Friday, May 10, 2013

Day One Hundred and Thirty - Blackadder: Series 1, Episode 1, "Shakespeare for the really rather thick."

The Brits seem to have two sorts of comedy... subtle and damned straight-forward.

Blackadder occasionally tickles the former, but most often is entrenched in the latter, spewing forth obvious sarcasm and bald insults. In that, it very much is like theater, going for the direct method in reaching the funny bone.

The first series is set in medieval England in an alternate history where Richard III won Bosworth Field against Henry Tudor, but was beheaded as a common horsethief by the first Blackadder (who is always played by Rowan Atkinson). After quite a bit of panic, Edmund the Black Adder gains courage in the fact that he hasn't been found out in assassinating the king and plots to take the throne from his father, Richard IV (Brian Blessed), while he is off on a Crusade to the Holy Land.

Blackadder the First has Edmund starting out as a simpering coward who sort of grows into his malicious ways, becoming bolder but still prone to panic and easily discoverable lies and deceptions if anyone bothered to check. In later series he's purely an arrogant, sarcastic courtier who clearly deserves to be thwarted, but this first iteration actually gains my sympathy. Sure, I think he still deserves to have his schemes torn down around him, but his betters aren't all that sympathetic.

Also ever present are series mainstays Baldrick (Tony Robinson) and Lord Percy (Tim McInnerny) who are both a bit dim, though the former is always ready to support Blackadder's plots and the latter is too stupid to notice he's being taken advantage of.

I do like the series.

Sure, it hams up the Shakespeare quite a bit, particularly in this first episode where Peter Cook and Brian Blessed recite familiar lines with the occasional twist, but there's something fun about its simplistic humor. Rarely are the quips high comedy, but those that are please and aren't overshadowed by the lowbrow.

Production value-wise, Blackadder is your typical BBC fare for the era, ranking higher (at least, in my estimation) than Dr.Who. It's all dated, to be sure, but it is still fun in that dinner theater sort of fashion.

Don't get me wrong, though... the "dinner theater" bit isn't an insult. It's oddly great how rough it all is, even down to Peter Cook's green-screened head. There's just something quaint about the technical limitations that adds a sort of savor to the production.

I think Blackadder is one of those series that's best seen as a late-night, wind-down feature as you're getting ready for bed. It doesn't strain the brain or nerves and is suitably pleasing joke-wise. Not something that really gets you going, but good when you're dozing. It's certainly no Monty Python... but it ain't bad, really.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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