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.

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