After the first 15 minutes of the BBC's new drama 'Robin Hood', I was pretty much certain that I wouldn't go further than the first episode. Robin (Jonas Armstrong), back from the Crusades in Jerusalem is coming home to Locksley, along with is ex-servant and friend, Much (Sam Troughton). They make a pit-stop on their journey home, to help a blacksmith in return for food... and a roll in the hay with his bosomy daughter who looks like she just stepped out of a Justin Timberlake music video. Riiight. Then came a dodgy back-flip, some ridiculous one-liner and I was thoroughly unimpressed.
I know a thing or two about the legend of Robin Hood. As a kid the Disney version (yep the sing-along with the fox as Robin) was a favorite, and when I was about 6 and went on a trip to England, my family and I made a pit-stop in Nottingham, got a photo by the Robin Hood statue and even went on a little Robin Hood ride and walk through Sherwood forest. I was told the stories of Robin Hood, and have a soft spot for the Robin and Marian romance. I felt obligated to give this new BBC drama a try, since everything Robin Hood once fascinated me as a child.
The first episode, as I said, did not inspire confidence. Jonas Armstrong isn't who I picture as Robin Hood. One review described him as being the 'Orlando Bloom' type, one who "hovers somewhere between boyhood and manhood" (Daily Express, September 9, 2006). I had seen Armstrong in the fourth season of 'Teachers' and was not terribly taken by him. But in 'Robin Hood', Armstrong is initially hard to swallow as the hooded crusader, but this isn't entirely his fault. Robin initially comes across as a cocky, womanizing lad with a hefty ego, and it wasn't until about the third episode that I actually started to warm to him. What made sure I came back to watch the second, third and eventually entire series of this show was Lucy Griffiths as Maid Marian and Keith Allen as the deliciously ruthless Sheriff of Nottingham.
Newcomer, 19 year-old Lucy Griffith's Marian has dropped the 'maid' and follows the lead of 21st century female TV heroines such as Buffy, Veronica Mars and Rose Tyler... which isn't surprising, the show could not have worked with a wimpy and weak Marian. Griffiths and Armstrong do have a great chemistry as well, despite the fact that the dialogue between Marian and Robin is sometimes corny ("kiss it better?") there is a spark, and that's enough to keep the Marian/Robin romance interesting for me. Even more so is the fact that in this updated version, Marian does not welcome Robin home with open arms. He left her 5 years ago to fight for glory and King Richard in the Holy lands, and she is still feeling the sting of his desertion.
Keith Allen plays a fantastically villainous Sheriff, who sometimes reminds me of Tim Curry, and is always entertaining. Richard Armitage plays Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff's right hand man and the new lord of Robin's Locksley manor. To top it off, Gisborne is in tough pursuit of Marian, adding an extra layer of intensity to his dueling with Robin.
This show has been commissioned partly due to the huge success of the resurrected 'Doctor Who', and while it isn't quite on-par with the genius of Russell T. Davies's show, 'Robin Hood' is worth a try. At times the production value leaves you wanting, the stunts can be laughable and the acting a little wooden. It isn't really until the seventh episode "Brothers in Arms" that things really start to pick up with the drama and story lines, and from seven onwards it is a brilliant roller-coaster ride sure to make the previous six lack-luster episodes worth the watch.
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