The entire second series of hit TV show 'Blackadder'. Written and devised by Richard Curtis ('Four Weddings and a Funeral') and Ben Elton, it stars Rowan Atkinson as the slimy courtier who - with the help and hindrance of his witless sidekick Baldrick (Tony Robinson) - tries to wheedle his way into the affections of Queen Elizabeth I (Miranda Richardson). The episodes included are: 'Bells', 'Head', 'Potato', 'Money', 'Beer' and 'Chains'.
Although now regarded as the opening salvo of a classic series, the original Blackadder
series was not considered a great success, either among critics or many viewers, so a major rethink took place when it was recommissioned. On the writing front, future-Four Weddings And A Funeral
scribe Richard Curtis was joined by Ben Elton, while the expensive War of the Roses-era sets were replaced by cosier Elizabethan ones. The most important change, however, was with Rowan Atkinson's eponymous character who, in the first series, had been a fairly weak-willed idiot but now emerged as the familiar Machiavellian fiend which would cement Atkinson's place in the pantheon of great British sitcom actors. Moreover, even if so many of the script's lines have been subsequently ripped off by lesser hands that it can't help but occasionally sound dated, the central performances of Atkinson, Tony Robinson (Baldrick), Tim McInnery (Lord Percy), Stephen Fry (Lord Melchett) and, of course, Miranda Richardson as the childishly psychotic Queen Elizabeth ("I love it when you get cross. Sometimes I think about having you executed just to see the expression on your face") remain note perfect. Yet the real pleasure for viewers may be in rediscovering the raft of excellent guest star performances--not least Tom "Doctor Who" Baker's berserk turn as a literally legless old sea dog given to guzzling his own urine long before the drinking water has run out. --Clark Collis