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on 23 January 2013
Quite simply the definitive guide to the much loved comedy series. The making of each incarnation is discussed in detail from the unscreened pilot, through The Black Adder, Black Adder 2, Blackadder the 3rd up to Blackadder Goes Forth taking in the specials; Blackadder's Christmas Carol, Blackadder the Cavalier Years and Blackadder Back and Forth (which none of those involved seem to like).
There is information on why this particular period was chosen for spoofing, which characters were originally intended for different actors e.g. Tony Robinson was always intended to play Baldrick but when the pilot shoot was delayed and he was unavailable Philip Fox took the role (for the pilot only). Also there were what you might call "double acts" such as Miriam Margolyes and Jim Broadbent (Queen of Spain and her translator series 1), Mark Arden and Stephen Frost (guards series 1), considered succesful in series 1 had roles more or less written for them which had to be recast when one was not available. E.G. Arden returned to play another guard in series 2 but Frost was unavailable. Lord and Lady Whiteadder were intended for both Miriam & Jim but in the event only Miriam was available. When it came to Christmas Carol, the chance to reunite them as Victoria and Albert was taken.
There are in addition to well known tales such as how series 2 had to scale down budget and how Rik Mayall wanted to have better lines than Atkinson for Flashheart, lesser known stories and information. Examples are how the latest Bishop of Bath and Wells was the subject of baby eating jokes, people still stopping Miriam Margolyes in the street requesting she slaps them crying "wicked child" how Wilfrid Brambell walked off the set in series 1 and who Brian Blessed wanted to play in series 2.

We also get a brief look at Royal Variety type skits which many readers won't have seen and for these script excerpts are included.

There is information on the road to Blackadder I.E. how key players came to be writers, actors, producer and the genesis of Blackadder. Similarly there is information on projects they worked on between and after Adders and what may be considered Adder inspired projects e.g. Tony Robinson's Maid Marion and her Merry Men.

If there is an unsuccessful portion to the book then perhaps it's the attempt to place each incarnation in historical context which doesn't work well.

The author interviewed key players like Rowan Atkinson, Tim McInnnerney, Tony Robinson, Rik Mayall, Stephen Fry, Brian Blessed, writers Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, producer John Lloyd and others.

We round up with a look at the Adders that never were ( a big bonus is script excerpts for an xmas special Blackadder in Bethlehem which never got off the ground) and the most frequently quoted/popular suggestions for where to go if it ever returned. One of the most popular (amongst the cast)is Blackadder and Co in a Colditz style camp.

The conclusion is there could be more Adders one day but it's probably something not to count on.

If you love the series, you'll love this book.
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on 24 October 2012
I'm one of the generation who grew up with Blackadder, still love re-watching it and find myself quoting it frequently with my equally die-hard fan buddies. Probably I'm JF Roberts' perfect nightmare in terms of a reader... I shall now try to review it without ruining it for the rest of you.
I LOVED this book. It did absolutely everything it promised on the cover. It *was* a full history, not only giving the biographies of the actors and creative team but also a firm grounding of the comic and social culture which gave rise to Blackadder. It then went on to drill down into each series, how they were created from the writing through to how the performances evolved. There's lots of new interviews and plenty of facts - like another reviewer, I am sure this a book I shall go back to again and again.
Probably what I liked best was the author's tone - clearly Roberts is a fan too and approached the work with joy, passion and humour which really shine through.
Just buy it, you'll be glad you did. And if you're fan too, you'll find it makes you watch again with a whole next level of appreciation and enjoyment.
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on 7 February 2013
This fantastic book documents a period of comedy that I grew up on and maintain an unhealthy fascination with, and I still found myself learning many new things.

Tautly written with a nice framing device, Mr JF Roberts takes us through the creation of the series, and the development of its successive incarnations. Reading about the tortuous rehearsal process, and hearing how it still rankles with the stars, writers, directors and producers after all these years, you get an insight into why this series was so good.

