Saturday, 15 August 2009

Spotlight on David Harewood : "Brother" Tuck.

Above: Robin Hood's "Merry Men" as they seemed set to appear at the start of a Series 4. Certainly a more sombre group of individuals than the youthful gang who leapt in the air at the end of Series 1.

When we first heard the news that “Robin Hood” was going to get its very own Friar Tuck after all, I was delighted. And when I heard it was going to be the fabulous David Harewood, I was even more excited. So what happened?

Way back at the start of Robin Hood Series 1, the attitude at Tiger Productions was that Friar Tuck was no longer politically correct. I won’t repeat my earlier post regarding Friar Tuck’s importance to the “Merry Men”, and what his true contributions had been over the years (see THIS LINK), but Tiger were wrong. Friar Tuck was never simply a “fat” glutton. Far from it. That was Billy Bunter. (Okay, before your time no doubt!) And what’s more, 96% of polled readers agreed with me that they should re-instate Tuck. Interestingly, it would seem the BBC controller of the time agreed with our readers because, as Series 2 was getting under way, he went on record as saying Friar Tuck was to be included. However, as we all know, that didn‘t happen. (Maybe that boat journey to find Robin took longer than anticipated).

“Brother” Tuck’s appearance launched Robin Hood Series 3, and at first it seemed well worth the wait. An experienced, established actor of considerable reputation, David Harewood was yet another indication of the kind of investment the BBC was willing to make in this post-Lucy series. Also, as I said at the time, the choice of a black actor for this particular role was refreshing, and continued the trend started in the mid-1980’s of incorporating a mixed ethnicity in the Merry Men (and Women!) I think that important.

In an interview dated March, 2009, Harewood indicated that his Tuck would have a “dark back story about how he has become disillusioned about the church”. (See THIS LINK). If that was ever going to be the case, then perhaps I missed something, because what we got in the end was the most annoyingly self-composed, stable, well mannered Tuck of all time.

Make no mistake, in terms of the plot “Friar” Tuck is one of the most important characters in Series 3, because it is he who brings Robin Hood back from the brink of self destruction following Marian’s murder. The Robin Hood that Tuck finds when he comes ashore in England is a rebel without a cause; a man seeking only revenge, with little or no thought about once noble causes such as the plight of the poor. So it is Tuck who we see nurturing the outlaw leader back onto the tracks. It would have been nice if the series could have indulged itself in this aspect a little longer. For example, by the second episode so fast is Robin’s recovery that Much is already proclaiming “We’re back!”, whilst Alan says during Robin’s absence: “You’re the leader Tuck”.

One accepts the time frame within a TV show has to move on quickly, and perhaps a longer period of “recovery” for Robin under Tuck’s guidance, was not possible. But what was sorely missing in this Tuck was any sign of temperament. At every stage he is like an indulgent parent amongst the outlaws. Put simply, he’s too “perfect”. In combat he displays the measured skills of the martial arts. In battle he may even sit before his enemy with the composure and non-violent protest of a medieval Ghandi. But nowhere does he “lose his cool“. And therein lies my own personal disappointment in him. Great actor. Disappointing script.

Tuck needs to be cantankerous, given to bursts of anger. Yes, he is the one to go to when it comes to matters of spiritual guidance, the Law, counselling. And we know from legend that Tuck was a swordsman of outstanding ability (second only to Robin), and well placed within Nottingham to spy on the Sheriff’s misdemeanours. But we need to see the “darker side” of Tuck; the one which that interview with Harewood hinted at. (The one which Michael McShane portrayed so well).

You know how Johnny Depp appears to be “doing” Keith Richards in “Pirates of the Caribbean” and David Bowie in “Sweeney Todd”? Well, whenever I listened to David Harewood’s Tuck I couldn’t help thinking of Chris Eubank: A great warrior in the ring, always speaking in the clipped measured tones of a gentleman outside of it. And never a hint of anger.

When Robin Hood spat that soup out in the cave, I wanted a more contemporary Tuck, one who would have given him a slap before continuing with the spoon feeding. Maybe even a Tuck whose temptations of the appetite were not so much based on food as for the sight of a pretty ankle (as was the case in the old ballads when he first appeared). I remain a David Harewood fan, but not particularly because of this role. My Five Favourite Friars remain unchanged on THIS LINK.
Above: Harman and Frogatt receive the news that Series 4 is cancelled. They take it badly. But you can't keep a good man down. David Harewood landed a role in The Mountaintop, a new play about the life of Martin Luther King, which opened at Theatre503 in London on 9 June 2009.

More information about the many versions of Friar Tuck can be found on THIS LINK.

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Blogger robin hood said...

