the fact that she’s as good as a man. Not that she doesn’t use her womanliness against bad guys, of course. Yeah, she’s neat. Come the end of season 3, she joins a convent, yet another thing that would have been nice to see in season 4, rather than just having the show end with that. Downer much?
(Its large virtues are fights and silence.)
NASIR: Hey! A new guy! And the gang‘s first person of color, no less. Granted, the color is “White guy playing an Arab”, but we’re making baby steps here. He’s another servant of everyone’s favorite pilot bad guy wizard man, and also joins Robin once he’s freed, only he fights him first to see if he’s worth joining. Sweet. He spends the rest of the series doing stuff that may only be called fuckin’ hardcore awesome. He barely says anything, which led me to assume he was mute until he says one word in the season one finale. Then a couple episodes in, he speaks in Hebrew to some folks, and starts gradually getting more lines from then on. One could attribute this to Nasir gaining more comfort and ease both with his companions and in the English language. I say it’s because Mark Ryan was a stuntman who was hired to play a mute fightin’ guy in the pilot and had a recurring role thrust upon him, so he scrambled for some acting lessons. They paid off though, as he wound up playing one of the main characters in last summer’s biggest blockbuster action movie. That’s right. He was the voice of Bumblebee in Transformers. Saying the one line that left audiences across America raving, “Why the crap is Bumblebee British?” His semi-muteness, shady past, and two curvy swords have held over to subsequent things, by which I mean Drizzit Do’Urden ripped him off.
(Embittered enemy of all outlawing - and all women.)
SHERIFF: Man, I love this guy. He’s short and skinny, and basically looks like he poses no physical threat to Robin at all. It’s all about the brain with this guy. He’s ruthless not only to his enemies, but to his friends as well. His devastating sarcasm and violent outbursts at his underlings has held over to most subsequent portrayals of the Sheriff, by which I mean Prince of Thieves ripped it off. But you guessed that. However, he’s not just power/money mad. He is, but at the heart of it all is an all consuming desire for order and control. He wants the laws to be followed and the people to stay in their place. Something interesting about a TV series as compared to a movie is that after Robin Hood thwarts the Sheriff a dozen or so times, you start to wonder how this guy keeps his job. The show deals with this head on, with Robin and the Sheriff gaining leverage and victories over each other in dribs and drabs. It’s nice to see the guy win once in a while, particularly in one episode where he plays the Hoodies for major chumps. He‘s going to marry an obscenely rich girl for the dowry, and he knows her fiancée, Alan-a-Dale, is mounting a rescue with the outlaws. So he switches the dowry with a chest full of rocks, which the gang dutifully steals. With the dowry “stolen”, he doesn’t have to marry the girl, but can still keep her father’s money. Then he has a bath with Gisburne. Not that I’m reading anything into that. Oh, also he’s the first Sheriff I’ve seen with a full name. We had Miter in ‘91, and Alan Rickman was “George, Sheriff of Nottingham”, which sounds stupid. Anyway, this one is Robert de Rainault, which Wikipedia tells me is from Evelyn Charles Vivian’s version of the legend. I mention this only to puzzle over that author’s gender.
(An insurmountable dislike possesses against too many trees and does not look themselves always into the wrong Mrs. (which for the women also always mildly goes off).)
SIR GUY: BEST GUY EVER. Guy is the captain of the Guards, just like Prince of Thieves. Imagine that. More than that, he’s the Sheriff’s steward and undersheriff. He’s constantly berated and insulted by his superiors, and this combines with his shame as a landless knight to create an obsessive need to prove his worth. Many is the time when the Sheriff rebukes Guy for his incompetence, and Guy immediately lashes out at some underling with far more venom than they deserve. Speaking of that incompetence, there’s a few episodes where Guy is acting Sheriff, and tries to enact actual policy. It goes poorly for him, but of course. Things really ratchet up for Guy in the final episodes, as we learn that he’s the illegitimate son of Huntingdon, and thus the half-brother of Robin Hood. Then he gets fired and joins a crazy wolf-cult, and attacks the Sheriff as revenge for his constant abuse. Then the show gets cancelled. Good thing, too. At the rate this guy was losing his marbles, he would have had to spend most of the fourth season just stabbing babies.
(I couldn't find the picture of Richard I was going to use, and I'm too lazy to make one. Please enjoy this John Rhys Davies action figure instead.)
THE MAN: Both kings get their guest spots here. Richard shows up first, in the Season 1 ender “The King’s Fool”. And thank deist ethical principles, he’s played as a total bastard. At first, he’s all “Yeah, I’ll pardon you guys,” and Robin’s all “Sweet, dude,” and the king’s all like “You’re coming to the Holy Land with me,” and Will’s all “Screw that, I’ma go back to the woods,” and King Ricky’s like “Hey, look at my pet outlaw! Ain’t he cute? Do a dance!” and John and Marion and Tuck and Nasir and even fucking Much are all “What a dick,” and the King’s all “Sure, sheriff, you can have them killed, and thanks for all this money for my nutty crusade” and Robin’s all like “Oh, you do NOT play a playa!” and runs back to the woods and Herne’s all “Dude, I could have told you that. What, doesn’t god outrank king anymores? By the way, while you were gone, I promoted Will to Robin Hood, but I guess you can have it back.” And Will’s like “Bloody ‘ell.”
