The New Adventures of Robin Hood: The Complete First Season Review

It’s remarkably clear exactly what The New Adventures of Robin Hood wanted to accomplish with its campy take on the legendary vigilante and his merry band. Hercules had started two years before and was enjoying a successful run; Kevin Sorbo was reenacting the tales of the mythological hero, with plenty of creative license, and all he had to do was follow along with the modestly staged choreography and decently written scripts. The show was hammy, the special effects were barely par – but it didn’t matter, it was a Saturday afternoon serial and its audience was set. Enter Robin Hood. It wanted to latch on to that same viewership and thus took a lot of the same liberties, except it makes Hercules look like a television master stroke in comparison. This is the Plan 9 from Outer Space of Saturday afternoon serials.

You know the basic setup: the evil king has imposed a tyrannical hold over his subjects, taking their money and doing with their properties as he pleases, prompting the emergence of Robin Hood (Matthew Porretta) who fights back with his trusted companions Little John (Richard Ashton), Marion (Anna Galvin), and Friar Tuck (Martyn Ellis). Little John is the strong man; Marion is the firebrand who not-so-secretly pines for Robin; and Friar Tuck is the knowledgeable sage that everyone looks to for answers. In terms of plot, the episodes follow a predictable procedural pattern: Robin or one of his friends stumbles across a party in need and they take up their cause in the name of justice. It’s pretty much Burn Notice but with bows and swords.

The stories are all well and good, whether the enemy is a Mongol or a martial arts sporting Arabian, as it’s in the technical department that The New Adventures of Robin Hood stumbles time and time again. The action beats play out at half speed. Both the camera work and the stunt actors clearly have no idea how to make a fight scene work. Often enemies will run straight into an outstretched hand for a clothesline, as opposed to running and then finding the arm suddenly in their path. The timing never works in the show’s favor. But it’s not just the fight scenes where the timing is off. The New Adventures also suffers from some of the worst dubbing ever to grace a television program. Sometimes it’s just a manner of bad direction, and you can’t see the character delivering the line so it looks like it’s coming from nowhere, but often it’s a case of “we’ll fix it in post-production”. At certain points it feels like watching a classic Godzilla film, a character’s mouth will move but the words definitely don’t fit. What happened? Who knows.

If you’re looking for a campy TV series and are willing and able to overlook egregious technical faults, then you might just enjoy The New Adventures of Robin Hood. However, if these shortcomings sound like too much to bear, consider the following approach: use it as a drinking game. Every time a sound effect is noticeably omitted – take a shot. Every time the action scene moves too slowly – take a shot. Every time the line spoken doesn’t match a character’s lips – take a shot. You’ll be sloshed halfway into the first episode.

What’s interesting to note about the series is that they replaced Porretta as the lead by the third season. Were the ratings low? Did Porretta want too much money? Or did he leave because he realized the series jumped the shark in its first season? You see, the show has lots of bad special effects so that it can be a world of magic and dragons, but apparently that wasn’t enough. So, one episode before the end of the season, they do a story about an alien crashing on earth and befriending Marion. Yep, an alien. With lasers and everything. Oh dear.

DVD Bonus Features

There are none.

The Amazon link above is for the VHS version, the DVD is available exclusively at Warner Brothers' online shop.

"The New Adventures of Robin Hood: The Complete First Season" is on sale June 1, 2010 and is not rated. Adventure, Drama. Directed by Joe Coppoletta, Harley Cokeliss, James Bruce. Written by Louis J. Zivot. Starring Martyn Ellis, Richard Ashton, Matthew Porretta, Anna Galvin.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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