Richard Carpenter’s seminal 80’s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD may just be the best TV show of all Time

‘Nothing is forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten.’ — Richard Carpenter’s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD

 

 

 

Richard Carpenter, no relation to John Carpenter, is largely unknown to modern audiences, however he shouldn’t be. In the 80s he created a TV show, ROBIN OF SHERWOOD, which became a surprising hit. Here in the states it was broadcast via PBS, and even watching it then, it felt mythic and larger than life. Revisiting it 35 years later, not only does the short lived series hold up as great television, those first two seasons remain the best version of Robin Hood ever conceived.

Richard Carpenter taking the traditional Robin Hood myth, and adding unheard of mystical and Moorish and pagan and Arthurian elements to it, created a show that was the crystallization of myth. Add the perfect confluence of young, hungry actors , a brilliant creator/writer at the peak of his powers, groundbreaking directors and cinematographers, led by Director Ian Sharp, that were rewriting the way action could be filmed, and a score done by Pol Brennan and hot new touring bad Clanad, and you had a show that was as mythic and forged by destiny, as the fiction it chronicled.

 

  • Michael Praed
  • Ray Winstone,
  • Nickolas Grace
  • Judi Trott
  • Clive Mantle
  • Robert Addie
  • Phil Rose
  • Mark Ryan
  • Peter Llewellyn Williams

 

The above actors were the perfect cast (thanks to Beth and Esta Charkham) to give life to Richard Carpenter’s groundbreaking mythic and mystic version of Robin of the Hood.

The writing, married to the performances, is at once eloquent and elegant; and like all great myths it is endlessly quotable and memorable. In the 35 years since, what Richard Carpenter invented for his series, the mystical elements, the addition of a Moor to Robin’s Merry Men, making Marion a vital part of the story, has been stolen by other tv shows and films, but none to any great effect. Because those were part of Carpenter’s vision, and 35 years ago he, with the exact right people, and the exact alignment of stars… gave birth to that vision.

Will someday someone make a Robin Hood series or film as good? Well they haven’t yet, but the good news is ROBIN OF SHERWOOD is available on DVD/Bluray and Streaming for a new generation to discover, and long term fans… revisit.

The first two seasons (called Set 1) are essential television. The third season (Set 2) is fun, but is not essential.

Get your fix here:

http://amzn.to/2H8TSQI

http://amzn.to/2ElZrxo

 

If you would like to try before you buy, Season 1 is available right now via Amazon Prime. But the commentaries in the Bluray’s are a clinic on film-making and storytelling, and are a must listen. As well as the other features, and interviews with the cast, it is… in the age of streaming; a must own Blu-ray.

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BOOKS ON THE HOT SEAT: Dave Mckean’s PICTURES THAT TICK vs Stephen King’s NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES

As always I’m reading several books at the same time. Things will slow down when I’m dead. :). In the meantime…

So here’s a bit of feedback on a couple I’ve been reading:

Dave Mckean’s PICTURES THAT TICK- Dave Mckean is a great artist, and quite a good writer in his own right as anyone who owns his magnum opus CAGES will attest. I’ll know I’ve found the love of my life when I find a girl who wants to stay up all night, sipping cocoa, listening to Sonny Rollins, kissing softly and taking turns reading CAGES. Awwwwwww…

Yeah… isn’t that sweet. I want to throw up too. 🙂

But yeah, suffice to say, PICTURES THAT TICK is no CAGES. It’s a book you really have to be in the mood for to get anything out of. I find, having lived with it for a couple weeks, I just don’t find myself interested in it.

Your mileage may vary.

I’m hard pressed to find one story in the whole book i even like.

Next up….

I jumped all over Stephen King for his short story collection JUST AFTER SUNSET, well I have to report that several stories in, I’m far happier with his earlier collection NIGHTMARES AND DREAMSCAPES.

I have the audio book and it is read by a bevy of personalities from Whoopi Goldberg to Tim Curry to Rob Lowe, etc. One of the highlights so far being his creeping evil story CROUCH END, just brilliantly read by Tim Curry (who will always be the best Sheriff of Nottingham in my favorite version of ROBIN HOOD, as well as PennyWorth the Clown in King’s IT mini-series). It’s one of those examples of a great reading helping to elevate something that may or may not sing quite as well on the page.