(Same goes for John, only they don't make Phil Davis action figures, so here's some tool that works for him instead.)
Prince John shows up for about half an episode… Then KING JOHN takes his place. It’s nice to see this jackass able to act with complete autonomy. For one thing, he travels with a posse of hookers. Also, he invariably comes to town with some convenient plot device, like an assassin, or Arthur of Brittany (look it up), or wanting to bang Marion. As if you could blame him. Anyway, he’s fun. Nasty, brutish, and short, just like the real John. He’s got a hair trigger temper and a silly beard, and usually portends a good episode. He’s in three episodes, which see his face go from beard to BEARD to BBBBBEEEEEEEEAAAAAARRRRRRDDDDDD. It truly is majestic.
(Its cold blood holds for a knight horse and its art to produce tones for singing.)
OTHER MERRY MEN: Well, there’s a few that come up here or there, I think their names were Arrow Bait, Meat Shield, and Red Shirt. Alan-A-Dale shows up, in a quality episode named after him, where he gets overdramatic at every little thing, and writes irritating songs, which he sings in a thin, annoying voice. Apparently, the plan was to add him full time to the band in the next season, but that fell through. Probably because someone pointed out that a one-off character who works in a wacky comedy episode would piss everyone off week after week.
(At Edward the spirit separates… of “traitor” to “Langweiler” participates everything.)
The most prominent fella is Edward of Wickham, who’s sort of a village elder/priest of Herne/mayor guy for the town where Robin and the gang do most of their business. I’m amazed the Sheriff doesn’t kill him, much less burn Wickham to the ground, based on all the times the outlaws have been seen or sheltered there. Apparently he was set to join the band in season 4, but as I’ve already bitched about, there was no season 4. Why? Because the studio ran out of money. Mostly because they stopped making Chariots of Fire, The Wall, and Ghandi; and started making Revolution, Absolute Beginners, and the Mission. Never heard of them? Exactly. Actually, The Mission got seven Oscar nominations, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to stab myself when I was watching it. And whose idea was it to cast Robert DeNiro as Portuguese? Madness. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Edward. He’s played by the guy who played Boba Fett, but his voice was edited out of Special Editions, making him the second person in this blog to get shafted by George Lucas, only he’s the first to you, ‘cause I skipped the Star Trek one for now, so you haven‘t heard about Clive Revill.
(riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.)
One of these days, I’ll write an entry composed entirely of tangents and digressions. Then I’ll drop the punctuation and spelling. Then I will be James Joyce.
(Richard O'Brien is a highly gifted actor for the “something other roles”)
OTHER VILLAINS: Baron Belleme, the famous pilot wizard, shows up one more time to be pointless and do nothing. Richard O’Brien of all people shows up as a sinister wizard named Gulnar who acts just like you’d expect Richard O’Brien to if he was an evil wizard in the middle ages, which he probably was. So he’s basically his character from the D&D movie, but with a Riff Raff voice. He first appears as part of the retinue of Owen of Clun, whose band of hairy Welsh bastards no doubt provided the inspiration for blah blah Prince of Thieves ripoff. The Sheriff’s brother Hugo is a major player early on, but kinda drifts off, which is too bad, ‘cause he was pretty neat. He was Tuck’s abbot, and represented a kind of catch-all evil church guy. But he wasn’t really evil, just willing to profit from it. The sheriff actually gets fired twice for incompetence, but his replacements do teh epic fail. The first, Phillip Mark (Ehhh? EHHHHH???) tries the whole killing everyone in Wickham thing, and sucks at it; and the second, Roger de Carnac, hires the evil doubles of all the useful people, but they all get killed, so phooey. He was played by American character actor Matt Frewer, best known as Max Headroom. Good thing I didn’t notice that while I was watching, or I w-would have been so di-di-distracted. Other good one-time villains are a devil-worshipping nun played by Rula Lenska and her sexy voice, and the snarling gang of Flemish mercenaries who killed Will’s wife.
(Not the guards, but some guys on horses. Look, I can't make screencaps, and my camera charger's busted. If you want a top-quality production, then give me money. In fact, give me money anyway)
I’d like to say a word about the guards here, for a second. Robin and his men kill, as Carl Sagan would say, bill-yuns and bill-yuns of these guys. I was just wondering how the Sheriff keeps finding men to hire. “JOIN THE SHERRIF’S MEN! Live in filth! Get shot by outlaws! Get yelled at by a tomato-faced blonde guy!” Robin and his men kill at least six per episode. And yet there’s always more. They must have a good benefits package. I guess not having your hands cut off counts as a benefit. I’d also like to say that they look super-stylin’ with their bullet heads and chevron-strewn tabards. Nice.
(It's not gay if you're complaining about outlaws.)
Gisburne: "My Lord - I thought..."
Sheriff: "You THOUGHT, did you, Gisburne? What a pity I wasn't here! When did you have this thought of yours? When I was in London, or was it more recent? Surely such an earth-shattering event would linger in the memory. Or was it this morning, perhaps? WHILE I WAS BEING ATTACKED?!"
(A world-class berating from the Sheriff)
“Land pirates! The worst kind!”
(Robin, showing off his extensive knowledge of pirate varieties.)
COMING UP NEXT: