Saturday, October 07, 2006

Robin Hood

Robin Hood is the new regional BBC attempt to fill the Doctor Who slot, a good old-fashioned Saturday-evening show for the entire family. If the first episode broadcast tonight is indicative of the series as a whole, the entire family will be agreeing it's rubbish and arguing over which channel to change to instead.

The first two episodes at least will be spent establishing the basic premise of the show. I know that children aren't actually taught anything in schools today but I can't believe that there's that many of them that don't know the basic story of Robin Hood, so I can only assume this is BBC Nottingham being concerned about selling this show to foreign markets, such as the United States where the kids are too doped up to remember Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

So Robin, along with annoying comic relief Much (played by Patrick Doctor Two Troughton's grandson, Sam) have returned from a Crusade in the Holy Land which is more than a little unpopular at home. That's pretty much all there is for parents to enjoy, though there is a cleavage shot for Dads later on. On returning to his ancestral home Bob discovers that there's something of an authoritarian streak abroad in the land, people lose limbs if they are caught stealing. It seems the Sheriff of Nottingham is a bad 'un and that forces Bobby to take the law into his own hands when some of his serfs are condemned to hang for crimes they didn't commit. They all escape and become soldiers of fortune. If you've no-one else to turn to, if you can find them, if you live in the fourteenth century, maybe you can hire 'The H Team'.

Pretty much the entire blame for this anaemic show can be placed on the script. It's amusing in places, but even if you hated David Tennant's gurning as the Doctor that'll seem like Shakespeare compared to this. It fails to define the heroes as truly heroic, and I don't think that's because it's aiming for a complex morality that forces us to ask 'who's good? who's evil?'. Worse, while Sir Guy of Gisbourne is not the public-school buffoon with the room-temperature IQ from Robin of Sherwood, Keith Allen hams it up so badly as the Sherriff of Nottingham that the show cannot be watched by any observant Jews, his decision to make the Sherrif a clown rather than a menace and a threat is a real error. Now, only a few hours later, I can't remember anything memorable or funny that anyone said.

The action scenes are few and extremely badly plotted. There seems to be no-one involved at any stage of the production process that can point out that these are supposed to be exciting. The script can't decide how good a fighter Robin is. At the start he shoots four arrows into an extremely narrow target from several hundred feet away, faster than it would actually take a real person to fire those arrows. When charged by eight men on horseback he runs away, because although they are at least twice that distance away from him he couldn't just shoot them as well? A bowman would have an advantage against someone on horseback. Still, he has his superpowers back by the end of the show when he shoots arrows through several ropes holding hanging men, then throws his sword about fifty meters to hit first one then another guard who are menacing Much. Yet he needs help to stop a guard from shooting him with an arrow, a guard he's close enough to duck under and grab the legs of.

The set design is nice, and Budapest does a good job of doubling for the winter-time forests of the English collective imagination. I'm holding out the unreasonable hope that things may improve once we get past the unnecessary origin story. I don't think Robin Hood needs one beyond 'good group of people, one of whom is handy with a bow and arrow, against a bad group, lead by the Sherrif of Nottingham' and if it takes more than one episode to set up then you're doing something badly wrong. But I'm going to give it a chance to get beyond the origin story and see if it develops legs.



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