Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Robin Hood (Michael Praed) with his Merry Men, in ROBIN OF SHERWOOD: a series boldly re-imagined by the late Richard Carpenter, who sadly passed away this weekend. Image: ITV

His name may not be well known to younger readers of this KOOL TV blog, but actor/writer/director Richard Carpenter, who sadly passed away this weekend at the age of 78, would make a significant contribution to British television with three great series classics that made their distinctive and successful mark on the hearts and minds of teatime and family audiences in the millions during the seventies and eighties, all of which evocatively blended his passion for the past, of iconic heroes, villains and other characters, with the best production values of the time in writing and producing series which have become both beloved and timeless, and continuing to find long-life on DVD and Blu-ray as new generations of fans discover and appreciate them.

Geoffrey Bayldon as the time transported magician CATWEAZLE. Image: ITV.

His first creation was the quirky time travel comedy CATWEAZLE, starring the late Geoffrey Bayldon as a fugitive magician who, escaping his pursuers in the Norman Age, manages to make an accidental time travel arrival into modern day (1970's) England, for a fish out of water series of enjoyable comedy drama exploits as he tries to acquaint himself with the people, places and technology of the new future time period he has become involved in, alongside his new teenage friend, Carrot (Robin Davies). The end results of the show were a children's TV classic that was repeated for years on the UK's ITV channel. From this proud achievement, Carpenter would go on to make the first of two bold retellings of popular heroes and antiheroes from the British past, played by well cast lead actors, backed up with the finest of supporting guests, and made with the very best film production values of the period: DICK TURPIN, the adventures of the legendary highwayman and adventurer, as successfully played against type by Richard O'Sullivan (then mostly known for comedic work but showing lots of worth as a serious actor here), in the four season running series for LWT, followed in 1983/84 by his greatest and most enduring triumph: ROBIN OF SHERWOOD, which beautifully and excitingly blended the mythical story of The Hooded Man - who robbed from the rich to feed the power in England's darkest age- and transformed him and his adventures with his Merry Men into a more fanatstical but still realistically made era of fantasy, supernatural magic and swordplay. Actor/singer/musician Michael Praed would be the first and best Robin Hood, though his successor, Jason Connery, would be a competent replacement when Praed left to establish an American film and theater career.

Richard O'Sullivan would be a huge success as DICK TURPIN. Image: ITV.

DICK TURPIN titles: Dick Turpin - Opening - UK TV - YouTube

ROBIN OF SHERWOOD titles: ROBINHOOD Intro Theme (Hoodedman) - YouTube

CATWEAZLE titles: Catweazle - Opening Titles - YouTube

The enduring popularity of Michael Praed's ROBIN OF SHERWOOD continues...

Carpenter, as well creating the series format, would ultimately contribute ROBIN's best scripts across it's three seasons for HTV/GOLDCREST and LWT, further cementing his powerful and well-deserved popular reputation as one of the UK's best, most enthusiastic and dedicated film and TV industry making talents. He was also a fine novelist, penning adaptations of numerous successful and now rare, out of print TV books, especially regarding ROBIN OF SHERWOOD. Other numerous, equally fondly recalled series form his acclaimed writing/producer-ship era would include the humorous THE GHOSTS OF MOTLEY HALL, the Oliver Tobias starring adventure series SMUGGLER and the brash and fearless adventures of the Victorian era Sherlock Holmes child investigators THE BAKER STREET BOYS from 1983, as well as several on-screen iterations of Enid Blyton's THE FAMOUS FIVE. Later in life, beyond his ITV work, and now as a freelance, Carpenter would write for another famous classical hero, THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, as it was transformed into a successful two season running series of TV movies for the BBC in 1999, starring an enthusiastic and suitably dashing Richard E. Grant in the title role.

Richard Capenter. R.I.P. Image: STARBURST MAGAZINE.

To quote the words of Robin Hood: "Nothing's forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten." And this is certainly true of the life and career of Richard Carpenter, a distinctive creative talent, a rare and admired individual whose quality TV and film series work will endure for a very long time to come. KOOL TV sends its condolences to his family and friends in this sad time.

An interview with Richard Carpenter: Richard Carpenter -- Interviews in Sherwood
My TV hero: Anthony Horowitz on screenwriter Richard Carpenter | Television & radio | The Guardian

Most of Richard Carpenter's classic series are available on DVD from NETWORK.

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