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Robin Hood and Little 'Lon
2007-08-19 18:58
by Jon Weisman

Earlier this year, I discovered Robin Hood on BBC America and immediately became addicted. (I should stay I discovered it because I needed to watch it for work reasons - but those homework assignments don't always pan out as rewardingly as this one did.)

I'm no more interested in Robin Hood than the next guy - the most passion I ever had for him was in the 1970s Disney animated film, followed by the Sean Connery-Audrey Hepburn classic Robin and Marian - but I was quickly struck by the pure joy of the BBC show. The pacing is as good as any drama on television - a single episode seems over in a moment. Though the show is done on a modest budget, the world it sets up is plenty involving.

And the cast is across-the-board top-notch, most notably Jonas Armstrong as Robin to Lucy Griffiths as Marian and a delectably villainous Sheriff of Nottingham played by Keith Allen.

Here's an excerpt of the article I ended up writing a few months back for Variety:

When it came time to re-create the character of Robin Hood for the BBC, writer-exec producer Dominic Minghella looked within himself for inspiration.

And he found it -- sort of.

"If I were Robin Hood," Minghella recalls wondering, "what kind of Robin Hood would I be? And I thought I'd be a pretty useless Robin Hood."

That's even if Minghella had granted himself Robin's unimpeachable ability with an arrow.

"Even though I had this super skill, I wouldn't actually want to (use it)," Minghella says. "I wouldn't want to kill anybody."

So Minghella's "Robin Hood," which airs Stateside on BBC America, features an expert bowsman with loads of swash in his buckle but one arm tied behind his back.

"I didn't want it to be Errol Flynn -- I didn't want it to be a cozy, British, safe show," Minghella says. "(But when) you've got an easy solution, but you don't want to deploy it -- what kind of character does that give you?" ...

The first season of the show is currently in reruns on BBC America, with the second season coming in the fall.

The success of Robin Hood made me more proactive in checking out BBC America programming - previously, I only went there for world news. And that's how I found myself giving Hotel Babylon a shot.

Again, my expectations were modest, since this on the surface looked like a 2007 version of Hotel or The Love Boat. But leave it to the Brits to turn the simple premise of fancy guests at a fancy hotel into something engrossing. It's not earthshattering stuff, mind you, and there's eye candy to be found, but I think calling it a guilty pleasure would be to sell it short.

Through the two episodes that I've seen, Hotel Babylon has shown it aims to be sophisticated. The scripts are as sharp and precise as a properly made bed. The performances, as with Robin Hood, are much better than the genre often gets - thanks in no small part to characters that became three-dimensional, if you'll forgive the term, overnight.

The icing on the cake so far was to see episode two graced with the presence of Anthony Stewart Head, who played Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as a suicidal ad-jingle composer. American audiences might also remember Dexter Fletcher (concierge Tony) from the 1989 film The Rachel Papers with Ione Skye - though I'll be really impressed if you also knew he was in Bugsy Malone. Tazmin Outhwaite, Max Beesley and Natalie Jackson Mendoza and Emma Pierson join Fletcher as the show's likable mainstays (even though Pierson's character is unlikable).

Two ordinary concepts that turned out anything but ordinary. They won't change your life, but if you've got nothing better to TiVo, you might check out Hood and 'Lon between now and the start of the fall TV season in the U.S.

2007-08-19 20:18:43
1.   Gen3Blue
Of course, you know I am a D's fan whose love of certain films has crossed me to this site. I was drawn to the Robinhood mythology by the film that featured Sean Connery and a great actress whose name slips my mind(but I am terrible with names) I just watched a DVD--"Vacancy" that was in the worst tradition of awful flicks like "Wrong Turn" and "The Hills have Eyes".
As much as I despise these flicks, I admit that if I run into them on TV I continue to watch, which is not noble in any way
What surprises me is that there is an Action or Horror flick that no one has made, and it is completely obvious. But for some reason it is never made. Perhaps in some circumstance I will mention it to you, but at the moment I feel like I have a huge trade secret.
2007-08-19 20:21:05
2.   Jon Weisman
1 - That's Audrey Hepburn, mentioned above.
2007-08-19 20:25:35
3.   CanuckDodger
Jon, the second season of Robin Hood doesn't start in Britain till the fall.

I haven't seen Robin Hood yet, but a friend of mine has and he is a big fan. He has also pronounced the opening theme music the best TV show theme music ever, so I imagine it is quite something.

Like you I have seen the first two episodes of Hotel Babylon, and like you I enjoyed them. I recorded the other six episodes in the first season but haven't got around to them yet.

Have you ever seen Life On Mars on BBC America? That stands as my all-time favorite British series. David E. Kelley is soon to make a pilot for an American remake for ABC. I am a regular poster on a British television message board, and I have been arguing with the British Life On Mars fans who are certain that Americans will turn LOM into crap. Many of them are plain put off by what they think is the unwillingness of Americans to just accept a non-American show, with a whole cast of people speaking in "funny accents," which unwillingness they think is the driving force behind "Americanizing" original British work.

2007-08-19 20:28:01
4.   Jon Weisman
3 - Oh, thanks for the correction.
2007-08-19 20:30:22
5.   Jon Weisman
I haven't seen the original Life on Mars, but I've heard good things. Have to say I'm a little nervous about Kelley adapting it - not because of Americans not being able to adapt things but just because I haven't been into Kelley's work lately.

I find it amusing that before Babylon begins, John Oliver (Daily Show) invites viewers on BBC America to turn on their closed captioning.

2007-08-19 21:45:31
6.   Jon Weisman

Kristen Bell to do an arc on Heroes.

