I'll be the first one to tell you--I'm sophisticated and classy. You know why? I watch BBCAmerica, and the Brits--they are the leaders of urbane and upscale entertainment. If you need any convincing, just watch an episode of "Footballer's Wives," "Mile High," or "Bad Girls." Of course, I'm kidding. These shows are brassy, bawdy, and loaded with bad behavior! But, you know what, they are also filled with life. They embrace their nastiness wholeheartedly and make no apologies for being pure popcorn entertainment. With language and nudity not permitted by American networks, it seems as if the genre of nighttime soaps has been revitalized by Britain. But that's not all BBCAmerica has to offer, they are just the shows that helped the network grow in popularity. Some other intriguing entries that recently aired in the US are on their way to DVD--there is a new hip take on "Robin Hood," the supernatural "Hex," and the complex crime story "Conviction." So beware! The British are coming, the British are coming--and it's a good thing!
On preparing to sit through "Robin Hood," it's best to know what to anticipate. If you're expecting any sort of historical insight or don't want anyone tampering with the "classic" tale of Mr. Hood--then I'd advise you to take a pass. Do I need to say what "Robin Hood" is about? Robin is a former noble who becomes an outlaw and forms a posse to (duh!) rob from the rich to give to the poor. This version casts attractive actors, employs anachronistic language, and is firmly rooted in modern (and politically correct) sensibilities. The production is slick, stunts and camerawork exemplary--this is a well crafted entertainment. Most episodes move at a brisk and amusing pace, and even when things seem to lack real danger--the series more than compensates with humor. The plots aren't particularly revelatory, but any lack of originality is likely to be forgiven due to the energetic and likable performances.
And the success of this "Robin Hood" rest squarely on Jonas Armstrong's shoulders. Armstrong is a star! Perhaps a bit slight for a true action hero, Armstrong is wildly appealing and has great comic timing. His need to be loved by the people is a running gag and one that works exceedingly well--but, then again, who wouldn't love this Robin? Keith Allen is a stellar Sheriff of Nottingham, this is comic villainy at its finest. Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne is the show's real menace and does a nice job with a somewhat underwritten part. Lucy Griffiths plays an earnest Marion--updated to hero status herself just to be fair. At first, the show had trouble incorporating Marion into the main action and her tone was always more somber--but a balance is reached as the show progresses. The secondary players are a bit more sketchy, but are employed to good effect when necessary.
If this version of "Robin Hood" is guilty of anything, it might be a "too cool for school" mentality. It is so intent on being clever with ironic humor and modern attitudes that the sheer adventure is sometimes secondary. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this updating--it just tries so hard to be "hip." From the whimsical episode titles through to the inevitable laugh that ends just about every episode, "Robin Hood" almost defies you to take it seriously--and yet, its ultimate success depends on you doing so. I wanted to be blown away be this series, but the episodes end up being more of a lark than anything else. Fun, frothy and not very filling--I still give this 4 (maybe 3 1/2) stars. I see "Hood" having the potential to develop more compelling story arcs with greater ambition, let's see if that happens when Season 2 rolls around. KGHarris, 04/07.