Many great men have played a part in shaping Britain’s noble heritage. Others ended up on the dungheap. Edmund Blackadder is one of the latter. From coward to cad and back again, Edmund surfaces in the medieval, Tudor, Georgian, Dickensian and World War I eras, where he seriously lowers the tone with his smelly servant, Baldrick (Tony Robinson, My Wonderful Life), and an assortment of cunning plans and serpentine banter.
I just recently reviewed Fawlty Towers calling it one of the best British comedies I had ever seen. Now, I introduce you to the best British comedy I have ever seen – Blackadder. As a child of the 80’s this series is hands down the wittiest, most sarcastic, most brilliant show that has ever graced television with its presence. You may think you know Rowan Atkinson because of his character in another well known British series – Mr. Bean – but you don’t know Atkinson until you’ve seen Blackadder.
The re-release of the series, The Ultimate Edition, includes all four glorious seasons along with a ton of commentaries, a 60 minute documentary, exclusive extended interviews with the cast, Baldrick’s Video Diary, BlackAdder’s Christmas Carol, Blackadder The Cavalier Years,Blackadder Back and Forth, and so much more.
Each season covers a different era of Edmund Blackadder and touches on various important eras of British history as well. The Blackadder line is also entwined with their servants, the Baldrick family. Baldrick, played by Tony Robinson, is a complete idiot in the entire series – and Blackadder doesn’t hesitate to call him on it. In fact, it appears that everyone surrounding Blackadder seems to be inferior to his level of intelligence – Thus making deflating egos and the pretensions of those around him a rather easy and hilarious task.
While this entire series is brilliant, it’s the 2-4 seasons that are the strongest in my opinion with the peak of the series being Blackadder The Third. This third season stars Hugh Laurie (known mostly as Dr. House to the US audience) as Prince George. The most painfully funny episode to watch is ‘Ink and Incapability’ where Blackadder must rewrite the first edition of the dictionary in merely 2 days. Baldrick throws in a honest effort at assisting Blackadder in this mission by doing the letters C and D. Blackadder shows his lack of faith in Baldrick but encourages him to go and tell him what he’s coming up with.
Baldrick: I’ve done “C” and “D.”
Blackadder: Right. Let’s have it, then.
Baldrick: Right. “Big blue wobbly thing that mermaids live in.”
Blackadder: What’s that?
Blackadder: Yes. Tiny misunderstanding. Still, my hopes weren’t high. Oh, and “D?”
Baldrick: I’m quite pleased with “dog.”
Blackadder: Yes, and your definition of “dog” is?
Baldrick: “Not a cat.”
The entire series is comprised of hilarious dialogue between the series regulars Blackadder and Baldrick. The first season however, The Black Adder, lacks the humor and wit of its later editions. I’m not sure why the original tone in the series was so different than the following seasons – but I’m definitely glad that decision was made to do something different after season one.
Another episode well worth mentioning is from Blackadder Goes Forth in the episode ‘Captain Cook’. This season takes place during World War I where Blackadder is actually a Captain stationed in the trenches of the Western Front. In an effort to get to safe grounds and avoid getting shot, Blackadder determines his way out is through a painting competition for ‘King And Country’ magazine. When Blackadder wins the contest – he doesn’t exactly get the reward he was hoping for. Hugh Laurie is also back in this season as Lieutenant George.
As someone who already owns two copies of the complete series of Blackadder, one may argue that I don’t need another set to add to the collection. But I beg to differ. If you’ve seen Blackadder then you understand, and while the humor may not be for everyone – those that do appreciate it will remember the witty retorts and sarcastic banter for a lifetime. It’s a brilliant show and a must have collection.
Review by Emma Loggins