Robin Hood is a British television programme, produced by independent production company Tiger Aspect Productions for BBC One, with co-funding from the BBC America cable television channel in the United States. Based on the traditional stories of legendary English folk hero Robin Hood, the programme started on 7 October 2006. Series two commenced broadcasting on 6 October 2007 with the final two episodes on 29 December 2007. Series three began airing on 28 March 2009 for a thirteen-episode run. The series was cancelled by the BBC after series three following the departure of multiple characters, including lead actor Jonas Armstrong.
Comprising thirteen 45-minute episodes per season, Robin Hood was created by Dominic Minghella and Foz Allan, who serve as executive producers on the series, with Minghella the chief writer. Minghella was previously responsible for the successful ITV network comedy-drama series Doc Martin. Richard Burrell is the producer, and the other writers involved on the first series were Paul Cornell, Mark Wadlow, Debbie Oates, Kurti & Doyle and Joe Turner.
The first series had a reported budget of £8 million. The programme was specifically designed to run in the same Saturday evening family drama slot as the successful revival of Doctor Who, filling the slot in Doctor Who's absence between series. Shot in the high definition format, the programme was also broadcast on the BBC's BBC HD service.
Robin Hood was announced as a possible commission by BBC One Controller Peter Fincham in July 2005, but not officially confirmed by Head of Drama Jane Tranter until 24 October that year. On 18 February 2006, the Daily Mirror newspaper announced that actor Jonas Armstrong had been cast in the lead role in the series. This was confirmed by the BBC in a press release on 3 April 2006, which announced that filming on the series had begun in Hungary and also announced further casting.
On Thursday 23 November 2006, the BBC confirmed that the programme had been renewed for a second series, to be shown in 2007. Filming began in March 2007, and the first episode of the second series aired at 7:30pm on Saturday 6 October 2007.
Joining the cast for the third series were Joanne Froggatt, as a character named "Kate", a Locksley villager, Lara Pulver, as Guy of Gisborne's sister Isabella, David Harewood as Friar Tuck and Toby Stephens as Prince John, and Clive Standen as Archer, Robin's half brother. On 7 August 2008 it was announced that Jonas Armstrong would be leaving the programme at the conclusion of the third series, in "an explosive and nail-biting finale."
In January 2009, the writer Sally Wainwright told The Stage entertainment industry newspaper that she had been asked to oversee a creative revamp of the programme for its fourth series. The BBC confirmed to the paper that she had been asked to work on ideas for the show, but despite this, the fourth series was not commissioned.
The majority of the main characters in Robin Hood are based on the English folk tale of the same name. The title character (Jonas Armstrong) has returned to England after five years fighting in the Third Crusade as part of the King's Guard. He is shocked to find the Sheriff of Nottingham, Vaisey (Keith Allen), running the town with an iron fist upon his return. Robin is soon made an outlaw, and takes it upon himself to steal from the rich to feed the poor along with his gang, which consists of his best friend Much (Sam Troughton); two young men he saved from hanging, Will Scarlett (Harry Lloyd) and Allan A Dale (Joe Armstrong); the ex-leader of a band of outlaws already in the woods, Little John (Gordon Kennedy); and another young man named Roy (short for "Royston White") (William Beck), who is killed in episode 4, and replaced in episode 5 by Djaq (Anjali Jay), a Saracen girl using the alias of her dead brother. Robin is pleased to find that Lady Marian (Lucy Griffiths) is still unmarried. Their relationship becomes romantic on several occasions; however, she is trapped by the hold that the Sheriff's second-in-command, Sir Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage), has over her. Guy often puts Marian in difficult situations where she has to be with him to help those she loves. The Sheriff plots to kill King Richard (played by Steven Waddington) in his role as leader of the Black Knights, who wish to place Prince John on the throne. The Sheriff constantly tries to capture or kill Robin and the outlaws for continuously interfering in his scheme to take over England. The second series sees the Sheriff step up his plans to take control, finally culminating in a battle in the Holy Land. As the outlaws foil the Sheriff's attack on King Richard, Guy of Gisborne kills Marian, while Djaq and Will decide to stay in the Holy Land after they encounter a friend of Djaq's uncle.
