Whatever's cool with me...

Whatever's cool with me...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blackadder: Greatest anti-hero/historical sitcom ever!

In the wake of my reviews on the 'talky movies' genre, my dear wife commented that I've explicitly missed to mention Blackadder as one of the most influential/greatest talky sitcom/TV series of our time. Of course, these were not considered as movies (though the one-off TV special did run for more than an hour, thus may qualify it as a made-for-TV-movie). But what exactly is Blackadder? It didn't quite exactly reach the mass audience here in Malaysia (didn't make it to prime time slot), tho' it did have ample screening time (albeit through late night slots) on our very own cable TV some time back.
I am very sure that on average, most of the audiences here prefer a straight-up/balls-out comedy sitcoms rather than talkative/implicit-read-'tween-the-lines-dialogue series. But for those few who seeked alternatives means of laughing our hearts out aka smart/intelligent dialogues layered with sarcastic tones, then this acclaimed gut-wrenching British TV series would be the perfect answer.
A little bit of introduction to the series. Blackadder encompasses four series of an acclaimed BBC One historical sitcom, along with several one-off instalments/TV-movies. The series starred Rowan Atkinson (which many would affectionately know as Mr Bean from the Mr Bean (duhhh..) TV series) as the eponymous/protagonistic anti-hero, Edmund Blackadder, and Tony Robinson as his sidekick/dogsbody, Baldrick.
The lives (series) of each of the Blackadders are also accompanied with their servants, all from the Baldrick family line (ALL played by Tony Robinson). Each generation acts as the dogsbody (man-servant/man-slave) to their respective Blackadder. They go through a massive deterioration in intelligence level (and also in personal hygiene standards) just as their masters' intellect increases as each series progresses . Each Blackadder and Baldrick are also 'blessed' with the company of a dim-witted aristocrat whose presence Blackadder must somehow tolerate and live with (unwillingly). This role was taken in the first two series by Lord Percy Percy (Tim McInnerny), in the third series by Prince George, Regent of Wales (Hugh Laurie), and in the fourth by Lieutenant George (also played by Hugh Laurie).

Each series was set in a different period of English history, beginning in 1485 and ending in 1917 (with a one-off 1999 special set in the then-present day) comprising six half-hour episodes within each time period.

Blackadder was voted the second best British sitcom of all time, only topped by Only Fools and Horses. Empire Magazine ranked Blackadder as the 20th Best TV Show of All Time. And God knows how many time the series has been voted TV's Best Sitcom in Britain alone throughout the years.

Uniqely, each series is set in a different time era, all follow the fortunes (or rather, misfortunes) of Edmund Blackadder (the main protagonist (Atkinson), who in each is a member of an English family dynasty that existed at many significant periods and places in British history. Although the character starts as being low in IQ and having minimal intelligence in the first series, he gradually becomes smarter and more perceptive through each passing generation (while decreasing in social status).

Each of the Blackadder is a cynical, cowardly opportunist concerned only with maintaining and increasing his own status and fortunes, regardless of his surroundings and how others will react to his behaviours. In each series, he is cynical and often takes advantage of the stupidity of those around him, and pokes fun at ludicrous and often ridiculous events in history (such as the medieval religious witch hunts and the petty whims and insanities of various members of the British monarchs to the horrific time in the trenches during World War I).

In my opinion (and my wife's), the great thing about watching the series is that one needs to concentrate hard (read between the lines) on the dialogues, sarcastic tones and gestures of the characters to capture the essence of the comedic elements. And of course, the level of English portrayed by the actors are superb. I've actually read somewhere that Oxford University actually uses clips from the series to teach English at their language faculty.
Another great thing about the series is that the script employs quick witted dark comedy and excellent use of dialogue and character. In my opinion, these are several (out of many more!) great & memorable quotes which fans shall remember from the series:

"I have a plan....a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel!"
"A man may fight for many things. His country, his friends, his principles, the glistening tear on the cheek of a golden child. But personally, I'd mud-wrestle my own mother for a ton of cash, an amusing
clock and a sack of French porn."

"Your services might be as useful as a barber’s shop on the steps of a guillotine!"

"To you Baldrick, the Renaissance was just something that happened to other people wasn't it."
"As cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University..."

"My dear life without you is like a broken pencil... pointless"
"I'm thick. I'm as thick as the big print version of the Complete Works of Charles Dickens."
"Socks are like sex - tons of it about, and i never seem to have any!"
"You're about as useful as a one-legged man at an arse kicking contest."

"No, sir. Making a copy is like fitting wheels to a tomato, time consuming and completely unnecessary."

"I feel like a pelican, where ever I turn, there is an enormous bill in front of me!"
(on actors): "You mean they actually rehearse? I thought they just got drunk, stuck on silly hats and trusted to luck."
And who could resist NOT laughing whenever Blackadder has a mental block/lack of ideas, Baldrick almost immediately offers his help by saying:
"Don't worry my lord.....I have a CUNNING plan!".....
Sheer genius....you don't get to see many comedy sitcoms like this nowadays!

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darthmental said...

haha. nice bro. gonna look for this one.

ni cam monty phyton gak ke?

The Rebel said...

Yeah, something like monthy python.....that one is cool jugak! I love Eric Idle's comedy as well!! Try to look for "The Rutles"....a mock parody of The Beatles....heheheheh.

Get the box set for Blackadder bro.......u won't regret it.....cari kat Sg Wang jer...hehehehehe...

LEon said...

I like some of these series especially the WWII ones.