As part of our features on the 40th anniversary of the ITV franchises; HTV, LWT, Yorkshire and Thames, Flashback takes a look at the 1980’s HTV fantasy drama series, Robin of Sherwood. Just one in a long line of television adaptations of the famous Nottingham hero.
Robin of Sherwood: 1984 – 1986
Broadcaster: ITV [HTV produced]
Cast: Jason Connery, Michael Praed, Judi Trott and Ray Winstone
The show was produced by HTV and Goldcrest and ran for three seasons between 1984 and 1986. The title role was first played by Michael Praed and then Jason Connery, son of Bond film actor Sean Connery. The series was created by Richard Carpenter and was just one in many television adaptations of the classic hero but the show was gritty and mixed pagan myth into the medieval setting. Over the three seasons there were twenty four episodes and a two-hour television movie which launched the series. Unlike many shows it was shot almost entirely on location in North and West parts of England and was also shot on film.
In the first two seasons Robin Hood, or to be more historically accurate Robin of Loxley, was played by Michael Praed and Ray Winstone played Will Scarlet. Little John was played by Clive Mantle, Friar Tuck by Phil Rose and Lady Marion by Judi Trott. Sticking with the legends and myths surrounding Robin Hood he is opposed by the Sheriff of Nottingham, played by Nickolas Grace, and Guy of Gisburne, Robert Addie. Praed was killed off at the end of the second season, much to the surprise of fans, and was replaced in Season Three by Jason Connery as Robert of Huntingdon. The third series revealed that the new Robin and the Guy of Gisburne were half brothers but this plot line was never fully resolved due to the cancelation of the series in 1986 – as Goldcrest were forced to pull out.
Despite its short run the series attracted a number of high profile guest roles and perhaps the most remember of which is Rula Lenska during the show’s second season. The actress, fresh from an appearance in Doctor Who, appears as Morgwyn of Ravenscar – a witch. The actress’ appearance in the series was in a two-part story called The Swords of the Wayland. Other guest stars in the series included Duncan Preston, Simon Rouse, John Rhys Davies, Simon Dutton, John Nettles, Jeremy Sinden, Hywel Bennett, Charlie Condou, Ian Ogivily, Patricia Hodge and William Russell.
The series wasn’t the first adaption of the tales of Robin Hood on television. In the early 1950’s Patrick Troughton and Richard Greene starred in two different BBC versions. In 1975 Martin Porter stared in another BBC version, this time a 6-part mini-series entitled The Legend of Robin Hood. In the 1990’s CBBC spoof series, Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, famously spoofed the stories and stared Tony Robinson. The series played around with history and reversed roles somewhat with Maid Marian becoming the hero of legend and Robin Hood being something of a fool. Of course mostly recently, and still running, is the latest BBC spin on the series, purely titled Robin Hood. The Saturday night drama enjoys good ratings, though poor reviews, and is filmed in Hungary! A far cry from the wilds of Northern England where Robin of Sherwood was filmed!
Despite being, to some, a distant memory, Robin of Sherwood still enjoys popularity today thanks to it being released on DVD. All three seasons are available to buy on dvd from all good DVD shops though you may want to shop around to get the best deal. The series, along with Children of the Stone and Wycliffe, is perhaps the best known HTV production.