Robin Hood (2006)

This post is part of a series of posts on books and movies about the legend of Robin Hood. It discusses the 2006 television show.

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Thoughts on Robin Hood (2006 TV series)

This TV series could justifiably be called Robin Hoodie. The costumes, props and dialog are, shall we say, less than authentic. But I don’t care. The show is lighthearted and entertaining.

Despite having four different Robin Hood novels of differing vintages on my shelf, I have never read “the” story of the Robin Hood legend, which Wikipedia tells me dates from the 15th or 16th century. I have seen the Disney movie, the Flynn movie and the Elwes movie, and I know some of whatever it is that people absorb from a general knowledge of pop culture about Robin Hood.

Apparently I should read Ivanhoe (1819) and apparently the Howard Pyle version from 1883 is the one that gave rise most of the 20th century versions. Henry Gilbert’s version is from 1912; Roger Lancelyn Green’s is from 1956, and Robin McKinley’s is from 1988. T.H. White–oddly—references Robin Wood in his King Arthur tale in 1939. Rosemary Sutcliff wrote a version in 1950. I should get my hands on the Nancy Springer books, and maybe also Stephen R. Lawhead’s.

Meanwhile, as I was saying, there’s this TV show… I have now watched all of Season 1 (of 3). It compares favorably with Legend of the Seeker, a two-season fantasy show set in New Zealand that had awesome scenery and costumes and utterly lamentable dialog (along with some lame didactic plots and mixed-quality acting). This one is filmed in Hungary.

Characters in Robin Hood (2006 TV series)

Robin is a peace-lover; he returned from the holy land with a newfound respect for other (monotheistic?) faiths and a strong disinclination to kill anyone, almost regardless of the provocation (the exceptions being threats to Marian and the king). This explains why he prefers to harry the Sheriff and Sir Guy of Gisborne rather than just kill them, which he has many opportunities to do.

Robin’s quasi-ex-manservant, Much, is obsessed with food and other kinds of personal comfort (the lack of which he constantly gripes about) and just generally behaves like a dumb but very loyal clown. At times he gives off an echo of Firefly’s Wash, though the characters are so dissimilar I hate to draw a comparison.

Little John has a very forced-seeming verbal tick, which is to utter sentences in the form of “[Something/Someone], I/we like” or “[Something/Someone], I/we do not like”.

Djaq is the Saracen female who masquerades as a young man and has some medical knowledge. And an Indian accent. She is loved by Will Scarlett, the gentle carpenter, though this is not very developed in Season 1. (In case you were wondering, historically, there was no Saracen among Robin Hood’s Merry Men, and no female other than Marian, sorta.)

Allan A Dale is a cheeky rogue whose first thought is to look out for number one. He has a verbal tic which is to say, “I’m not being funny, but…” and then make an obvious but unpopular suggestion or observation.

Marian seems to be the result of the impulse to make historical female characters more empowered/spunky. Her character has the same values as Robin (as a noble, help the villagers live well), but she is more pragmatic while and Robin is more idealistic. She acts as a double-agent rather than an outlaw. I think I like the character but the actress can’t hold a candle to Bridget Regan (who played Kahlan Amnell in Legend of the Seeker).

Marian’s would-be boyfriend Sir Guy of Gisborne is an interesting character. He’s not a brainless henchman, or a scheming villain. He’s someone who wants to be honorable yet believes the ends justify the means, and has thus done some very dishonorable things. I couldn’t tell whether his love for Marian was genuine, or false; at times he seemed to care for her, but at other times he just seemed to want to steal her from Robin for the sake of stealing from Robin. At times Sir Guy gave off a kind of Darcyish air; aloof, brooding, compelled by forces beyond his control yet holding himself in check, then bursting out under pressure.

The Sheriff is a fun villain. He says and does some clever things. He avoids the more obvious pitfalls of Evil Overlordship. I think the actor does a great job being smug. He has a verbal tic of asking rhetorical questions and then answering them by saying: “A clue – no.”

Other thoughts on Robin Hood (2006 tv series)

The plots were better than I might have expected, especially after watching the two seasons of Legend of the Seeker (though there’s no reason those shows would be anything alike in terms of quality just because the subject matter is arguably similar). I can imagine a show about a character who robs the rich to give to the poor could descend into contemporary political finger-pointing, saccharine didacticism or some other form of utterly boring predictability. It didn’t. The two-part Season One finale had some real tension in it.

There are weaknesses: the soldiers’ chain mail is made of cloth, the anachronisms are sometimes grating, and I have started to wonder how many times Robin Hood and his people are going to sneak into Nottingham and its dungeon. The Nottingham sets have started to look repetitive.

It’s not a first-class show, but it’s good enough for me.