Blackadder is one of my favourite TV shows. It’s very rewatchable and features some of the wittiest, blackest dialogue to ever be let loose on the small screen. The biggest thing it probably had going for it though was the fact that it’s main character was a morally reprehensible villain – hating everyone, always looking to sell out his ‘friends’, always looking out for number 1 – which makes for hilarious television.
What also always made this so amusing was that he was surrounded by people completely in the dark on such matters, sometimes through virtue of a poor mind, sometimes through virtue of Blackadder’s own duplicity, and sometimes through both. Rowan Atkinson plays the character brilliantly, put Blackadder next to Mr. Bean and you have the two polar ends of repugnant behaviour stitched up completely.
The first series of Blackadder shows how the character came about (each series features a different Edmund from the Blackadder family throughout history)… Edmund is the second song of Richard IV, a king of medieval england who was written out of history by his successor, Henry Tudor. Edmund is a worm of a man, villainous and loathsome and (in this first series, at odds with his successors) not too bright. He is aided by his bird-brained friend Lord Percy Percy (Tim McInnery) and a somewhat clever servent, Baldrick (Tony Robinson).
This first series gets most of it’s mileage out of parodying Shakespeare and satirising the dark ages. Blackadder here is not the arch-villain he wants to be (and becomes in subsequent series), and Baldrick is not the hygenically unsound feeble-minded monkey seen in later series. This series is written by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral)… the real wit doesn’t come until series 2, where Ben Elton took over writing duties from Atkinson, but this series still remains a funny and squalid dust up of the middle ages with some amusing performances from Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnery and Brian Blessed (as the bellowing King Richard IV), and guest appearances from Miriam Margoyles, Jim Broadbent and Rik Mayall.