What's more, there's an exhaustive examination of what each and every person was up to between series, thus providing a great history of television comedy throughout the final decades of the 20th century.

You should read it.
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VINE VOICEon 16 October 2012
The book begins with a rough biography of each of the main actors, writers and producers of the show. You are then, for the remainder of the book, treated to a combination of brief era introductions on how the "chronicles" of the Blackadder fit in with history and then the actual tales of how the shows were put together by those involved. You also get snippets of what each actor and writer was doing between series. The biggest problem with this book for me was that a reasonably large percentage of the quotes and dialogue had been used in the UK Gold programme on the making of Blackadder so I had heard a lot of it before. However, it is still well-written, has plenty of new stuff like the dialogue from scenes that were cut-out. A decent read for any fan of one of the greatest ever sitcoms.
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on 21 October 2012
Let me start by saying, I am not a die hard Blackadder fan, but like any normal human who experienced 80s TV first hand it has a firm place in my heart. I was recommended this book for a holiday read by a journalist friend, who also happens to review literature for a well known tabloid. With my holiday coming up, how could I resist?
My friend was spot on the money. It is obvious that the author has spent years studying the Blackadder series and cast and the result is a well-rounded and yet surprisingly easy read that can be picked up and put down to suit your current pace of life. Which, as my friend rightly pointed out, is exactly what you need for a holiday book. If you have plenty of time to wallow in new historical Blackadder fact then you can get lost in the book for hours. Or if you have a 30 minute bus journey then you can certainly absorb a handful of pages for a quick fix.
I learnt an awful lot from this and I reckon in a couple of years I will enjoy reading it again, when I have no doubt forgotten it all.
An easy to recommend book that will shed new light on the lovely Blackadder people, along with the shows journey of development, all the while tickling you with nostalgia. Pick it up today, it wont disappoint.
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on 31 October 2017
I am enjoying the book but it is not exactly what I'd hoped it was.
It gives mini bios of the main cast and crew, telling us how and where they met. Then some of their thoughts on the show and various teething troubles in production with some good quotes and anecdotes.

The focus seems to be on the people. I was hoping for more behind the scenes of the show itself.
Like I wanted to find out about why certain people were cast, and if there were alternate versions that were never shot or aired, and where ideas for the stories came from and how they evolved.
There is a bit of that, but it doesn't seem to be the focus.
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on 7 February 2014
If, like me, you adore Blackadder, then you have to read this book.

Mr Roberts writes in a style that could easily be part of one of the scripts. It is easy to engage with and flows nicely.

A must for all General Haig's Wife's tennis partners and some chap I bumped into in the mess called Bernard.
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on 7 November 2012
As a biography of a TV sitcom it is worthy of a place on anyone's bookshelf who has more than a passing interest in both the show itself and TV in the eighties, however I do agree with a previous review that the author relies heavily on previously released interviews which leads to a feeling of having read it all before. There is also a lack of any real behind the scenes stories relating in particular to the first series. The author really should have delved a little deeper and spoken to those involved personally (or where he has, at least at greater length) to really dig out the tales rather than fall back on material already available to the fans. That said it still collects all that is known and gives it a home under one binding and also teases us with a previously unreleased part script for Black Adder in Bethlehem...
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on 6 November 2014
Love it! Totally reliving the Bladder days and loads of excellent details.
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on 14 November 2012
I did enjoy this book, it was a great reminiscence about one of my favourite TV shows ever. I had seen 'Blackadder Rides Again' so it was a bit of a repeat but in fairness there was much more to it than just a direct copying of the script from the programme.

If I was critical then I would say that it was perhaps a little long and I did get bored with the historical family tree bits of the Blackadders which luckily got shorter as the series progressed.

I have to admit to having a tear in my eye when reading about the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, who honestly can watch that and not feel some emotion about the craziness of the situation and the desperate waste of human life, but Geoffrey Palmer's bit as Field Marshall Haig always amuses me - such a dichotomy!

Certainly recommended, highly enjoyable.
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