Sunday, October 08, 2006

Riding through the Glen

Well, the first episode of Robin Hood failed to disappoint. Which is, alas, not a good thing, as I was basing my expectations on my theory that Robin Hoods always seem to be relentlessly contemporary. The 1930s Robin Hood was a New Deal socialist who advised political solutions to the aristocrat problem; the 1980s one was a New Age Traveller who thought we should all get back in touch with pagan spirituality; the Kevin Costner one was a multiculturalist, feminist sort who had apparently been acting as a UN peacekeeper in the Holy Land prior to coming back and getting King John to respect Marion's rights as a woman. So it's no surprise that now we get a bunch of Asbo-lads in the forest, basically doing Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Arrows.

The thing that amused me most was how terribly similar to the 1980s ITV version it was. I mean, really. Unrealistic, wobbly-looking peasant villages, populated by people who apparently haven't heard that in the Middle Ages everybody went in for really colourful clothing (honestly; look at the margin of any manuscript. Even the peasants look like they're auditioning for Dick Tracy), bunch of cute unshaved fellows wandering the forest; a Guy of Guisborne who looks vaguely like Robin and who seems to have some undiscussed backstory with him; a Marion who is far, far too modern-looking and -acting to be remotely credible; everyone taking everything as seriously as only people in their early twenties can; and a Sheriff of Nottingham who's quite clearly a better actor than three-quarters of the cast and desperately thinking of his pension fund throughout. Unfortunately, though, it lacks the main assets of the ITV version: the retrospective kitsch factor which allows one to laugh at how big the mullets are; the Clannad soundtrack (for which I have a nostalgic fondness); the occasional forays into Hammer Horror territory; and the fact that just about every week some star from the Golden Age of British Televsion would turn up in an unlikely role (my favourite still is the sight of Anthony Valentine sporting a Bettie Page wig and managing not to laugh).

What actually offended me about the series, though, was Robin Hood's sudden conversion to Thatcherism. I mean, not only is he the bloody Earl of Huntingdon again (look, guys, that bit was the invention of Victorians who couldn't stand the idea that their kids were reading stories about a working-class hero) but his advice to the Sheriff is to eliminate all taxes, and let the trickle-down economy do its work. Which, frankly, is an economic policy that even the Americans haven't managed to make feasible, and to see a strategy which only benefits the rich in practice espoused by Robin bloody Hood just suggests that something is very, very wrong with the world.

So, in other words, I think I'll give the rest of the series a miss, and then catch it again in twenty years, when I can at least laugh at the ridiculous old-fashioned designer stubble and hoodies.