Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"The Most Gripping Comedy Since 1380"

After years of searching, I've finally found it: the complete Blackadder series for under $100. Ah, yes. "Blackadder", the crowning achievement of Rowan Atkinson's career, though his work as Zazu in The Lion King is a close second.

"Blackadder" is a British sitcom, or "britcom", written by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis that started its run in 1983. In the first season, called The Black Adder, Rowan Atkinson stars as Lord Edmund, Duke of Edinburgh. In this version of history, King Richard III wins the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field, is accidentally killed by Lord Edmund, and then succeeded by Richard IV. From here, we see cowardly, useless Edmund try all manner of schemes to wrest power from his more kingly father. In the process, he gives himself the name the Black Adder, hoping to seem scarier.

The rest of the series follows Lord Edmund's similarly dissatisfied descendants through the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the late 18th century, and World War I. It's during Blackadder II that we meet the Blackadder we love: devastatingly sarcastic and smarter than everyone around him. In Blackadder III, watch Hugh Laurie in powder, hose, and a ridiculous wig playing Percy, the idiot Prince of Wales. His first appearance, however, is in a second season episode as the German Prince Ludwig, whose sadism is comically undercut by a speech impediment. Laurie is hilarious. More hilarious on "Blackadder" than on "House," you could argue.

When I started watching Blackadder in the 7th grade, I caught it on PBS at about 11:00 on Friday nights. I immediately fell in love with Rowan Atkinson's deadpan delivery of some of the most biting insults I'd ever heard. Of course, now that I'm older I love it--and understand it--that much more. He has a unique ability to poke fun at the British, other Europeans, and life in general in just the right ways.

In June, Digitalspy reported that Rowan Atkinson turned down an invitation to do special interviews for the 25th anniversary DVD, with a friend saying only that Atkinson is "a private person". How you do a special edition without the main character who's still alive is beyond me, but I guess BBC knows what it's doing. There's also a rumor that the show may come back in 2010.

I'll leave you with a clip for now. Here, Edmund holds two parties in his house at once. One for his Puritan relatives and one for a more lively bunch.

I couldn't find a place online to watch the episodes, but if you know of something, please let me and other fans of the show know. It's a shame the show isn't more popular in the States, but then again, look how well people like Adam Sandler do at the box office.

Blackadder on Wikipedia
Episode guides, background, etc. on BBC

1 comment:

  1. Dude. Laurie plays Prince GEORGE of Wales in Blackadder III. Percy is Blackadder's "pal" in Blackadder II.

    Check what you write.


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