Black Adder History is a very subjective subject within the confines of this more retroactive and modern age. Well, lets face it, have you every seen a recent period drama? They are more like a porno than a pastiche. Unlike this 60-minute documentary made by the BBC in 2009, Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, and Stephen Fry.

Black Adder

Just like a twisty-turney thing, twisting and turning amidst a hurricane next to a live volcano, this one-hour special chronicles the history of one the greatest television sitcoms ever to grace the screens of not so Great Britain – 'Blackadder'.

Now to help pontificate this program in all of its pious praise, there’s tones of video footage, voice over narration by some fat bloke called John Sergeant, as well as pre-recorded interviews from the likes of Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Hugh Laurie, Rik Mayall, Stephen Fry, and others I care not to mention.

Here is a rough break down on how this feature plays out.

  • THE CUSHION AND THE COMIC: When Richard Curtis first met Rowan Atkinson at university, Richard thought to himself that Rowan was nothing more than a funny looking pillow, dawdling upon a chair. He did not know that Rowan was funny. He did not know that Rowan would go on and win great accolades at the Edinburgh Fringe, and star in ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’. And Richard defiantly did not know that he would work with Rowan on a sitcom, that was meant to be nothing like ‘Faulty Towers’, and more like Errol Flynn in ‘Robin Hood’.
  • FIRST, BUT MAYBE THE LAST: The first series of Blackadder was a troubling time for all the people associated with this sitcom. Rowan was worried about his character. Richard did not think that the scripts were as focused. The producer, John Lloyd, did not appreciate the harsh climate recording in Scotland, plus the reviewers distaste for this Medical spoof. However, fellow cast members, Tony Robinson and Tim McInnerny, liked one scene in this show, because it did show some promise of what was to come.
  • NUMBER TWO’S WITH A TWIST: Thankfully, due to Rowan’s agent, a second series of Blackadder was allowed be made, but only if things improved on what had come previously. And did it? Hell yes! Because: (1) The series was going to be set in Tudor times. (2) The character of Blackadder was massaged into something much more suiting to Rowan’s sardonic wit. (3) ‘The Young Ones’ co-script writer, Ben Elton, was brought in to assist Richard on writing duties. (4) Miranda Richardson and Stephen Fry were hired to give this series an extra dimension. And (5) It was bloody funny.
  • THIRD TIMES THE CHARM: Now things changed slightly for Blackadder with its third series. For a start, the main cast was more compact, and included Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, and Hugh Laurie as the leads. Plus, in addition to this, this series was going to be set in Georgian times, and become more class based - similar in vein and style than the proceeding series - just with more funnier wigs.
  • FOURTH IN A HAIL OF SMOKE: The final series of Blackadder was set in the trenches of the World War 1, and had a much darker, desolate, and claustrophobic quality about it. Still, that is not to say that this was not as funny. Because not only did the likes of Tim McInnerny, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson, and Rik Mayall, return to play slightly perverted parts as they did before – but also – it had a congenial and aspiring tone as well, which has made it one of the most talked about sitcoms ever since.

One night, when I was a young lad, I remember going to bed, and watching a spot of television before I drifted off to sleep. Now this was just something that I always used to do every night – just to while away the evening, before the following days schooling. However, this night in question, something strange happened to me. No! I did not get my first erection! Or, for that matter, did I start watching late night porn! Instead, I watched a program that made me laugh so much, that it would change the way that I thought about sitcoms for years to come.

That program was called ‘Blackadder’.

Rowan talking about Black Adder

Granted, I am sure that many people have had a similar experience than me. Though, can they say that this then made them want to grow a beard, prance about in black leather tights and a ruff, hit people, and become a complete and utter b*stard? No – I am sure they cannot. Still, it did for me.

Well? Until my mother gave me a slap across the face, and told me never to do that again.

And do you know what? This documentary has brought it all back to me – the way I felt – the fun I had – and the obsession I had to tune in every week, same time, same day, same channel, to see Blackadder, Baldrick, and the rest, make me piss myself with laughter.

Black Adder Goes Forth
Hmmm – that is probably why I know so much about this series? (1) Peter Cook, Brian Blessed, Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer, Robbie Coltrane, Jim Broadbent, Miriam Margolyes, and many other British actors, had cameos in this series seven year history. (2) Ben Elton and Richard Curtis wrote for ‘Spitting Image’. (3) Because the first series was shot on location, when the second series was finally approved, it came with one proviso – record in a studio only. (4) The vocal’s at the end of the second series what that of the composers, Howard Goodall. (5) Patsy Byrne, who played Nursie in the second series, starred in ‘I Claudius’ – which the opening title sequence of the second series was a pastiche off [i.e. the snake].  (6) The pilot episode of ‘The Blackadder’ was recorded but never aired. (7) There have been three Blackadder specials recoded for television, which are ‘The Cavalier years’ [produced for charity], ‘Christmas Carol’ [click here for review], and ‘Back and Forth’ [developed by Sky television]. Plus, two others performances by Royal demand. (8) The last scene in ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ was enhanced greatly, because it was initially deemed a failure. (9) ‘Blackadder the Second’ was voted the best sitcom of all time by the people of Britain. (10) Tim McInnerny was supposed to play the prince in ‘Blackadder the Third’, but turned it down – Hugh Laurie didn’t. (10) Blackadder does not sport a beard in ‘Blackadder the Third’, because Rowan Atkinson's girlfriend hated it. (11) In ‘Blackadder goes forth’ Tim McInnerny's character was originally named Captain Cartwright – Stephen Fry had the idea to change it to Darling. And (12) I have quoted Blackadder lines more than I have quoted the Bible.

Now do you think that am I am a bit too obsessed with ‘Blackadder’? And take a guess if I loved this f*cking brilliant documentary about it? Go on – guess. Or else...

Class documentary about a class program. Though my review was mad as Mad McMacMad, the winner of the maddest mad man competition for four years running.


BLACKADDER RIDES AGAIN BLACKADDER RIDES AGAIN Reviewed by David Andrews on March 13, 2012 Rating: 5
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