Blackadder was probably the show that started my love of British comedy. Back when I was but a young Fishie, in the summers my family would very often all sleep in my mother and father’s room, the only air conditioned room in the house. Their bedroom also had a TV in it and we would often watch PBS late into the night. This is where I caught my first glimpses of the show. I found it pretty funny and liked watching it but I don’t think I fully appreciated it at the time (I was maybe 6 or 7 then). In later years though I looked it up and fell in love all over again.
The series follows Prince Edmund “The Black Adder” Plantagenet and his descendants (known by the surname Blackadder) through English history. Rowan Atkinson plays Blackadder and if you know him as Mr. Bean you’re in for a bit of a surprise as Blackadder is more or less the exact opposite of that role for him. Usually everyone around The Black Adder is a complete moron while he is both witty and intelligent cynic. This comes through more so as the series progresses as in the first series The Black Adder is mostly just a nasty little conniving shit.
Blackadder features some big British names such as Brian Blessed, Steven Fry, and Miranda Richardson but Americans might be interested in season 3’s inclusion of Hugh Laurie. Yes, Hugh Laurie of House. While American audiences mostly know him looking something like this:
He got his start a little something more like this:
And people wonder why I just can’t take House too seriously. He’s pretty hilarious as both Prince George, Prince of Wales and also Lt. George C. St Bartleigh in the fourth season.
Speaking of costars, no Discussion of Blackadder would be complete without mentioning Tony Robinson as Baldrick. Where Blackadder is clean and intelligent, Baldrick is equally disgusting and dim witted. And where there is a Blackadder, there is always a Baldrick. He is famous for one of the series’ catchphrases, as when in trouble he often states that “I have a cunning plan.” In the first season Baldrick actully IS the more clever of the pair but the roles are reversed through the rest of the series.
In all, the series gets better and better as it goes along. The fourth season, Blackadder Goes Fourth, was voted the BBC’s 16th greatest British television program in 2000 (the series as a whole got #2 on the top British sitcoms in 04). The fifth iteration of Blackadder, Blackadder Goes Back and Forth, is a movie. While maybe not as great as season 4, it wraps the whole thing up to a satisfying conclusion. There’s been a few occasional words about further Blackadder projects but all have fallen through.
If you’re interested in checking out Blackadder there are several ways to go about it. First of all you could buy it. I’ve got the Complete Series and it’s pretty cool, it has all the episodes of course but also all the specials they produced as well. Netflix has the episodes available to rent as well and if you’re one of those terrible, dirty internet pirate types you could download it. Also if you just want a little taste there’s one or two good compilations of clips out thereon YouTube.
Well then, that’s all for our first edition of It’s British! Thanks for reading!