Robin Hood Series 3 Cast:

Robin Hood - Jonas Armstrong
Kate - Joanne Froggatt
Guy of Gisborne - Richard Armitage
Tuck - David Harewood
Sheriff of Nottingham - Keith Allen
Little John - Gordon Kennedy
Much - Sam Troughton
Allan-a-Dale - Joe Armstrong
Isabella - Lara Pulver

15 August 2009 at 13:13  
Blogger evielyn said...

Hi Robin - What an excellent article I think it was a shame that they spent so much time and effort in building up the character for him to be a bit like a damp squib! I would have liked to have seen bit more passion I feel that we only scratched the surface of him.
I do know that when I heard David Harewood in an interview at the start of series 3 he said that he had been signed for 2 series so perhaps if a 4th had been commissioned we may have found out more about what really made him tick (he was supposed to have travelled in China) now we will never know.

15 August 2009 at 21:19  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Evielyn,

It was indeed a let down. Especially in relation to Harewood's obvious talent and screen presence.

I was interested to see that the upcoming Ridley Scott production of Robin Hood, staring Russell Crowe, has no Friar Tuck listed in the cast.

Also, there seems to be no "Saracen Outlaw", so no "ethnic" mix. That's a shame, as such a character has been noted for its success over the last almost 3 decades.


BUT, there is a character called Archer.... Is this simply a coincidence???

16 August 2009 at 01:34  
Anonymous Laura said...

Very good post Robin! I totally agree that Tyck could have (and shold have) been so much more. I think one of the things he (and a few of the other characters) was lacking was a well-developed back story. If you think about it, Tuck never had an episode devoted to telling us where he was from/what he was all about. He just showed up and was suddenly preaching all over the place. Very one dimensional. Maybe they sinply didn't have the time to develop him more. But, I could have accepted the faults of his character better if I'd known more about him.

16 August 2009 at 19:58  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Laura,


16 August 2009 at 22:26  
Blogger rebecca said...

Quite possibly the most boring incarnation of Tuck ever.

To call in an actor of David Harewood's calibre to play what turned out to be simply the token black guy is just an insult to everyone involved.

I had actually never heard that interview from Harewood, discussing Tuck's "dark past."

Perhaps they shot such a scene, but then cut it to make room for the lion.

17 August 2009 at 12:00  
Anonymous Rav said...

Oops, that above comment was from me, Rav. I have a new account.

17 August 2009 at 12:00  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi "Rav" / rebecca,

Who else could it have been?


17 August 2009 at 16:20  
Anonymous Rav said...

Well, I'll have some positive things to say when you do a profile on Isabella...

Well, mostly positive.

17 August 2009 at 22:44  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Rav,

I'm thinking Prince John and Isabella should be next. And I loved 'em both. (Especially Izzy!)

17 August 2009 at 23:36  
Anonymous Laura said...

Ohh, do Prince John! He was my favourite (other than Izzy of course).

18 August 2009 at 17:35  
Anonymous kitty said...

Loved your comments about Tuck ,thoroughly agree with you . But to me what underpins all the many mistakes and ultimately nailed the coffin in the series was fundamentally there had not been an effective assessment about what they were trying to achieve , the target audience,and the issues around the watershed.
After the watershed would have afforded more realism , and given them time to develop characters . From one week to the next it was like a car crash or crisis intervention .
They lost two many characters and whilst one accepts death was around in the dark ages it is not the only way of disposing of characters .
If it was targeted at children then it should have been run as such more along the lines of the Robin of Sherwood variation .
Tuck should have been there from the onset with a developing back story .
Most importantly what happens to the blog now /

24 August 2009 at 06:21  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Kitty,

"there had not been an effective assessment about what they were trying to achieve"

I agree that was always the problem. In Series 3 that seemed to be compounded by the finale. To me, it felt like the last 2 or 3 shows had been filmed (perhaps whilst Lucy was available), and then the rest were a sequence of very good adventures in their own right, but bearing little or no relation as to what was about to happen and already "in the can". I can't help but wonder if that's true....

"what happens to the blog now?"

Well, I intend similar reviews for Prince John, Izzy, RA, and Jonas. I confess that, without the deadlines imposed by a weekly broadcast, other things have taken my spare time over Summer. But I'll get there.

After that, this blog will remain here just like those for Series 1 and 2. Unlike fan sites, I have limited interest in the activities of the cast beyond "Robin Hood" That is after all what started my original blog long before the Jonas version was even planned.

So, I'll be reviewing the Russell Crowe version on my main Robin Hood blog, for example, and various other Robin items as time goes by.

At present Photobucket want me to upgrade my account due to the number of page loads I receive. But there's no way I can start doing that. So if comment boxes occasionally disappear on some old blogs, that's why. It's only me trying to reduce page loads. (Hence my gratitude to those who click on an ad from time to time. Even without making a purchase, that click helped matters).

24 August 2009 at 10:40  
Anonymous Lindcherry said...

What a very interseting post! I think David Harewood agrees with you, in a recent interview for the Offical London Theatre Guide, he said:

Harewood was brought into the BBC family show at the beginning of the latest series to present a new version of Friar Tuck, but his sense of disappointment at a wasted opportunity is palpable: “I had a fantastic opening episode where I emerged from the sea in a boat; it was really well written. Then the character just sort of disappeared. It was very frustrating to be lurking in the back of shot endlessly for weeks.”

