Thursday, 29 July 2010

Retrotatstic TV - Maid Marian & Her Merry Men

I was ill a couple of months ago and I did what everyone does when they’re dying from a cold, I fired up a DVD and enjoyed some televisual comfort food. I decided to finally crack open my Maid Marian and Her Merry Men Series One DVD and wrap myself in a big nostalgia blanket.

So is Maid Marian still as funny as the eleven year old me thought?

Surprisingly yes. This is essentially because it’s Blackadder for kids. Maid Marian’s first series was written by Tony Robinson and was clearly an attempt at harnessing the Blackadder style for a younger audience. Whereas Blackadder took a cynical look at historical figures, Maid Marian made an attempt to make every historical figure into a very silly person indeed.

The Sheriff (Tony Robinson) is the closest Blackadder-like figure in the show as he is a sneering, cynical, power grabbing man surrounded by idiots. Unfortunately for the Sheriff he’s also an idiot too as he becomes convinced that Robin Hood is a vicious, mean outlaw, despite all evidence to the contrary. Robin, is a metrosexual tailor and a coward. He’s a terrible leader, he’s an awful shot with a bow, and he’s also really, really polite which isn’t much use when you’re supposed to be a fearsome criminal. Maid Marian is the most intelligent character in the show (although given the people she recruits for her gang, she’s not that clever), she’s moralistic, passionate, caring, and also slightly resentful of Robin as he gets all the credit and adulation from the peasants for the Merry Men’s successful deeds.

My two favourite characters though are Gary and Graeme, two guards who bumble around Nottingham having conversations about hot water bottles and football. They’re supposed to be vicious killers in the employ of King John but they’re not very good at their job and usually spend their time annoying the Sheriff by being charmingly stupid. To extend the Blackadder comparison – they’re a pair of Baldricks with swords.

The performances are the right side of pantomime and everyone pretty much talks LIKE THIS THROUGHOUT EACH EPISODE. But then, that's what almost everyone did in Blackadder too. What's great about THE SHOUTING and overacting is that it's not there to compensate for a poor script or to wring a laugh out of poor jokes, it genuinely aids the show's charming atmosphere. There's a musical number in each episode, some are great, some of them not so, but they're always performed with gusto by the cast and usually get by on goofy charm.

My favourite episode of series one (viewed through the eyes of an adult) is Robin The Incredible Chicken which is a parody of the Robin Hood archery contest legend. It's very silly indeed (almost Pythonesque) and contains a tribute to Bullseye too. Sadly, no one has uploaded any clips from this episode to YouTube. Frowny face.

Maid Marian is proof positive that you don't need to dumb down a concept because it's a kid's show. I could blather on but look, here's a clip from a later series of the show (the fantastic Crystal Maze parody) and then there'll be a link to the DVD (although for some reason series one is £12.99 and the rest of the series DVDs are £4.99 each). If you don't find something in the show that makes you smile then I'm sorry but I'm going to have to declare you an enemy of mankind.

Series One DVD

Or the more cost effective Complete Series Set

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