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I don't know if the proper question is "Why do I remember this short-lived
series so well, when nobody else has even HEARD of it?" or "With the
& acting talent behind it, why didn't When Things Were Rotten make it
With Mel Brooks creating & writing the series and some of the top comedic directors of the 1970s behind the camera, it was a hilarious spoof of the Robin Hood legend. All I have seen of the show as an adult are three episodes on video, with guests Sid Ceasar, Dudley Moore and John Byner. These episodes, though, are as funny as I remember them being as a 12 & 13-year old.
Start with the theme song. This is one of the classic 1960s-70s TV themes... "They laughed, they loved, they fought, they drank, they JUMPED a lot of FENCES... stole from the rich, gave to the poor -- except what they kept for EXPENSES!" :o)
What about the cast? Well, Dick Van Patten (Friar Tuck) and Bernie Kopell need no introduction. Dick Gautier, who played Robin Hood, never quite made the big time. He did turn in good work as the robot Hymie on "Get Smart," though, and is solid as the straight man for countless bafoons in Sherwood Forest. Misty Rowe is an absolute sexkitten and quite funny at the same time, as the airheaded Maid Marian. Richard Dimitri, Hnry Polic, II and David Sabin are also great -- as are the guest stars.
If you ever get a chance to rent or buy the video (or if Nick-at-Nite or one of the other cable channels comes to its senses & begins running these for the first time since 1975), be sure & give it a view! It's Mel Brooks humor at its best!
I am not certain that anyone will ever see or care about this, but I have
not forgotten this series, because it was extremely well done and way ahead
of its time. It was one of the funniest tv series that I can recall. Where
is anyone who can provide information with regard to it? Surely I am not
the only lunatic who thought it was was funny.
"When Things Were Rotten" was the brainchild of comic genius Mel
Brooks. He dared to ask, what if the Legend of Robin Hood was overblown
hype, and that all of the people involved were nothing more than
buffoons? The result was a uproariously funny and engaging program, in
which the great legend of Sherwood Forest went slapstick.
The show was brilliantly cast, with each player an expert in comedy. Dick Gautier, who worked with Mel on NBC's "Get Smart" as Hymie The Robot, knew a great deal about timing and was perfect as the leader of this merry band. He was matched in nit-wit by Henry Polic II, who portrayed the equally dunderheaded Sheriff of Nottingham, and a young Ron Rifkin (eventually of "Alias") played the likewise dubious Prince John. Add in Dick Van Patten, Bernie Kopell (another "Smart" vet), and the former Hee-Haw Honey turned Maid Marian, Misty Rowe with her buxom talents and you had a well-rounded group.
The production values for the program were very high, with costumes and sets that looked lavish and the show was shot on film, making it appear as exquisite as any Errol Flynn feature. And the sight gags were hilarious, and should not be described here... they are "sight gags," after all! Years later, Brooks returned to the Robin Hood legend with his film "Men In Tights," but he avoided a lot of the stuff that was used in this production, and that was a disappointment. All he needed to do was to take all of the elements of the series and distill the various episodes into one great movie! What we got was a watered down version that couldn't come close to the laughs this program offered.
Perhaps the reason for the show's demise was either in the subject matter or the competition... Robin Hood might have sounded dull and uninteresting to some viewers and those that would have been willing to look possibly wanted an adventure series, not a schlocky comedy. Also, the program aired opposite NBC's powerhouse drama "Little House On The Prairie," and CBS's variety series "Tony Orlando & Dawn," so perhaps people didn't tune away from these programs to try it. They don't know what they missed.
I live in hope that some day the complete series will arrive on DVD.
Created by Mel Brooks, this comedy was actually a spoof on Robin Hood and
his Merry Men of Sherwood Forest. Instead of the brave and heroic Robin of
legend, he was portrayed as a complete moron, and his band were nothing
a bunch of boobs who only succeed because of the utter incompetence of
Prince John and his henchman - the Sheriff of Nottingham. Maid Marian was
Robin's cute but brainless love interest. Critics loved this show but Mel
Brooks probably doesn't have enough mass appeal to sustain a weekly run
it was cancelled after a few months. I, for one, loved this show. I was
about 12 during its' run, and even then I recognized a good farce when I
it and was very disappointed when it ended. Thirty years later, I still
remember it and am so glad to find out other people do too! Let's hope for
TV land run in the future! Hooray for cable!
