Home Television Comedy When Things Were Rotten

When Things Were Rotten

1 9 7 4 (USA)
13 x 30 minute episodes

This period sitcom was produced by Mel Brooks for Paramount and told the story of the misadventures of Robin Hood (Dick Gautier) and his very merry men. Each episode was blended with corny puns, quick-fire gags and incongruous cultural juxtapositions.

The show was set – nominally – in the 12th century, a time when characters were (oy vey) characters. But instead of the boldly heroic Robin of legend, he was portrayed as a complete nitwit, and his men a band of incompetents who only succeeded because of the even greater incompetence of the evil mincing Prince John (Ron Rifkin) and his henchman, the Sheriff of Nottingham (Henry Polic II).

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Maid Marian (Misty Rowe) was Robin’s sexy but empty-headed love interest.

The humour drew upon the anachronistic blending of historical myth and modern-day sensibilities and the action demanded maximum attention: blink and you would miss at least a couple of gags, though you could also be sure that another half-dozen were only seconds away.

Such as the episode in which Prince John hired the four fastest woodcutters in the kingdom to chop down Sherwood Forest in its entirety – to make way for a new housing development for wealthy burghers.

In the premiere telecast, the prince lured Robin into a trap by staging an archery contest to determine who was the greatest bowman in the land. Robin, vain as ever, came in disguise to win the title but was seized and thrown into the dungeon. Whereupon his men disguised themselves as a travelling conga band and bongoed their way into the castle to rescue him.

Every episode featured a guest star, with Sid Caesar appearing in one as a French diplomat and Dudley Moore in another as an oil sheikh. Moore’s episode was directed by Marty Feldman, who had recently moved to Hollywood from London and starred in Brooks’ movie Young Frankenstein (1974).

Critics applauded this series as one of the most inventive of the season, but viewers paid no attention to it and it was soon cancelled. Brooks returned to the subject with his 1993 movie Robin Hood: Men In Tights.

Robin Hood
Dick Gautier
Maid Marian

Misty Rowe
Alan-A-Dale

Bernie Kopell
Friar Tuck

Dick Van Patten
Little John

David Sabin
Bertram/Renaldo

Richard Dimitri
Lord Hubert, Sheriff of Nottingham

Henry Polic II
Prince John

Ron Rifkin
Princess Isabelle
Jane A. Johnston

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