Today I watched the first episode of the BBC’s new Robin Hood series, now gloriously available to people refusing to buy a TV license on the grounds of “TV is mostly crap” through BBC iPlayer (which both negates the need for a license and confirms the reason for not having one).
The first series of Robin Hood began before such enlightened times, but I do remember reading about how it was going to give a fresh new insight into the legend of Robin Hood, with groundbreaking social realism and topical references to terrorism that would completely re-imagine the tired old story. Gadzooks, they even had a Robin Hood with an authentic Northern accent.
So I’ve been slightly surprised by what the episode actually contained: Robin Hood hitting unlikely targets with his absurdly accurate bowmanship, his gang hiding under equally unlikely trap doors in Sherwood Forest, Little John sporting an unkempt beard and wielding a staff, Maid Marian kicking the shit out of people and clinging to her independence whilst essentially being both a bit girly and a huge liability. Hands being chopped off, houses being burned down, hooded nobles conspiring to hire a mercenary army to gain control of the country. And the biggest giveaway: a camp-as-tits Sheriff of Nottingham constructing whole scenes of dialogue out of one-liners.
Yes – this is not so much a drama built around the legend of Robin Hood as it is a drama built around the legend of Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves. Even the incidental music’s the same.
The biggest disappointment (aside from the fact that after watching the episode I found myself wishing I had watched the film instead) was that they didn’t go further. Several scenes would have been hugely enhanced by crowds of dirty extras in the forest shouting “Bollarks!” and I feel that Hood’s motivational speeches would have been much better with a Canadian accent.
But if they really wanted to bring the show into the 21st century, there are some obvious things they could have done:
1. Little John could have been played by Richard Littlejohn, who would spend every episode telling people the country was going down the pan and it was really all due to the Muslims.
2. An openly gay Will Scarlett. Wearing scarlet.
3. The position of Sheriff of Nottingham could come up for re-election and the outlaws would suddenly realise that, machiavellian though the Sheriff was, at least he had ideas and knew how to implement them, whereas his blond floppy-fringed rival might turn out to be really as stupid as he appeared.
4. King Richard could return from the Crusades declaring them an absolute success and the Holy Land a free, democratic state. Cut forward to the present day and King Richard could be posthumously tried for war crimes.
5. Instead of having end credits accompanied by a Bryan Adams, they could use the modern counterpart and have a song by Ryan Adams.
As it stands, the only thing that really sets the series apart from anything that has been done before is the occasional eccentric fast-cutting editing of action sequences that gives it the instant look of television drama that will have dated about five years from now.