2007-08-19 23:40:35
7.   Bob Timmermann
RIP, Rialto Theater of South Pasadena. Nothing a town needs more than an old, deserted movie theater to get people to go shop in the area.
2007-08-20 00:22:02
8.   T Money
I haven't been to the Rialto in nearly a decade, but I'm nonetheless sad to hear that it's going away. Although, last time I was there, not only was I the only patron in the entire theater, I also noticed a delightful family of rats, running around a few rows in front of me.

But, hey, it was outside the Rialto that Griffin Mill killed David Kahane. And if that's not enough to ensure its status as a landmark, I don't know what is.

2007-08-20 00:24:29
9.   T Money

I gotta admit, I didn't hate "Vacancy." It made me feel really unclean, but I mean that in a kinda good way.

Plus, even if you hated it, you might like the director's previous film, a good-looking Hungarian movie called "Kontroll."

2007-08-20 13:36:46
10.   Penarol1916
Wow, I expected 50+ comments on "High School Musical 2" this weekend. Color me disappointed.
2007-08-20 15:33:03
11.   Jon Weisman
10 - You're welcome to comment away. My kids aren't at the age for it yet, so I haven't seen 1 or 2.

I believe it's the highest-rated basic cable program ever.

2007-08-20 19:30:15
12.   Ken Arneson
My kids watched High School Musical last night. I did something else.
2007-08-20 20:01:46
13.   underdog
I'm glad you wrote about Robin Hood here, because I was just the other night trying to convince my g/f that we should rent season one. (This was because we couldn't get Rome season 2, disc 2, which was our first choice.) We ended up renting - I kid you not - Shooter (which was actually entertaining even if completely ludicrous) and Streets of San Francisco, which was fun to watch, too. But anyway, she said, "maybe next time" and now I have more ammunition! Actually, she loves those kind of shows but I think it's just because we're already hooked on and trying to catch up with too many shows already.

Btw, finally saw the new Conchords and, my lord, that was painfully funny. "We've tripled our fan base." Gotta watch it all over again soon.

2007-08-20 20:37:53
14.   trainwreck
I heart the Flute of the Commodores.
2007-08-20 20:38:32
15.   Bluebleeder87
Flight of The Conchords is funny but I'm not as in love with the show as some people around here are, I'm still on a show by show basis with Conchords. I don't wanna get in trouble but there's a new show on Showtime that I'm really liking, if you take away the obvious seens the show is still very nice witty & funny I just saw the 2nd episode & I'm really liking it.

Ps in a nut shell the show is about a writer who is trying to better him self as a person & trying to recover his family in the process. I'm not sure how the show will progress but so far I'm sold.

2007-08-20 21:53:37
16.   Bluebleeder87
"Where Hill Street Blues is king
and Lady Luck is queen"

I still get a kick (in a good way) out of reading that.

2007-08-20 22:08:23
17.   Jon Weisman
So, what of that picture of Bret and Jermaine in Mel's bathroom?
2007-08-20 22:21:43
18.   Jon Weisman
Sorry ... Jemaine.
2007-08-20 22:30:39
19.   Ghost O Malley
17 It sure got a laugh out of me. Seems like Mel can't make up her mind which of the guys she prefers.
2007-08-20 23:56:54
20.   underdog
The webcam made me laugh, especially its usage at the very end. Good ol' Murray.

15 Californication, eh? I'm liking it too, but boy, is it dark and unsettling. I can't see enough people embracing it to keep it past one season, but we'll see. Two of the more memorable sex scenes I've seen in quite some time in the latest episode.

2007-08-21 12:49:09
21.   kngoworld
So people around these parts do watch other premium channels besides HBO. Showtime has a few good shows.

Californication is interesting.

Does anyone watch Weeds? I really became hooked on it and loved season one and two. Although, I am not sure I like the direction this season is going. I guess I might be a little afraid of change. I remember the first two seasons being more of a dark comedy and this season appears to be more of dark drama with the occasional laugh. Feels like the show is trying to be something it is not, trying to be more.

BTW: I feel entourage has been the same recently, trying to be more then it really is.

2007-08-21 13:14:34
22.   trainwreck
I only had Showtime during the second season of Weeds and I loved it.

I heard Dexter is good, I want to check that out.

2007-08-21 16:27:43
23.   Andrew Shimmin
The greatest television series of all time is available for free, on the internet, completely legally!

The second, um, "season," is also available, though the ones with Jake Tapper are just unbearable. Anyway, they're here:

You're welcome!

2007-08-21 19:49:05
24.   Hallux Valgus
I started watching Robin Hood from the beginning, and I enjoyed it, but I didn't keep up with it. Another show like that on BBCA was Hex, which was compelling. If I was watcing an episode, I was excited to watch the next episode immediately, but that excitement faded over the course of a week. Heroes and John from Cincinnati also qualify like that for me. Eventually, they all just ot lost in the shuffle.

On a side note- I can't imagine a movie I+i want to see less than Balls of Fury.

2007-08-21 19:50:19
25.   Hallux Valgus
22 Dexter is a good show, but was a better book- Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay and the follow up Dearly Devoted Dexter.
2007-08-21 21:07:03
26.   trainwreck
They semi-rip offed the Japanese film, Ping Pong, which is actually a funny movie.
2007-08-21 21:09:10
27.   trainwreck
*ripped off
2007-08-21 23:16:34
28.   trainwreck
Janeane Garafolo is joining "24".
2007-08-22 00:31:04
29.   Bob Timmermann
If they ever film "24" I suppose. I guess they are aiming for a Larry Sanders Show reunion.

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