TV Today’s comments about Robin Hood have, in the past, got us into trouble. Mainly with Jonas Armstrong fans, it has to be said, who brook no suggestion that his portrayal of the noble outlaw is far from the best we’ve ever seen.
The last two series both suffered from shaky starts, building up to satisfying climaxes. And it’s been a while since Robin and his
merry pretty grumpy men (and woman) decamped to the Holy Land and things went all shades of wrong with Guy of Gisborne putting a sword through his (and Robin’s) beloved Marian.
With Merlin having occupied the autumn Saturday family drama slot, we’ve had a longer than usual wait to find out what happens next. And while the BBC has given some news about a major casting change at the very end of series 3, I’m excited about the whole series to come.
But that’s nothing compared to today’s news about Series 4, which Matt exclusively reveals in our News section.
Beware: after the jump, there may be spoilers for Series 3 and/or 4 of Robin Hood…
The BBC has already announced that Jonas Armstrong is to leave the show at the end of Series 3. Earlier to that, though, it seems that Harry Lloyd and Anjali Jay (Will and Djaq) will not be returning.
What we will see are some new characters, including Guy’s sister Isabella (played by Lara Pulver) and, most notably, the long-awaited introduction of Friar Tuck. In a break with tradition (and one that’s bound to generate a fair few column inches when the series returns), Tuck will not be portrayed as a portly, gluttonous white man, but by David Harewood.
So already there’s plenty to look forward to in Series 3, and with the kickstart it’s been given by the death of Marian there’s every chance it’ll find its feet far more quickly than the previous two series did.
But I’m looking beyond that, to a fourth series. Although one hasn’t been officially commissioned yet, TV writer Sally Wainwright (whose brilliant Unforgiven starts on ITV1 next week) has confirmed to The Stage that she has been asked to take on the mantle of ‘showrunner’ for a fourth series and beyond.
The BBC has asked me to take over Robin Hood in a way Russell [T. Davies] does on Doctor Who. They have a third series going out in the spring which I have had nothing to do with, but they have asked me to reinvent it and they want it to be very different, which is why they have come to me. It’s going to be a completely different show.
I want to model Robin Hood more on Doctor Who, in terms of quality of script and quality of direction.
Wainwright clearly has a direction for the show in mind, and with the loss of the original Robin at the end of Series 3 she’ll have the perfect opportunity to remould what it means to be given the mantle of Robin Hood.
What she may also have to contend with, though, is the possible departure of more actors. Richard Armitage, who plays Guy, is now also a series regular on Spooks, which has been recomissioned — so his time in Sherwood Forest may be drawing to a close, as it’ll be hard to imagine him working on two such demanding series at once. If Armitage and any other regular cast members leave at the same time as Armstrong, it could pose some potentially serious creative problems for Wainwright to deal with. With the original Robin already confirmed to be leaving, how many other departures could the series bear and still be Robin Hood?
It’s not going to be the first time we’ve had a change of Robin on screen, of course: Michael Praed passed on the mantle to Jason Connery in ITV’s Robin of Sherwood. That time, though, the rest of the cast remained, so it was still recognisably the same show.
What Wainwright will have to do, if a fourth series is commissioned, is handle a potentially bigger cast upheaval as well as transforming the creative nature of the show, whilst keeping enough of the programme’s “heart” to keep its existing audience along for the ride. That’s not too dissimilar a task to Steven Moffat, who this year takes over from Russell T. Davies as showrunner on Doctor Who.
Moffat, though, is presiding over a show where change is built into the fabric of the programme (and a change of lead actor is not only a given, but a ratings grabber in its own right). Wainwright doesn’t have the luxury of a TARDIS to hop from planet to planet — her stories will surely have to be centred around Sherwood Forest and Nottingham. But given the level of passion with which she’s talked about her plans, and the quality of her other projects, I for one can’t wait.