I’d recommend picking the audio book up, a huge monstrous thing, for that story alone.

Now get to reading or audio book listening. 🙂

Ridley and Tony: The Scott Brothers! A movie making dynasty! ROBIN HOOD & UNSTOPPABLE! Pt 1 of 2!

Ridley Scott’s ROBIN HOOD and Tony Scott’s UNSTOPPABLE.

The Scotts, brothers Tony and Ridley, are a movie making dynasty. Having really defined the look and beats and high points of cinema for three decades now.

Ridley Scott, in his seventh decade, has over fifty producing credits to his name and has directed over twenty feature films. His influence on cinema, in a variety of genres cannot be overstated. Before Michael Bay (love him or disparage him, you can’t argue that he is technically an innovative and stylish director) or David Fincher he was very much the crafter of this new, innovate, sensory intensive, style of filmmaking.

His best films are his early painterly, saturated, stylish, and somewhat aloof films, particularly THE DUELLISTS, ALIEN, BLADERUNNER (I’ve always preferred the voice-over version myself), SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (his most underrated film, but a personal favorite), and BLACK RAIN.

Going into the 90s, starting with THELMA AND LOUISE, and continuing in films such as GI JANE and GLADIATOR and BLACK HAWK DOWN, and pretty much everything he has done since (with the exception of AMERICAN GANGSTER) the magic of his earlier work tends to be absent. To put not too fine a point on it, I don’t care for them.

I think the quality difference is analagous to the difference in Brian Depalma’s early work to his post 90s work.

I think Ridley Scott’s later films lack true heart, while appealing to the simplest most jingoistic terms of the audience. There’s a slight slant to Ridley Scott’s latter-day work, that doesn’t appeal.

However 2007s AMERICAN GANGSTER was a welcome return to greatness for Ridley Scott, and 2008s BODY OF LIES a good if not great followup. He still uses the camera as good as anyone in the business, and better than most.

So now we have his latest offering breaking on theaters this week, 2010s ROBIN HOOD, reteaming him with Russell Crowe. And that can be a problem. Because I wasn’t a fan of their first teaming, and from initial trailers it really looks like Russell Crowe is sleepwalking through this one. He comes across as very uninterested and uninteresting in the trailers.

But hopefully I’m wrong and the film offers the energy, and interest and vibrancy that seems missing from the trailer.
Hopefully with writer Brian Helgeland, who is known for providing quality screenplays (MAN ON FIRE, THE ORDER, GREEN ZONE, LA CONFIDENTIAL, TAKING OF PELHAM 123) Ridley should have the necessary framework/substance, to apply his visuals to, while maintaining an interesting/rousing story.

Going to see the film in a couple days, so time will tell. Though for my money the definitive Robin Hood will always be the 80s BBC series, ROBIN OF SHERWOOD.

Check back next time as I bring you the review on ROBIN HOOD, as well as the second half of this article, where we take a look at Tony Scott’s astounding body of work and his upcoming UNSTOPPABLE with Denzel Washington.

And speaking of Tony Scott, In many ways I find his arc is in opposition to his Brother. I think Tony’s early films were good, but his later films (starting really with 1998s ENEMY OF THE STATE) are a marked improvement, being brilliant. I think it’s a rare and special thing when the right director and the right actor team up, and together they produce cinema that is more than the sum of its parts. You get that with the pairings of Ford and Wayne and Woo and Fat and Leone and Eastwood and Hitchcock and Grant and Capra and Stewart.

And you get that with the pairings of Tony Scott and Denzel Washington. Together these two make films that get me in the theater and me buying the DVDs ( I love listening to Tony Scott commentaries, outside of Michael Mann’s commentaries they are the most insightful, interesting and brilliant commentaries you’re going to hear).

Wait, I’m supposed to be leaving some of this for the 2nd half. 🙂 . Check back soon for part 2!