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A very cunning dynasty,
This review is from: The Complete Blackadder - All Four Series [DVD] (DVD)
The authors Richard Curtis and Ben Elton are well known to BBC audiences for their comedic masterwork, having been severally and individually part of the Vicar of Dibley, Mr. Bean, The Young Ones, The Man from Auntie. Rowan Atkinson, the lead actor in this series, also collaborated as writer and actor in other features such as Mr. Bean and the Thin Blue Line. John Lloyd was the producer who helped bring this series to life.
The Blackadder series, begun in the 1980s, was a comedic masterpiece set forth by Rowan Atkinson and his comrades. From start to finish, the first series was a masterstroke of wit, irony and comedic styling that fits both the contemporary and medieval situations perfectly. The combination of slapstick and intellectual humour blended well, and the literary types will not miss the occasional credit of William Shakespeare as a collaborating writer on some episodes -- this might well be the kind of comedy Shakespeare would have produced today.
The first series was set in the pre-Tudor royal family, projecting that Richard III won at Bosworth Field, and Richard IV succeeded him, until after many adventures, the entire royal family was done in, and Henry Tudor reworte history thereafter. The first series starred Brian Blessed and Elspet Gray as the King and Queen, and Robert East as their eldest son, the Prince of Wales. Rowan Atkinson played the second son, who with companions Percy and Baldrick (Tim McInnerny and Tony Robinson) create most of the comic scenes. BlackAdder variously becomes the Archbishop of Canterbury, the betrothed of the Spanish Infanta, a witch on trial, and finally, however briefly, King of England. There were six episodes of this series (as would be true for each of succeeding regular series years) - they included many attempts by Blackadder to take power, including the crown itself - something that would repeat in various manner over the subsequent years save the last. Both Tim McInnerny and Tony Robinson will recur as characters in later years; Baldrick is the only consistent major character besides Blackadder - in the first year, however, he is rather more clever than his future generations; indeed, in this first series, Baldrick is probably the most intelligent of the lot (a scary thing indeed!)
The second series sees Percy and Baldrick following a descendent of Blackadder in Elizabethan times; as befits the period, the characters are more vibrant and saucy, particularly Blackadder, who still seeks his fortune as one of the Queen's suitors. Here he variously becomes the royal executioner, a sea-faring discoverer, a bankrupt noble, and finally a traitor to the crown, albeit not without a sense of humour. Miranda Richardson puts in a spectacular performance as Queen Elizabeth, with Stephen Fry and Patsy Byrne in attendance. Stephen Fry will recur throughout the series.
In the third series, Blackadder is still close to the crown, as the butler of the Prince Regent, a despised position to a despised person. Baldrick is still around, and the Prince is played by Hugh Laurie, who will recur in the final series. Done almost as a period comedy, the very titles and situations pay hommage to the day of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Dr. Johnson's dictionary, and the conflict with France. Through an interesting set of circumstances, butler and prince trade places, and the Blackadder finally obtains his intended goal, albeit in the name of someone else.
In the fourth and final series, Blackadder has fallen from a great height, and is an officer in the trenches of World War I. Baldrick is still there, and Percy and the Prince have transformed into fellow field officers, with Stephen Fry playing a bellicose general here as he did Wellington in the third series. The main device of this series is the effort by Blackadder to escape the trenches, by variously becoming an artist, a theatre producer, a chef, but to no avail finally, producing a sombre end to the dynasty.
There are also various pieces of trivia, guides, and a Richard Curtis interview included among the discs. Rowan Atkinson and company are wonderful in their portrayals, perfect comedic timing and situational humour with just the right amount intelligent wit. A treat for all Anglophiles.