...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Day 2111: ROBIN HOOD: Sheriff Got Your Tongue?


Woosh-kerthunk noise…

Caption: Our Front Room…

We settle down again on my sofa to watch ROBBING HOODIE. I am not sure if it is quite "appointment to view" yet; I had to wake my daddies up by turning up the sound REALLY LOUD and dancing along to "Strictly Ballroom Fever".

I do not THINK that daddy minded me dancing on his tummy…

It seems very odd that this new Robin Hood can almost revel in some of the more messily gory aspects of 12th Century justice – a removed hand last week; off screen, at least one tongue cut out this week – and yet cannot bring itself to kill anybody.

The "brutal" outlaws in Sherwood Forest (under sentence of death, remember) strip their victims (only to their underclothes – for shame's sake!) and tie them to trees rather than – say – killing them a bit. These are witnesses to their crimes and where they are hiding who could presumably turn them in to the Sheriff, were they not Robin and co so also newly outlawed.

But Robin in particular goes to ludicrous, and indeed unbelievable, lengths to convince the Sheriff that he is willing to kill when in fact he is faking it: ludicrous because the Sheriff will see through the deception as soon as he discovers the "corpse" has got up and walked away; unbelievable because a recurved bow at point blank range would punch an arrow quite lethally though that piece of wood – try to remember that these things are used against armoured knights.

Last week we were playing "Hollyoaks" but this week we are clearly moving into the territory of "The A Team".

"In 1172 a crack team of crusaders were outlawed for a crime they didn't commit…"

Still on the whole, things are getting better: the dialogue was snappier, Robin and Marion sparked off each other a bit more and Gordon Kennedy added some much needed bottom to the outlaws.

And the Sheriff – ooh, and he's got a name, Sheriff Vasey, apparently, first name Royston we presume – the Sheriff gets a lot better lines this time: his nearly psychoanalysis analysis of Robin, spotting the fatal flaw in the man (and in the series!) that Robin is against killing is very well delivered and even with Robin holding him at arrow point you strongly feel that it is the Sheriff who has the upper hand.

On the other hand, Sam Troughton is still suffering with dialogue for Much coming straight out of the fifties. Possibly the twelve-fifties. Welcome back jokes about effeminacy, then: the limply running gags about lavender water, waiting until the rabbit is properly cooked and the "fetching" many-coloured string vest of which Much is deprived all seem to speak of a writer whose sense of humour needs to grow up a bit. This is rather more offensive stuff than the farting "Aliens of London" in Doctor Who: there the childish humour was about the ridiculousness of a very human biological problem; this is really just picking on someone for not being butch enough to meet the – did I mention how heterosexual it all is – group's standards.

And rather oddly, no sign of Will Scarlet's "never-before-heard-of" brother Luke… having missed Little John in the close of episode one, did I also miss young Luke being whisked away home to "Locksley"? Or indeed Loxley as everyone else calls it? Will he be "never-heard-of-again"?

More "outrageous" stunts this week, though not so obsessively as in part one and mostly in the big escape at the end. Robin's super-human archery skills are mainly kept to his rescue of Little John's wife, Alice, by shooting the ghastly tongue-scissors from the fingers of a passing henchman. And then shooting them again in mid air. Not that he was showing off, at all.

This week's totally gratuitous moment: Robin slides down a rope hanging from the arms of his bow. Rather than, for example, calmly leaving by the stairs with Roy (William Beck), his not-quite-as-shot-dead-as-the-Sheriff-thought chum. It took ages to set up and really wasn't nearly spectacular enough. Sorry. You need to make these things seem casual and spontaneous.

With fewer stunts there was more time for character moments, and thankfully they were mostly given to Gordon Kennedy who can act. Admittedly, what could possibly be more nauseating that "Littler Little John", but somehow the boy and Kennedy managed to make the scene work. Thank goodness. And somehow the "funny berserker" moments were actually humorous where the "funny camp follower" (geddit) were so very not.

Robin and his magic elves leaving gifts for all the villagers was verging on the too twee for words, though.

Unlike last week, there was no forced cliff-hanger ending, so I suspect that parts one and two are subtly designed to be bolted together into a "movie-length" pilot for the inevitable attempt to sell the series to America. Which isn't nearly so much fun as having a tag scene that turns into a cliff-hanger each week. The new Doctor Who doesn't have cliff-hangers excepting thrice a year, but does have those awfully good "Next time…" trailers before the closing credits which serve the same purpose: make it impossible, unthinkable that your kids could miss the next episode.

Robin had a bit of a fall-off in the ratings from week one and ITV will doubtless be gloating that this week it was they who won the ratings war. That sort of decline is to be expected though: week one – like "Rose" – was always going to be "event television" and have a much greater "well we'll just see what it's like" factor. Plus the run in from the football never hurts the BBC's evening lineup. But six million plus viewers and a better than 30% audience share is still hit television.

Next week is, I believe, the episode written by Doctor Who star writer Paul Cornell.
So stick around.


Will said...

I know I was picky last time, so sorry to be again, but... Doctor Who has had four cliffhangers a year so far, not three :-)

Ryan said...

If Little John is from Locksley, how did he not reconise Robin or the Scarlets, it's not the biggest place in Nottinghamshire as we can see from the two scenes where the Sheriff rounds them all up.

Will said...

And why do they not recognise him - the age of his son (if it is his - snigger) suggests he can't have left that long before.

Alex Wilcock said...

But, Will, if you’re including as cliffhangers not just the standard episode-closes-with-‘How do they get out of that? / So it was the D****s all along’-find-out-in-the-conclusion-next-week, but also stories that finish but leave an element teasing you for the future, surely the number rises from three to rather more than four.

You’re probably including the end-of-series tantalisers ‘Who is this strange new person in the TARDIS?’ but, after all, Queen Victoria founding Torchwood was just as much a cliffhanger, not resolved for another two months. You could make almost as good a case for a couple of others, too, such as the Doctor’s ‘Oh, fireworks, we must be doomed, keep an eye out for a really exciting trailer next that’ll make you think it was worthwhile watching’ moment at the close of Fear Her

Have to agree with Ryan about the unfeasibly large village of Locksley, though.

MayorWatch said...

>> I suspect that parts one and two are subtly designed to be bolted together into a "movie-length" pilot for the inevitable attempt to sell the series to America. <<

Mr Elephant, you need to pay attention to the credits, the show was part financed by BBC America ;-)

Will said...

I am indeed including the season finales in that count - which I think RTD would too if you asked him :-)