Apparently many of you out there were 12, as I was, when this show was
on (according to all of your reviews!). I remember loving this show, as
it was funny, witty and stupid all at the same time. Meaning, it was
typical Mel Brooks. When I ask people if they ever saw it, they look at
me with confusion, but I watched every episode as a kid. Dick Gautier
was my favorite actor on the show, but they were all perfect in their
roles. Who could forget a pre-Love Boat Bernie Kopell or the terrific
Dick Van Patten? The visual jokes were the best, and the word-play made
you think (and what kid didn't like being quicker on the uptake than
their parents?). I would most definitely recommend this show to anyone
who likes Mel Brooks, and also hope that TV Land decides to air this
great '70s gem.
I would love to be able to purchase all the episodes on DVD, in their complete form. Hey Mel, how about it??
This show ran in the fall of '75 (When Things Were Funnier). I remember
laughing a bunch at Mel Brooks' latest attempt at TV humor, sitting
with my dear old dad (who was roaring on the couch). Alas, it didn't
even last until Mel's beloved Hannakuh that fall before ABC gave it the
He revisited some of the material with his similarly themed movie which came out in '93, but it wasn't quite as biting at this show. The comic cast was way better here.
I'd sure pony up if it ever showed again on DVD. Mel, if you're out there, give it some thought.
"When Things Were Rotten" is yet another example of the fine comedic work of
Mel Brooks in his heyday. Casting was spectacular with Dick Gautier as Robin
Hood (the way he's never been played before or since) and Dick Van Patten as
a hilarious Friar Tuck. This series poked fun at everything from television
to social mores with a critical eye and sharp aim, possibly too sharp for
its own good.
Though short-lived, this series was, in my opinion, very well compared to Mr. Brook's best cinematic outings, like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.
What a collection of corny setups and stupid jokes, the core of Mel
Brooks ' genius! I was so excited seeing this show promoted and my
fellow nerd friends in high school eagerly awaited it's debut. We were
a core group that routinely watched Monty Python's Flying Circus. Well,
"When Things Were Rotten" did not disappoint us although it had a lot
more in common with a movie like "Airplane!" that it did with that
brilliant British ensemble.
Perfect fodder for a bunch of underdeveloped pasty-faced bookworms! Of course the jocks and the "hip" crowd cared nothing of the show. Some stupid gags I still remember? Robin Hood being confronted to a sword duel and he yells out, "A sword lads!" and about 10 fly in at him from off-screen, hilt first. Or the time when the public herald is announcing another oppressive edict from the evil usurper of the throne, the crowd begins to boo. He yells at them, "Hold your tongues!" and the crowd literally sticks out their tongues and holds them with their fingers.
How brilliantly stupid!
I too cannot understand why this series has not been re-run. I was only about six when I used to watch it on Saturday afternoons with my mum who absolutely loved the show. I would love to see it again, this time round at 31 I might get more out of it!
Mel Brooks is one of our true comic geniuses. He was overlooked for many years, but I am glad that he was able to make a comeback with the Broadway version of his original hit film The Producers. He started off in television with Carl Reiner and the 2,000 year old man skits and he also created Get Smart with Don Adams. When Things Were Rotten is another series that he created that I feel has been overlooked. It came along in a really bad tv season and was unjustly cancelled after only about half a season. Dick Gautier, Bernie Kopell, Dick Van Patten, Henry Polic 11 and Misty Rowe all made a great comic team. Unlike tv shows today, this one made you laugh innocently and not feel guilty about it. Mel Brooks has always been so creative and original in everything that he does. He brought that special quality to this series and I only wish that they would show it again. I was stationed in Korea and saw some episodes on videotape. Brooks made a film almost twenty years later in 1993 called Robin Hood: Men In Tights and he used a lot of the stuff that he used on this show (they pointed that out in a review they did of the film).
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