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Series / When Things Were Rotten

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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!

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!
Theme Song

Starring Richard Gautier as folk hero Robin Hood, David Sabin as Little John, Dick Van Patten as Friar Tuck, Bernie Kopell as Alan-a-Dale, Misty Rowe as Maid Marian, Henry Polic II as Sheriff of Nottingham and Ron Rifkin as Prince John, When Things Were Rotten was a 1975 American situation comedy series parodying the Robin Hood legend created by Mel Brooks, airing on ABC.

Much of the show's style was hallmarked with one-liners, sight gags and literal humor. The humor was anachronistic and lampooned 1970s social concerns.

Despite critical acclaim, the series full of rapid-fire Mel Brooks style of comedy was out of place on network television and was canceled after thirteen episode when it failed to find an audience.

Nearly 20 years later, Brooks would spoof Robin Hood again with his penultimate film, Robin Hood: Men in Tights.


  • Angrish: The Sheriff of Nottingham in moments of extreme frustration would give way to this. Those around him would have to remind him, "Sheriff — you're not talking."
  • Anti-Villain: After the pilot, Bertram rapidly turns into this. He adores Maid Marian, is scandalized by his twin brother but clearly loves him, demonstrates only a childlike understanding of torture or killing when he threatens either, and seems to be motivated almost entirely by a desperation to have the Sheriff's approval. Small wonder he gets one of the few more serious episodes focused on his brother and him.
  • Baguette Beatdown: In "The Capture of Robin Hood", Robin attempts to use a baguette to defend himself against the Sheriff's sword. He winds up with sliced bread.
  • Beard of Evil: Sheriff of Nottingham.
  • Big Eater: Friar Tuck, natch.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: One episode had Little John interrogating Renaldo:
    Little John: Are you ready to tell that to your maker?
    Renaldo: Mel! I didn't do it!
  • Clueless Deputy: Bertram's primary function in the series.
  • Crushing Handshake: The Sheriff of Nottingham does himself. Complete with knuckle cracking.
    Sheriff: (to Bertram) Now go get the Marquis. And a splint!
  • Cut Short
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: Robin Hood. Just look at the above picture.
  • Europeans Are Kinky: The Marquis de la Salle. During the course of an evening, he licks the hands of both Marion and Isabelle, tries to get it on with Marion in a magician's box, follows Prince John and Princess Isabelle into their quarters for a threesome (Prince John kicks him out, to Princess Isabelle's disappointment), and prepares himself to seduce Marion again after receiving a (fake) note from her.
  • Evil Chef: Friar Tuck takes on this role for a cunning plan, using Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce to trick the Marquis de la Salle into eating overly spiced soup. Hilarity ensues.
  • Evil Twin: Renaldo is one of the Merry Men, while his twin brother Bertram is the Sheriff's right-hand man. Also an example of Playing Their Own Twin.
  • Expy: With his hero worship and adolescent bravado and his tendency to fall into trouble, Renaldo pretty much replaces Much the Miller's Son from more traditional Robin Hood versions.
  • Folk Hero: It's Robin Hood!
  • Glove Slap: The Marquis de la Salle does this to a disguised Renaldo, knocking him across the room and causing his wig to fall off.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: The French ambassador The Marquis de la Salle to Maid Marion and Princess Isabelle, which then morphs into Lecherous Licking.
  • Impossible Pickle Jar: An episode has Maid Marian distract a pair of guards with the Pickle Jar Trick: She asks them to open a pickle jar for her (possibly one that's glued in place).
  • Multishot: Robin asks for ALL the arrows and fires what looks like a round brace of arrows that somehow do exactly what he wants.
  • Not-So-Forgotten Birthday: It's Renaldo's birthday, and Robin and the Merry Men are planning a surprise party...and are pretending not to when Renaldo shows up.
  • Purely Aesthetic Era: Merry Olde England with baseball umpires, The Supremes musical quotes, balloons, and OPEC-like organizations.
  • Royal Brat: Prince John.
  • Shout-Out: To Prudential Insurance's successful slogan "Get a piece of the Rock."
  • Splitting the Arrow: In "The Capture of Robin Hood", it is the Sheriff of Nottingham who splits the arrow during the archery competition. Robin Hood bests by shooting an arrow that curves around the target and knocks out the Sheriff's arrow by coming through the back of the target.
  • The Team: The Merry Men. Has elements of Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, Band of Brothers and True Companions.
  • Tree Buchet: In "The Capture of Robin Hood", Robin and the merry men use a tree to launch Bertram out of Sherwood Forest and headfirst through the Sheriff's door.
  • Visual Pun: Whenever someone is commanded to "Hold your tongue!", they invariably reach into their mouth....
    • Also:
    The Sherriff: What's all this infernal noise?
    Bertram: We're just putting up the banners!
    (Cut to a man, woman and a child hanging on the wall)
    Man: Hi, we're the Banners!
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: One of the defining character traits of the Twins: Bertram constantly seeks the approval of his (involuntary?) father figure The Sheriff, and Renaldo openly imitates his hero and father figure Robin Hood.