-MONTHLY VHS & DVD REVIEW-
Maid Marian And Her Merry Men:|
The Complete Series Two
cast: Kate Lonergan, Wayne Morris, Tony Robinson, Danny John-Jules, and Howard Lew Lewis
creator: Tony Robinson
147 minutes (U) 1990
Eureka DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Maid Marian and I have something of a mixed history. I got into alternative comedy
at an incredibly young age and by the time this series appeared I was watching Blackadder,
Red Dwarf, The
Young Ones and all the other sitcoms and sketch shows that came from that first generation
of British alternative comedians. So, when Maid Marian And Her Merry Men was announced
I was incredibly enthusiastic and excited but, somehow, the series itself never lived up
to those expectations and I stopped watching it, convinced that it was silly and just
'for kids'. As a result, it was with some apprehension that I approached this DVD.
The first thing that surprised me about this series was the sheer range of the writing.
Over the years Maid Marian has acquired a reputation as being one of those shows
that was 'too good for the kids' because it featured loads of jokes that would go over
their heads. With many of these types of pieces it is easy to see the writers pulling
the strings as humour and 'zany' characters get stuck into a basic narrative with adults
getting the odd sly wink and post-modern reference sent their way. Indeed, Disney used
this strategy extensively in the 1990s when, in films like Mulan and Aladdin,
they cast comedians as sidekicks, to breathe humour into what would otherwise have been
pretty straightforward family action films. However, where Disney's films always felt
slightly cynical and formulaic, Maid Marian seems to go out of its way to avoid
using a formula.
One of the most surprising things about Maid Marian is the sheer range of the comedy on
display. Tony Robinson steers the cast from puns to slapstick through musical comedy,
postmodernism, knob gags and scatological humour whilst retaining the focus and edge to
write an episode that features an absolutely vicious satire of Comic Relief.
Always silly, always funny, Maid Marian And Her Merry Men is delightful.
Robinson glowers beautifully as the Sheriff but despite giving himself most of the best
lines, Robinson can't help but have every scene stolen out from underneath him by the
sheer physical presence of Forbes Collins and the adorably warm-hearted stupidity of
Mark Billingham and David Lloyd. However, despite (and perhaps because of) the quality
of the acting and writing on display whenever 'Ye Baddies' (as the end credits refer to
them) are on screen, you can't help but feel that Maid Marian is lacking some
ingredient that would instantly make it a classic.
That lacking ingredient is the series' central relationship. By choosing to cast himself
as a baddie, Robinson reveals what is also evident from watching the series; namely that
he found it more enjoyable to write 'evil' dialogue than he did to write 'good' dialogue.
The fact that Robinson never completely gets to grips with his goodies is evident in the
extent to which he underwrites the secondary characters meaning that Little Ron, Rabies
and Barrington are never anything more than one-dimensional characters. Barrington in
particular seems to not have a personality as Red Dwarf''s Danny John-Jules is
reduced to playing the Rasta as himself. The lack of attention devoted to the good
characters combines with the series' understandable focus on the good guys to inflate
the relationship between Robin and Marian to the point where it comes to dominate most
of the episodes. The problem is that while Robin and Marian are great characters in and
of themselves, Robinson struggles to find a way for them to interrelate. Shying away
from any internal power struggles or romantic subplots, Robin and Marian spend their
time bickering. Or, to be more exact, Marian spends her time insulting Robin meaning
that Robin looks like a pathetic victim and Marian stops looking like 'little miss
bossy-boots' and more and more like a shrill bully. Something not aided by Lonergan's
overly theatrical delivery. With the series' central relationship systematically misfiring,
Maid Marian And Her Merry Men never completely satisfies.
A funny and whimsical piece of kids' TV, Maid Marian has enough to keep most grown-up
comedy fans happy. There are some wonderful performances and some great jokes but somehow
it never quite comes together. The series comes spread across two discs with some fun
extras and a comic. However, despite being a luxurious release, the price is lower than
that of your normal six-episode comedy series. Well worth a look.