ROBIN HOOD created by Dominic Minghella and Foz Allan, with Jonas Armstrong, Lucy Griffiths, Richard Armitage and Keith Allen. Mondays, 8 pm, on BBC Canada. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Come gather round me, space travellers. Surround me - hark now to the ballad of yet another Robin Hood.
For those of us under 40, the psychedelic Rocket Robin Hood was our introduction to the Prince of Thieves and what a cool intro it was, combining swordplay and spaceships years before Star Wars (and the Sheriff's soldiers were rather clone-like, come to think of it).
But there have been countless screen tellings, from Errol Flynn's quintessential derring-do to Kevin Costner's embarrassing ineptitude. Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn were delightfully tragic as a freedom-55-bound Robin and Marian, while Connery's son, Jason, donned green tunic and bow in a short-lived BBC series once upon a time.
Now, following in the footsteps of its successfully resuscitated sci-fi series Dr. Who, the Beeb has dusted off the legend of the emerald archer yet again for a 13-part series. And while Robin Hood doesn't quite hit the bull's eye the way Dr. Who does (that would be akin to firing two arrows simultaneously from the same bow and hitting separate targets), it isn't far off the mark.
Local noble Robin of Locksley, fresh from the Crusades and quick to make enemies of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisborne, gathers a band of merry men in Sherwood Forest, from which they wage a jihad-like campaign of terror and aggression against the corrupt government.
Okay, so the series hardly possesses such contemporary political overtones, choosing instead to stick with the tried-and-true "steal from the rich, give to the poor" routine. And that's too bad, because exploring those parallels could have made for an intriguing reinterpretation of the myth.
Instead, we're given a slightly comic take. It's not exactly Men In Tights, but it certainly owes a debt to the goofier aspects of Xena: Warrior Princess (sadly, there's no simmering queer undercurrent between Robin and right-hand man-at-arms Much, à la Xena and Gabrielle).
Still, Jonas Armstrong's Robin is a suitably cheeky rogue with an eye for the ladies, and Lucy Griffiths makes for a feisty damsel in distress. Her Maid Marian also looks like she's had a meal or two, which is a pleasant change from the usual stick-figure starlets.
Of course, and unfortunately, neither can hold a broadsword to the villains of the piece, Keith Allen's Sheriff and Richard Armitage's Guy of Gisborne, who get big, meaty dialogue to chew on. But that's okay. Basil Rathbone stole a few scenes from Errol Flynn back in the day.
The top TV-related question I've been asked the last few weeks is, "When is Heroes coming back?" Well, folks, the wait's almost over. They've saved the cheerleader and they'll begin saving the world on April 23.
CBC's dramatic plans
The CBC has announced some of its new fall lineup. Sight unseen, here are a couple of programs that stand out: The Border , a post-9/11 police drama, and its polar opposite, Heartland , a multi-generational family series set in the foothills of Alberta, which I'm sure will be heartwarming in a Little House On The Prairie sort of way. But at least the CBC is making dramas. And this being the NOW Bike Guide, it seems appropriate to point out that the Tour de France starts July 7. It's still the best reason to tune into OLN.
WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK
Friday, April 13
DRIVE (Drama) Firefly's Nathan Fillion stars in this Cannonball Run-like series about a mysterious cross-country car race. Sounds dismissable, except it was created by Tim Minear, a vet of Angel, Firefly and Wonderfalls, all of which were great, and is exec-produced by Grey's Anatomy and Prison Break vet Greg Yaitanes.
8 pm on CTV
Tuesday, April 17
SCARRED (Reality) Like watching sk8ter punks bust their stoopid faces open and break their stoopid legs when they try to go all Evel Knievel? Then this YouTube-inspired stoopid video series is for you, you sick fuck.
10:30 pm on MTV Canada