When Things Were Rotten
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|When Things Were Rotten|
Robin Hood and his Merry Men
|Created by||Mel Brooks|
Henry Polic II
Dick Van Patten
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Paramount Television|
|Distributor||CBS Television Distribution|
|Original release||September 10 –|
December 3, 1975
A parody of the Robin Hood legend, the series starred Dick Gautier (who earlier had played Hymie the Robot in Brooks' Get Smart series) as the handsome and heroic Robin Hood. The remaining series regulars included Dick Van Patten as pious but feisty Friar Tuck, Bernie Kopell (another Get Smart veteran) as smooth-talking sentimental jokester Alan-a-Dale, Misty Rowe as deceptively ditzy-looking blond Maid Marian, and David Sabin as the mighty Little John, with Ron Rifkin as childishly petty tyrant Prince John and Henry Polic II as Hubert, the wicked, black-clad Sheriff of Nottingham. Richard Dimitri played a dual role as identical twin brothers: Bertram, the Sheriff's snooty and sniveling right-hand man, and Renaldo, stereotypical Latino member of the Merry Men who had been stolen as a baby by gypsies.
Brooks again spoofed the Robin Hood legend in his 1993 film Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
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. In several episodes the Sheriff was shown to be literally barking mad, angrily yelling something only to be told that he had used no words in the sentence. In another episode, the Sheriff asked Bertram to hang the banners, with an immediate cutaway to a husband, a wife, and their two children on a wall, saying "Hi, we're the Banners."
Breaking of the fourth wall often occurred. In many episodes Alan-a-Dale would turn to the camera to proudly proclaim to the audience what a truly unequaled hero Robin was like a typical Hollywood press agent, and in one episode Renaldo was being interrogated and pleaded his innocence, and when an accuser asked, "Are you ready to tell that to your maker?", Renaldo looks off-camera and says, "Mel! I'm innocent!"
Much of the humor was anachronistic, such as the occasion where Marian's ladies-in-waiting burst into the 1960s Supremes hit "Stop! In the Name of Love". 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, "Get a piece of the Rock", and when King Richard the Lionhearted comes ashore after returning from the Crusades and reaches an American baseball-style home base, an umpire cries out "Safe!", causing the Sheriff of Nottingham to shout, "Kill the umpire!"
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 were rotten.
Everybody kicked the peasants,
Things were bad and that ain't good,
Then came Robin Hood (Ba-bahh!)
"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 cancelled after 13 episodes, with The Bionic Woman being its midseason replacement, which was a great success. 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
Several episodes of the series have been released on VHS in North America.
|Nº||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||"The Capture of Robin Hood"||TBA||TBA||September 10, 1975|
|2||"The French Dis-connection"||Coby Ruskin||S : Gene Wood,|
T : Bo Kaprall,
|September 17, 1975|
|3||"The House Band"||TBA||TBA||September 24, 1975|
|4||"Those Wedding Bell Blues"||Marty Feldman||TBA||October 1, 1975|
|5||"A Ransom for Richard"||TBA||TBA||October 8, 1975|
|6||"The Ultimate Weapon"||TBA||TBA||October 15, 1975|
|7||"Ding Dong, the Bell Is Dead"||TBA||TBA||October 22, 1975|
|8||"There Goes the Neighborhood"||Cory Ruskin||Tony Geiss,|
|October 29, 1975|
|9||"Quarantine"||TBA||TBA||November 12, 1975|
|10||"Birthday Blues"||Peter H. Hunt||Harry Lee Scott,|
|November 19, 1975|
|"The Spy: Parts 1 & 2"||TBA||TBA||November 26, 1975|
|13||"This Lance for Hire"||TBA||TBA||December 3, 1975|
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