Jun 22, 2018

[TV] Blackadder II Review

As a long time Monty Python fan, one of the shows that is frequently recommended as related is Blackadder, a quirky multi-generation comedy series set throughout British history. It wasn't until I noticed that some of the series were available on iflix that I finally made some time to start watching.

It's a little tricky trying to explain what the show is about given the different series are set across various time periods. Blackadder II is set during the Elizabethan era but still follows the same family as the first series, The Black Adder.

The show features quite the notable cast of comedic talents that are really big names now but may not have been quite as big then, as in during the time of the original airing of the series. The show has a pretty loose plot and feels more like a weird period sitcom more than anything else. Things aren't exactly accurate down to the last historical detail, but you don't need that level of precision for good comedy.

Synopsis: Blackadder II is a BBC period sitcom created by Richard Curtis & Ben Elton. The series is a sequel to The Black Adder where the protagonist is related to the original Black Adder.

The protagonist in the series is Edmund, who is Lord Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) and is the great-grandson of the original Black Adder from the first series. He's a member of the aristocracy but shares the same tendencies towards trying to plot and scheme his way towards an even better status in life. By his side he has two less-than-intelligent companions in the form of his servant Baldrick (Tony Robinson) and Lord Percy (Tim McInnerny), heir to the Duchy of Northumberland.

His plots tend to center around currying favor with the often immature and childish Queen Elizabeth I (Miranda Richardson) while in competion with Lord Melchett (Stephen Fry), who is the Queen's Lord Chamberlain. And for comic relief (as if everyone wasn't crazy and funny enough), the Queen's entourage also includes Nursie (Patsy Bryne), her nurse.

What I Liked: As crazy and silly the series may seem on the surface, the show has a lot of clever writing worked into show. I have a healthy respect for the craft that goes into writing comedy and this show is a great example of how even the silliest characters need good direction in order to delivery a truly memorable performance time and time again.

And the cleverness goes beyond just making you laugh but doing so in a smart manner. The show includes a lot of overt and subtle references to the plays of William Shakespeare beyond the fact that he's actually alive during this same period. But beyond references various works are turned into clever jokes and puns and it's all good laughs.

What Could Be Better: That said the show can be very, very silly and the constancy of characters does not mean you have an actual plot or story linking things or giving your brain something to use as guidance. You have Queen Elizabeth being quite the brat and her court being oddly small and all that weird stuff. But that's just how the show is setup and you kind of go and roll with it but it can be quite strange as well.

It's also hard to appreciate how Lord Blackadder is to get anything done as he's quite self-sabotaging. It's what drives the copy of course and it argues that you don't have to be smart to become an aristocrat but it also feels rather odd at times.

TL;DR: Blackadder II is an odd duck but it shows something rather brilliant in twisting these sort of period shows into something a lot more compelling and interesting. It's a different kind of funny that's hard to explain or even replicate but all I can say is that it's precisely the sort of humor that tickles my funny bone the most. Thus the series gets a great 4 plans that backfire on Blackadder out of a possible 5.

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