Non-Geek TV From The Geek Perspective: Blackadder

Gabbing Geek What We're Watching

There’s a lot of TV out there, and some of it is educational and funny.

This week, we’re covering the British comedy series Blackadder.


What’s the premise?

Each season of the series was set in a different time period, with the central character Edmund Blackadder and his personal servant Baldrick interacting with historic figures from British history and living very much in the times.  Blackadder’s intelligence fluctuates with the period, but he’ll generally be conniving against somebody.

What’s the appeal?

Series star/creator Rowan Atkinson is a highly talented comedic actor, and if you think he’s just Mr. Bean, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Blackadder.  Well, maybe not the first season.

Plus, a number of recognizable British comedic actors besides Robinson appear on the show from time to time.  You’ll never look at Dr. House the same way again.

Anything stand out?

As stated, each season is set in a different time period.  The first, which depicts Blackadder as a stupid, hopeless ninny, is set in the Middle Ages.  Baldrick seems to be the smart one there.

Season two is set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (as delightfully played by Miranda Richardson).  Blackadder is getting smarter while Baldrick is getting dumber.

Season three is set during the Regency period, where Blackadder is now a butler to the Prince Regent, a particularly dumb man played by Hugh Laurie.  Again, Blackadder seems to be getting smarter while Baldrick gets dumber.  Atkinson gets to really refine the character’s wit and sense of sarcasm, showcasing a character about as far removed from Mr. Bean as he could possibly get.

The final season is set during World War I, where Blackadder is a British officer in the trenches with Baldrick and another dumb guy named George played by Laurie.

And as good as Atkinson is in the title role, Tony Robinson as Baldrick is just as good.  These days, Robinson does a lot of work narrating historic documentaries in England.

There were also a few specials here and there with Blackadder in additional time periods.  Most are worth a look.

Any downsides?

The more you know about British history, the more you can appreciate some of the humor.  It’s not mandatory or anything, but it helps.

Truth be told, most seasons only run a few episodes, as is the British tradition, and most of them end poorly for Blackadder.  I won’t say anything more than that.

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