Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Should the Beeb resurrect Blackadder?

With a tip of the hat to new blog Sir Humphrey's I read that the BBC are considering resurrecting the classic comedy Blackadder.

As it remains one of my favorite comedies of all time, I am in two minds about this. A few years ago I eagerly awaited the last reunion in 1999, Back and Forth, only to find few genuine laughs watching the result. Although I have not seen Back and Forth for a few years, it appeared to me to depend on cheap gags (such as the Roman skirts) at the expense of a witty script. And to my mind, a key essence of Blackadder was a well written witty script, given depth by historical allusions and cheap takeoffs of the Bard (ie Shakespeare). The cast are the other essential element.

In sixth form I convinced my English teacher to let me do a language study on the 'Humour of Ben Elton'. I thought I was being exceptionally cunning - I could spend weeks watching Blackadder and do my homework at the same time. Whaa ha ha! I got a good mark for the project too, proving the many hours watching Blackadder were far from wasted.
"Now, according to senior BBC sources, Blackadder is set to survive the first world war and appear in a new story with a strong anti-war message. The character may make his comeback as early as this autumn."
I see many disadvantages in resuscitating Blackadder in this way, the most important problem being the difficulty in creating new material - there have already been six episodes of a WWI era Edmund, so why not choose another era? A second problem is that the man who plays Blackadder, Rowan Atkinson, is now 15 years older. In any case the death of the Blackadder character in series one, two, and four did not prevent his descendants from staring in a new series (it is unclear whether he died in series three).

If they are to resuscitate Blackadder, why not set it in a different era? About 10 years ago I heard a rumour about a new Blackadder set in the late 1970s - early 1980s, where the cast were members of a punk band.

Can anyone guess the name of the drummer....?
Bald Rick of course :)

This still strikes me as an idea with promise, especially as it would allow Ben Elton, Richard Curtis and Rowan to relive their anti-establishment punk comic days, and potentially take off their own old shows, such as Not the Nine O'Clock News and the Young Ones. Writers are often at their best when they are taking off something they know well.

What do people think? Should Blackadder be resuscitated, and if so, in what era would you put him in?



At 5:08 pm, Blogger Rich said...

I just think it won't be funny. Nothing Ben Elton or Rowan Atkinson has done since Blackadder has been..

And the Captain Flashheart episode is that brilliant I don't think anything could top it.

At 6:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're misreading the quote. It doesn't suggest a setting in the WW1 era, just that the Blackadder in question survived the war. This same Blackadder, as you say, would be 15 years older... suggesting a setting in the 1930's.

At 9:41 pm, Blogger Joe Hendren said...

The article linked above makes it pretty clear the new series will have a lot to do with the WWI, putting in in a similar 'era', at least compared to the other series.

"In the final episode of the fourth series Blackadder Goes Forth, watched by 14m viewers when it was first shown in 1989, he and his army comrades were presumed to have died after following orders to “climb out of the trenches and walk very slowly towards the enemy”.

The story is expected to continue the anti-war theme of Blackadder Goes Forth, with executives hoping that it will help to educate younger generations about the first world war as well as being entertaining. "

The 15 year thing was only based on the fact the actor himself will be that much older.

At 9:51 pm, Blogger Joe Hendren said...

rich - I agree Rowan and Ben have lost a bit of their 'edge' as they have themselves become part of the Brit comedy establishment.

Compared to the overtly anti-establishment groundbreaking stuff they did on Not the Nine O'Clock News (get it on DVD its fantastic) and the Young Ones, their recent stuff seems very tame. This change, due to age, is probaby inevitable to a certain extent.

While my expectations are certainly lowered after Back and Forth, there are probably worse things to watch than another series of blackadder, even if it does not match up to the originals.

At 2:27 pm, Blogger Uroskin said...

I always regretted that the Dickensian Xmas episode was a one-off only. Ebenezer Blackadder and Queen Victoria would have made a wonderful series.
Other periods that would have opportunities: Cromwellian England, Viking era, a Scottish version, Roman times, as a convict in Australia, the list is endless once you start thinking about it.
My favourite episode is the Beer one in the second series, especially the quote: "Cold is god's way of telling us to burn more Catholics". Ratzinger would be first.

At 4:05 pm, Blogger Joe Hendren said...

I agree a Dickensian Blackadder would have made a great series. Loads of promising material - the revolutionary period of 1848, the industrial revolution (baldrick could say I looked for a spinning jenny but I did not find her) and darwin (baldrick as the missing link)

There is a 15 minute Cromwellian England Blackadder on the Back and Forth DVD - they did as a charity special a few years back. Better than Back and Forth itself.

At 9:09 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might sound silly, but I would really like to see Blackadder set in the future. Kind of like a 'Darth Blackadder' series. In all of the previous series he craved for suppreme power. Can you imagine the hilarious storylines, the exchanging of bodyparts (not just a suede codpiece)? But yeah, I think the idea is better than an actual series. Remains a great idea though. (grin)

At 9:52 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

blackadder as george`s country estate caretaker with baldrick after ww1 george offers them a job
sought of like jeeves and woster lay out

At 11:18 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of the obvious targets have already been covered v. well in other shows :-
Thatcherism (Yes Minister),
Robin hood (Maid Marian and Her Merry Men ;) ),
Punk (Young Ones).

So why not the Cold War, maybe US centric one.
and then New Labour (though Blackadder would have a lot of competition, what with Campbell & Madelson)


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