The third series staggered the entry of new characters and only Robin appeared in all thirteen episodes. As the series opens, Tuck (David Harewood), a spiritual preacher returning to England, and Kate (Joanne Froggatt), a Locksley villager, are introduced; both soon becoming part of Robin's gang. Isabella (Lara Pulver), Gisborne's younger sister who is running from an abusive husband, arrives soon after and starts a secret relationship with Robin. Her link to the castle through Gisborne is used by the gang while she plots revenge against her brother, but her thirst for independence, power and vengeance soon leads her to become a ruthless Sheriff and a sworn enemy. Toby Stephens appears as Prince John in three episodes mid-series, successfully exploiting the rift between Gisborne and Sheriff Vaisey, leading to the latter's supposed death at Gisborne's hand. Gisborne is briefly made Sheriff before Isabella uses her influence to replace him, leaving Gisborne a fugitive, and following the death of a young villager with whom he was briefly imprisoned, seeking revenge. This opens the door to a liaison with Robin and sets up the tenth episode of the series, told largely through flashbacks, which revisits Robin and Gisborne's history. It features Dean Lennox Kelly, Sophie Winkleman, Paul Hilton and Ian Reddington as Robin's father, Gisborne's parents and another past Locksley villager respectively, and reveals the existence of Archer (played by Clive Standen from episode 11), the illegitimate child of Robin's father and Gisborne's mother, who Robin's dying father begs them to find. Archer is Robin's equal with a bow and arrow. (This, coupled with his biological ties to Robin, Gisborne and Isabella, led to speculation that he was set to take over the programme's lead role following Jonas Armstrong's departure.) Having found Archer, who promptly abandons them after escaping, Gisborne and Robin return to Nottingham with a tentative alliance formed, setting up the two-part series finale, where Robin and Gisborne decide to take Nottingham Castle to prepare for King Richard's return. Although they are lured into a trap set by Archer and Isabella, they succeed when Archer turns against his half-sister. However, Allan is killed by a storm of arrows when Vaisey reappears at the head of an army wielding Byzantine fire. Gisborne is killed in a sword fight with the Sheriff and Isabella as he defends the castle, and Robin is poisoned by the blade of Isabella. However, before succumbing to his injury, Robin evacuates the villagers from Nottingham, and fires a flaming arrow into the Byzantine fire stored in the castle. Vaisey and Isabella realize too late and perish with their army in an explosion that destroys Nottingham Castle. As the castle burns, Robin returns to Sherwood Forest, says goodbye to the remainder of his Merry Men and encourages Archer to take up the defense of the people of England. Robin heads off on his own, and is greeted by Marian in a vision to welcome him into the afterlife. The remaining outlaws find Robin's body, and after a small ceremony, set out to continue their quest to end suffering in England.
The show departs from more traditional portrayals and historical accuracy in several ways:
On 28 August 2006, it was reported in various British tabloid newspapers that several master tapes for the programme had been stolen from the production base in Hungary, possibly by an extra working on the series. "Now TV executives are deciding whether to pay off the crooks or reshoot large chunks of the show. At worst the series, due to replace Doctor Who on Saturday nights from October, "could be shelved"," reported the Daily Mirror.
A BBC spokeswoman would not confirm reports of a £1m ransom being demanded for their safe return or that the tapes were the only copies of the footage. She added: "All reasonable steps are being taken to recover the tapes." The BBC further said that the series would still be shown as planned, despite the theft.
Given the irony of a Robin Hood series falling victim to theft, and the fact that the crime came to light as the BBC was beginning to publicise the show in preparation for its launch, there was some suggestion in sections of the media that the story was actually a publicity stunt. Guardian Unlimited columnist Mark Borkowski, for example, wrote "OK, so I might be a cynical old publicist, but has anybody checked the crime scene on the set of Robin Hood in Hungary? ... expect a miracle in Budapest and don't try getting money on at the bookies for the lost footage turning up, saving the odd red face and gloating PR exec."
The Controller of BBC One, Peter Fincham, denied that the story had been a publicity stunt at the programme's press launch in London on 6 September. The cast and crew confirmed at the same launch that they had been forced to re-shoot some scenes in order to cover the material lost on the stolen tapes.
