When Things Were Rotten
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|When Things Were Rotten|
Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
|Created by||Mel Brooks
Norman Stiles & John Boni
|Directed by||Norman Abbott
Peter H. Hunt
Henry Polic II
Dick Van Patten
|Theme music composer||Artie Butler|
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Running time||30 min.|
|Production company(s)||Paramount Network Television|
|Distributor||CBS Television Distribution|
|Original run||September 10, 1975 – December 3, 1975|
A parody of the Robin Hood legend, the series starred Richard Gautier (who earlier had played Hymie the Robot in Brooks' Get Smart series) as Robin Hood. Also in the regular cast were Dick Van Patten as Friar Tuck, Bernie Kopell (another Get Smart veteran) as Alan-a-Dale, Henry Polic II as the Sheriff of Nottingham (whose name was Hubert), Ron Rifkin as Prince John, Misty Rowe as Maid Marian, and David Sabin as Little John. Richard Dimitri played a dual role as identical twin brothers; Renaldo was one of the Merry Men, while Bertram was the Sheriff's right-hand man.
One-liners, sight gags and literal humor were hallmarks of the show's style; e.g., complaining villagers, commanded to "Hold your tongues!," obediently reach into their mouths. There was also occasional breaking of the fourth wall: in one episode, as one of Robin's men (Renaldo) was being interrogated, with an accuser (Little John) asking, "Are you ready to tell that to your maker?" Renaldo turns his head and looks off-camera, and says: "Mel! I didn't do it!"
Much of the humour was anachronistic, such as the occasion where Marian's ladies-in-waiting burst into the 1960s Supremes hit "Stop! In the Name of Love"; or when the Rock of Gibraltar had been destroyed, and a messenger brings Prince John the remaining chunk, to be told "I always wanted a piece of the rock," a reference to Prudential Insurance's successful slogan, "Own a piece of the Rock."
Also notable was the show's lampooning of 1970s social concerns; e.g., in the episode "Those Wedding Bell Blues," Prince John was preparing to sign a deal with OOPEC, an OPEC-like cartel whose chief export was olive oil. Prince John: "I'll control all the olive oil! Anyone who wants to make a salad will have to come to me!"
During the opening show credits, a satirical song "Yay for Robin Hood!" was performed:
"Once upon a time when things were rotten,
Not just food, but also kings and cotton,
Everybody kicked the peasants,
Things were bad and that ain't good,
Then came Robin Hood (Ta-daah!)
"Soon a band of merry men he'd gotten,
They wore outfits made of plain green cotton,
Helping victims was their business
Boy oh boy was business good,
Good for Robin Hood!
"They laughed, they loved, they fought, they drank,
They jumped a lot of fences,
They robbed the rich, gave to the poor
Except what they kept for expenses!
"So when other legends are forgotten
We'll remember back when things were rotten
Yay for Robin Hood!"
The rapid-fire, Mel Brooks style of comedy was out of place on network television of the era, so despite critical acclaim, the series failed to find an audience and was canceled after 13 episodes. Eighteen years later, Brooks produced another Robin Hood parody, the feature film Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Van Patten also appeared in the later film as an abbot.
The cancellation of When Things Were Rotten allowed Van Patten and Kopell to move on to more successful and long-running series — Eight is Enough and The Love Boat, respectively. Rifkin, meanwhile, would eventually become best known to modern-day audiences as the ambiguously villainous Arvin Sloane on Alias.
Home video and DVD
|1||"The Capture of Robin Hood"||10.Sep.1975|
|2||"The French Dis-connection"||17.Sep.1975|
|3||"The House Band"||24.Sep.1975|
|4||"Those Wedding Bell Blues"||01.Oct.1975|
|5||"A Ransom for Richard"||08.Oct.1975|
|6||"The Ultimate Weapon"||15.Oct.1975|
|7||"Ding Dong, the Bell Is Dead"||22.Oct.1975|
|8||"There Goes the Neighborhood"||29.Oct.1975|
|11||"The Spy: Part 1"||26.Nov.1975|
|12||"The Spy: Part 2"||26.Nov.1975|
|13||"This Lance for Hire"||03.Dec.1975|
- Maid Marian and Her Merry Men - another comic retelling of the Robin Hood legend, for British television
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights - Another Mel Brooks production based on Robin Hood
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to When Things Were Rotten.|
- When Things Were Rotten at the Internet Movie Database
- When Things Were Rotten at TV.com
- Harry S. Anchan's television sitcom & comedy site (with When Things Were Rotten theme song)