Sunday, October 8

Primetime Outlaws

Mark Lewis watches The BBC’s Robin Hood disappoint worse than a whole weekend of daytime TV

There was a time not so long ago that timeslot was a good indicator to the quality of a programme. As surely as a rubbish national anthem signified a rubbish national football team, early Saturday evening meant must-watch TV. Admittedly that is a rule of thumb which goes back only as far as the latest incarnation of Doctor Who. But it was a good rule, and one which the Beeb was desperate to maintain.

So desperate, in fact, that they decided to take Doctor Who, send him back to 13th Century Nottingham and take away his Tardis for a 13 episode run. Like David Tennant’s Doctor Who, Jonas Armstrong’s Robin Hood (Saturday BBC1, 7.05pm) has a cheeky smile, a wicked glint in his eye and looks like he’s just got on the tube from Soho where he’s been palming off old queens for fivers.

Except Tennant doesn’t look like that. He looks like a time lord. And Doctor Who is a complex drama which explores decisions, death and repercussions. Robin Hood is a smirking; grinning; good versus evil fairytale with unnecessarily flashy stop-frame-start-frame, zoom-frame, clickclick camerawork. It’s like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in a medieval tunic. It even has the cheeky Lahndahn geezers. Not least Keith Allen, who’s irredeemably evil Sheriff of Nottingham camps his way through the show as convincingly as Bungle playing Jack the Ripper.

His is a poor homage to Alan Rickman’s brilliant big screen version. And Rickman was brilliant. Alas this programme even leaves you pining for Kevin Costner’s rubbish Robin Hood. At the end of that film Richard the Lion Heart returns after many daft years in the Middle East, during which he stupidly left his evil brother King John in charge, reminding us that the monarchy was as dense and pointless then as they are now. The worst historical revisionism from the film was Costner’s American accent. Here it is the much more egregious sight of buxom lovelies with teeth so sparkling they could be in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie - 500 years before the invention of toothpaste.

Bruckheimer insists on it. So we steel ourselves for the gleam as we turn to Five for the inevitable onslaught on the Bruckheimer-produced CSI. But nothing could steel us for the horror which confronted us instead on Five’s Birth Night: Live (Sunday, 8pm). It was not so much the live caesarean, as the spectacle of truly daytime programming for two hours at primetime. This is City Hospital with Gabby Logan and another nail in the coffin for putting the best programmes when most people are watching.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The national Anthem/national football team maxim has let us down too. On Match of the Day (BBC1, Saturday, 4.45pm) Macedonia’s barely musical anthem certainly gave us a clue as to how crappy they’d be. But England’s much more tuneful tone would have given us no idea. You’d have to listen to the words for that.

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