On Saturday 8 July 2006, the BBC showed the first teaser trailer for the series — a shot of a flaming arrow flying into the BBC One logo in the corner of the screen as the Robin Hood logo and "Coming Soon" were displayed above. This teaser ran either side of the Doctor Who series finale on BBC One, and was shown on several other occasions on various BBC channels over the following weeks. A longer trailer with actual dialogue from many of the characters was previewed in the Video Room of the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre during the first week of August 2006, as part of the community's Robin Hood Festival.
The BBC's Radio Times listings magazine ran a short preview article for the series, as part of a feature showcasing the best of the autumn series television line-up, in its 2–8 September 2006 edition, published on 29 August 2006, the day after the tape theft story was publicised in the press (see above). Wrote the magazine's correspondent Benji Wilson: "Why watch it? You can't beat a good ruckus — Armstrong and his merry co-stars all enrolled at a specially-commissioned 'Hood academy' before filming in Hungary, where they were drilled in horse riding, sword skills and archery." The article was accompanied by a large publicity photo of Armstrong in costume.
The first full reviews for the programme began appearing on 7 September 2006, after a preview of the opening episode had been shown at the press launch the previous evening. The website of The Guardian said that: "The challenge for the new Robin Hood is to appeal to younger viewers while pulling in their parents as well. It will be no easy task. About as difficult, in fact, as simultaneously firing two arrows from the same bow, and both hitting the target. But as Robin showed in the opening episode, it can be done." In The Times, critic Paul Hoggart backed the series to be a success: "Armstrong as the rather understated Robin Hood should still be moodily cheeky enough to find his way on to the bedroom walls of a few hundred thousand pubertal girls, and Lucy Griffiths as Marian is inevitably feisty. But the villains steal the show, with Richard Armitage's Guy of Gisborne off-setting Keith Allen's gags as the mocking, heavily sarcastic Sheriff. The audience including cast, crew and their friends cheered at the end but this remake should go down well with families at home, too."
The BBC began running longer trailers for the programme on Saturday 16 September 2006, with the first being shown following the final episode of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? on BBC One. Trailers were also shown in cinemas, and billboard advertisements were taken out by the BBC. The Radio Times devoted the cover of its 7–13 October 2006 edition, published on 3 October, to the series, with a photo of Armstrong and Armitage in character.
Reviewers have had mixed opinions as to the effectiveness of the show's use of modern styles and current political references. Several episodes of Dead Ringers broadcast in February and March 2007 mocked Robin Hood for its anachronistic approach.
|Season||Season premiere||Viewers (millions)||Season finale||Viewers (millions)||Average viewers (millions)|
|Series One||7 October 2006||8.56||30 December 2006||5.67||6.19|
|Series Two||6 October 2007||6.13||29 December 2007*||5.84||5.83|
|Series Three||28 March 2009||6.20||27 June 2009**||2.43||4.02|
*The last two episodes of series 2 were originally broadcast back-to-back, with no break between the two.
**The final episode was broadcast on BBC Two 15 minutes later than scheduled due to coverage of Andy Murray and Jürgen Melzer's third round match at the 2009 Wimbledon Championships being moved to BBC One.
As a co-producer on the series, BBC America owns the United States broadcast rights to the programme, which debuted on the channel on Saturday 3 March 2007. It aired in syndication on U.S. cable channel The Inspiration Network from 2013 to 2014 and on Ovation from 2014 to 2015. In Australia, the programme began playing mid-2007 on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's 19:30 Sunday slot. From April 2008 it was broadcast in Serbia on channel B92. In Spain the programme started on 4 January 2008 on La Sexta, in the 21.00 slot. In Hong Kong, the programme started on 6 June 2008 on ATV World on Monday 20:00 slot. The Sales have also been agreed with broadcasters in India, Sri Lanka, Denmark, France, Italy, Greece, New Zealand, Poland, Macedonia, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Israel, Canada, Czech Republic, Latin America and Switzerland. Broadcast in Sri Lanka began in 2009 in the National Television, Rupavahini; last episode was aired on 18 April 2010.
The first series became available on iTunes in May 2008. However, since the second series was just beginning in the United States, the Series two episodes are released on iTunes on a weekly basis, corresponding with the public releases. All three seasons are available on Netflix.