I think it resumes it well, Tuck kind of disappear and it's a big waste, with the talent of Harewood and the 1st episode, we could have a memorable Tuck!
(Sorry for the english, it's not my first langage)

28 August 2009 at 23:14  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Lindcherry,

and THANKYOU for that information.

At last, a member of the cast has been honest about the situation he found himself in.

Well done David Harewood!

29 August 2009 at 00:48  
Anonymous kitty said...

Perhaps you might want to consider a general review blog. Regards your sponsers myself and a colleague flew down to work in the Nottingham area last year for a couple of days,we utilised some of the information as provided by your sponsers .There must be many others .

29 August 2009 at 21:27  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi Kitty,

I did consider an Arts in Nottingham type review blog at one time. (When I'm not being Robin Hood, my alter ego paints. I do exhibit from time to time, but am not very impressed by several of the gallery / shops).

However, as you can see at present, my own work and life in general takes me away from such schedules.

29 August 2009 at 23:03  
Anonymous Annie said...

At last, a member of the cast has been honest about the situation he found himself in.

Hi, Robin, a little off topic, but a member of the Robin Hood LiveJournal site recently posted an account of her meeting with Joe Armstrong (Allan) after a performance of Orphans, the play in which he is currently starring. Joe told her he asked that his character be killed, because the show was getting too silly. Even so, he evidently was a bit taken aback by the way Allan was done in. According to the fan, Joe said he and Sam Troughton looked at the script and said "what?!!!" He added, intriguingly, that some members of the cast had more script control than others, which I imagine is fairly typical.
If the fan is trustworthy, and I have to say I found the post believable in substance and in style, Joe hastened to add he loved the show and had fun, but it was silly.
This is what many of us suspected, of course. I picture Sam and Joe and Jonas pausing every now and then to think to themselves, "thank goodness that's over!"

3 September 2009 at 18:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I barely remember the Robin Hood TV series from the '50's so my dad must have watched it (when he came home, he took control of the TV). I watched all the other shows about Robin that came out, over the years, & also the movies--suburb. I became a huge fan of Richard, & waited all this time for season 3, only to be deeply disappointed. The credits declared that this is the "final season." So I came to your web site, knowing it's already been shown in England, & frankly, it was depressing, reading about what was to come. I decided not to watch another episode--why bother--it'd be like watching a horrible wreck in slow motion. I don't know where they picked up those writers, but they're not talented--guess they never heard of not fixing something that's not broken. I was tired of Marian anyway, but knew that they went about her exit the wrong way. I was also tired of seeing Sir Guy reacting like a milquetoast after dressing in black, glaring, & growling. The writers murdered the show, & shouldn't be allowed to work in the studio's. This show should've lasted for 5 or 6 years. Ten years from now, when someone decides to tackle a new Robin Hood, I hope they'll hire writers with real talent, who won't throw a monkey wrench in the works. I held off buying the DVD's, now I'm glad I did--what a waste!

20 September 2009 at 19:45  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi anonymous,

A lot of people feel like you do. That the show had a great cast, who's energy and character was at the heart of the show's success in Season 1.

I'm sure I've blamed the writers on many an occasion, but more responsible were those in charge of the show's direction. After all, they are commissioning the stories and must have given some idea of what they wanted.

One thing is for sure, this show left nothing which will be assimilated into future re-tellings of the legend in the way Robin of Sherwood did.

20 September 2009 at 21:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way--and bringing things back to Tuck/David Harewood--I also read that account Annie mentioned. I can't remember exactly the way he put it, but Joe Armstrong indicated he felt David Harewood and Joanna Froggat were hard done by. I came away with the impression that they--both those actors and the rest of the cast as well--had been given a lot of build up about their characters and what would be done with them, only to have the results we saw on screen, of a whiny, negligible Kate and an abandoned Tuck.

19 October 2009 at 21:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And P.S.:

I think I could argue with this:
"One thing is for sure, this show left nothing which will be assimilated into future re-tellings of the legend in the way Robin of Sherwood did."

I first read it elsewhere, but I agree with the idea that I can never see Allan a Dale as a heartsick minstrel again. The reinvention of that character is one positive thing I will definitely credit the creative team with.

19 October 2009 at 21:39  
Blogger robin hood said...

Hi DC,

I didn't know Joe had spoken out in that regard about Harwood and Froggatt getting a raw deal. I believe Jonas had some words to say in general about the way all their hard work on the conclusion of Series 3 had ben wasted, and that he was sorry to see the show cancelled.

Also, yes, I conceed your point about Joe's Alan A Dale being "new". i think I myself have acknowledged that in the past.

It would be good to have a "doubting Thomas" in future versions of the Merry Disciples. Joe Armstrong was, for me, one of the best cast members of the whole show.

We did get a very strong Dale in "Challenge for Robin Hood". He was actually the LEADER of the outlaws prior to Robin coming along. But he was nothing like the Joe character.,

20 October 2009 at 09:20  

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