Blightyvision: “Robin Hood” Series 1

Created by Foz Allan and Dominic Minghella
Starring Jonas Armstrong, Sam Troughton, Lucy Griffiths, and Keith Allen

Ah, BBC historical drama. There’s nothing finer. Accurate period costumes, attention to historical detail, and highly-researched colloquial dialogue. All things that the 2006 BBC series “Robin Hood” has absolutely none of.

Somewhere between Merry Men wearing T-shirts and the villains quoting Bob Marley lyrics, you’d almost think the writers weren’t taking the show at all seriously … which is likely because they weren’t. “Robin Hood” comes from the same fast and loose, tongue-in-cheek school of literary adaptation as Russell T. Davies’s “Casanova,” where accuracy takes a back seat to fun and spectacle.

In this version of his story, Robin is a Crusader returning from the Holy Land with his faithful retainer, Much. The two expect to return to their normal life, but instead find that the former Sheriff of Nottingham has been replaced and his daughter, Robin’s beloved Marian, is being pursued by the rather slimy Guy of Gisborne. Unable to take back their home and help the poor of Nottinghamshire any other way, Robin and Much take to Sherwood Forest, gathering together fellow outlaws to thwart the new Sheriff’s evil schemes.

Jonas Armstrong’s Robin emulates neither his pointy-capped predecessors nor modern attempts to make the character more “believable.” He’s his own iteration: humorously snarky, but more than ready to brood about his war experience. Fortunately, he doesn’t come off as a heavy-handed anti-war commentary. Well, no more than anything about the Crusades ever does. The show as a whole leans more towards playing for laughs, and while there are moments of very real drama, it’s rarely at the expense of the humor factor.

Some of the minor characters do tend to fade into the background pretty effectively, even on the occasions when a story focuses on them. But when a character stands out, they really stand out. Anjali Jay as token tough-girl Djaq is one of the show’s most solid characters, coming out as genuinely being “one of the lads,” and Gordon Kennedy is a very sympathetic Little John.

Much (as played by Sam Troughton, Second Doctor Patrick Troughton’s grandson) is obviously meant to be the show-stealer, but he gets the show stolen out from under him by — of all people — Keith Allen as the Sheriff of Nottingham. Think Gordon Ramsay in a black fur cape, and you’ll get a pretty clear idea of Allen’s portrayal.

Is it for everyone? Absolutely not. The danger comes in expecting any level of accuracy. “Robin Hood” promises none — the opposite, in fact. But if you’ve got it in you to “switch off” for a bit and enjoy the ride, it makes for a great not-so-guilty pleasure.

Season 1 of “Robin Hood” is currently available on DVD.  Contains lethal amounts of anachronism and goofy episode titles.  Handle with care.