Before Rowan Atkinson became famous in the U.S as Mr. Bean, and before legions of fans thought Hugh Laurie was an American because of House, both starred in one of the more legendary comedy series in BBC history: Black Adder.
Black Adder is a collection of tales following Prince Edmund Blackadder (Atkinson) and his descendants (also Atkinson) through differing generations. Starting in medieval times and going through World War I, Edmund always has his trusty assistant Baldrick (Tony Robinson) and an idiot of similar social stature (Tim McInnerny and later Laurie). The series, which consists of six episodes per season, follows Edmund as he schemes with “cunning” plans to allow him to seize a higher level of power and prestige then he currently has, inevitably failing with disastrous results. And it’s remarkably funny on a regular basis because of the switches in time period.
As each Edmund comes through the years, he manages to lose stature and gain intelligence and guile. And yet despite all of this, he always manages to foul things up royally. In the end, Edmund is always an amusing character to watch because Atkinson is just so good as Blackadder through the generations. This would be one of his signature roles and Atkinson gets it from the very beginning; he is Blackadder in the same manner that John Cleese is Basil Fawlty or Hugh Laurie is Gregory House. He understands the character immediately and there’s no growth into it. And it continues with later versions of Edmund Blackadder as well, as the different eras give the same Blackadder but with some nuances that give each version their own unique quality.
What also makes Adder the series so interesting is that you get a snapshot of British history through the eyes of a buffoon. Edmund schemes and connives with historical figures throughout history, giving us a unique vantage point from which to start looking at that particular aspect of history. We get to see the trenches of World War I and the courts of Elizabeth, and the various points between.
The excellent thing about this DVD set is that you get everything involving Blackadder, including all the Christmas specials and the documentary about the series Blackadder Rides Again. This is everything Blackadder and we’re all the better for it.
Presented in a full screen format with Dolby digital surround, the series has been cleaned up since its original broadcast. It still shows age and grain from over the years, but has been cleaned up significantly.
There are Commentary Tracks scattered throughout the set.
Extended Interviews with everyone involved in the series are included. Most of them give some insight, but the most fascinating one is from Hugh Laurie. Hearing him use his natural, British accent as opposed to the American one he uses for House seems odd in the same way Christian Bale using his natural Welsh accent is.
For a couple days of continuously top notch British humor, watching the collected works of the Blackadderseries is worth the time.
BBC presents Blackadder Remastered (The Ultimate Edition). Starring Tony Robinson, Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie. Running time: 895 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: October 20, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Hugh Laurie, rowan atkinson