Saturday, 18 February 2017
608 The Black Adder /Blackadder II / Blackadder the Third / Blackadder Goes Forth
First viewed : 15 June 1983
I can't find any definite confirmation of this but I think the first episode of this was broadcast on the the day of my last A Level exam ( History , appropriately enough ) and therefore my last day at school.
I remember it was in the afternoon and finished around 3-30. Afterwards, some of us mooched around the Sixth Form Centre, hesitant to make the final break although in my case ( and perhaps one or two others ) there was a practical incentive to wait another half hour for the school bus which would take me directly back to Littleborough for free. This led to an unfortunate little incident. The huddle started breaking up and an early driver called John Bradley , never a great friend but he'd matured a lot during the sixth form, offered me a lift into town. As this meant Rochdale and the need to catch an ordinary bus on to Littleborough I just said "Nah" without bothering to explain why. "Sod off then you ungrateful bastard !" was the perhaps predictable response. And so my school days ended on a sour note.
The Black Adder was eagerly anticipated as the first TV vehicle for Rowan Atkinson since the demise of Not The Nine O Clock News a year earlier. It placed him in a counter-factual scenario where the fictional character of Edmund Plantagenet, younger son of Richard Duke of York, one of the Princes in the Tower mistakenly slays Richard III after his victory at Bosworth and thus makes his father the king as Richard IV. Written by Atkinson ( his only series as a writer ) and Richard Curtis , it was expensively filmed on location and parodies a number of medieval themes and events such as dynastic marriages, church-state conflicts and religious relics ( the appearance of Joan of Arc's boobs is in shocking taste; I wonder if that's been altered in the French releases ).
Edmund is a snivelling, cowardly figure often forgotten by his father ( played with scenery-gnawing relish by Brian Blessed ) but in fact unworthy of his love anyway. He has to rely upon faithful servant Baldric ( Tony Robinson, then best known for a stint on Play Away ) to get by, hindered by the fabulously stupid Lord Percy ( Tim McInerny ) . Peter Cook made a guest appearance as Richard III.
Though quite well received at the time, the series has come to be regarded as the runt in the litter when compared to its successors. No doubt this suits Ben Elton as it's the only one in which he didn't have a hand in the writing. It isn't consistently funny but I would argue you could say that about some of the others.
Michael Grade delayed commissioning a follow-up due to the cost and insisted future series were studio-bound. Blackadder II eventually emerged in 1986 with Blackadder now a somewhat nobler Elizabethan courtier scheming just to stay alive in the treacherous politics of the time. Baldric and Percy remained in situ as descendants of their original characters . Elton came on board as a writer which also meant the involvement of Fry and Laurie. Fry had a major part in the series as Blackadder's rival Melchett and was one of the reasons I largely stayed away from it.
I did watch Blackadder the Third through and enjoyed it. This had Blackadder as the clever butler having to do the thinking for the brainless Prince Regent played by Hugh Laurie. Baldric remained in place but not Percy as McInerny was fearful of being typecast and only appeared as a different character in a guest role.
I don't think I saw any of the last series Blackadder Goes Forth but the reasons for that now evade me.