Tuesday, March 31, 2015

TV Review: Black Adder Series 1 (1983)

Black Adder Series 1 (1983) created by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis

I started watching Black Adder back in merry old England since it was available on instant streaming. The story is about a scheming English prince from the middle ages, Edmund the Duke of Edinburgh (Rowan Atkinson). History is a bit different here--Richard III's nephews didn't die in the tower (Edmund is one of them); both Richard III and Henry VII die at Bosworth Field, leaving Richard's brother the king. Edmund is the younger son but a prophecy by three witches claims he will be king one day. Edmund schemes to make the prophecy come true. He decides to be the worst villain ever so he calls himself "The Black Adder." With two henchmen he tries to cause mayhem and overthrow the crown. The King is played by Brian Blessed in a very broad comic performance. The king is barely aware of his son Edmund (he often refers to him with the wrong name) mostly because of the older son. All sorts of courtly shenanigans (in one episode the king wants to make an alliance and tries to marry Edmund off to a Spanish princess who is not at all attractive) and medieval tomfoolery (Edmund is accused of witchcraft in another episode) are the natural result.

The show is funny but not without flaws. Brian Blessed's king seems almost like a cartoon character, though many of the plots are over the top as well. The middle ages look very Monty Pythonesque. The end of the series is surprisingly downbeat and makes me wonder how they had further series. On the other hand, Atkinson is good at being conniving and incompetent at the same time, a fun combination. The writing is clever and inventive. The theme song is great fun. I don't think I'd watch it again but I would watch other series.

Here's the theme song (even though it says it's the series 1 ending, it doesn't spoil anything):

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