TV - Robin of Sherwood

Robin of Sherwood

On the way to the premiere of Barnaby Eaton-Jones' audio production of Robin of Sherwood: Knights of the Apocalypse, VentSpleen muses on his love of the 1980's TV series...

As the familiar leafy synths of Clannad's signature song "Robin, The Hooded Man" fill the auditorium the accompanying applause and wolf whistles threaten to summon Herne The Hunter from his slumber. This is the premiere of splendidly chin-bearded chappy Barnaby Eaton Jones' audio reunion of the eighties TV series Robin of Sherwood. But to tell this story properly I have to take you back thirty years to where this all began, Saturday tea time in the White house. (not the real White House, I'm not American, it's just my surname is White and I thought.... never mind, cue strange harpish flash back sounds)...

"Dad, why has Des Lynam got a white stripe at the front of his hair?" I hated Grandstand, I didn't mildly dislike it, I really, really hated it. I wasn't the slightest bit interested in football and only tuned in early so that I was sure not to miss a second of the show. All week at school my friends and I had been discussing and replaying last week's episode. How was he going to get out of this, why were some of The Merry Men so grumpy all the time and was The Sheriff Of Nottingham bullied at school, cos there had to be some reason why he was so horrible. Robin Of Sherwood was always on after the boring sport finished and that irritatingly tedious disembodied voice stopped droning on about nil score draws and late results. In truth, I don't actually know whether it was broadcast at this time, it's just that my 9 year brain tethers a week of built up anticipation to those final few minutes of Lynam's fake smiling and skunked hair style.  So 9 year old me has made the switch from BBC 1 just about the time that Lynam's face dematerialises and Grandstand's theme tune starts. I switch over to ITV and the next thing I know this happens...




And that's when the magic happened. Every week as the W in London Weekend Television transformed like a possessed splurt of Signal toothpaste I travelled back in time. Robin Of Sherwood did that for me, it was more than a TV show because it made me more than a nine year old boy. I was one of Robin's, sometimes not particularly, Merry Men and I was as much a part of his adventures as the man himself. For me the retelling of Robin's battles against a conniving Sheriff had never been so expertly brought to screen and, especially with the later series, the more obvious interweaving of Celtic and pagan spirituality made the heady brew even headier. The casting was perfect and, although I loved Michael Praed as Robin, my boyish excitement was to hit dizzying heights when the blond flowing locks of Mr Jason Connery replaced Praed's on my screen. Clearly there was a lot more than Pantene perfection to Jason's portrayal and his energetic and passionate enthusiasm just made me even more keen to fast forward my week to Saturday. This is what makes the Eighties television so fantastically good in my view, it was event television. There was no playback or record to watch later, you missed it and you missed out (wasn't that Going Live's slogan?) Both Dad and myself were huge fans and we didn't miss a single second of a single episode. As we were quite a poor family we didn't go out much so there was really little danger that an unimportant social engagement would stand in the way of my Hooded Man fix. I do remember that a visit to my Grandparents was negotiated weeks in advance with the promise that I would still get to see Robin. I was devastated when Robin was killed off at the end of Series 2 and not just from a selfish "where am I going to get my Hooded Man fix from" stand point. I had come to care hugely with the individual characters and had developed my first ever childhood crush on Maid Marian.

I have heard many times of the fans that had Jason's pictures plastered on their walls and who could blame them? But my wall had Judi Trott in pride of place, her portrayal of Marian as a strong willed and passionate lady who was very much Robin's equal enthralled me. The onscreen chemistry between Connery and Trott was tangible and my heart very much beat stronger and faster during episodes. The Merry Men: Will Scarlet (Ray Winstone) Little John (Clive Mantle) Friar Tuck (Phil Rose) Much (Peter Llewellyn Williams) and Nasir (Mark Ryan) were strikingly brought to life with breath taking performances that showcased the considerable talent of both the individual actors and their ability to perform ensemble. Robin Of Sherwood achieved what television series nowadays so often fail to do. For the hour that I was in his company, The Sheriff of Nottingham (a malevolent Nickolas Grace) made me believe that there was evil in the world and that it was capable of horrendous acts of cruelty and blood letting. But Robin got me to believe that there was a strain of good that was so pure in its motive and deed that it was capable of eclipsing the dark. To put it another way, I loved Robin, I loved The Merry Men and I really REALLY loved Maid Marian. No television series can ever come close to equalling the beauty, pacing and sheer quality of Robin Of Sherwood.

That took longer than I had planned but I want you to be in no doubt that when I was invited to cover the Audio premiere of Robin Of Sherwood: Knights Of The Apocalypse I did so in an official capacity as "Press" but in my heart I went as a fan.

Image - Amazon