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Blackadder: The Ultimate Edition (Remastered)

If you are only familiar with Rowan Atkinson through his fine physical comedy as the long-running character Mr. Bean or his appearances in films like Four Weddings & A Funeral and Scooby Doo, you are missing out on one of the great comedic talents from the UK. He was a proto-Jon Stewart in the early ’80s with the parody newscast Not The Nine O’Clock News, and through his work in both The Thin Blue Line and Black Adder took the character of the put upon authority figure who botches every keen plot he devises out of John Cleese’s hands and improved upon it before passing it off to Ricky Gervais.

This six-disc set compiles all of Atkinson’s appearances as the title character, which took him through four complete series and a few added specials from 1983 – 1989. The series, which puts Atkinson in the title role through four important historical periods of British history (the reigns of The Tudors and Queens Elizabeth and Victoria, as well as the first World War), and in each, the mores and practices of the time are sent up with loving detail thanks to the shows fine writers: Atkinson, Richard Curtis (who went on to write Four Weddings) and Ben Elton (The Young Ones, Alfresco).

Watching this series, it is interesting to see how Atkinson adapted the character from the first season, when he was more of a Mr. Bean-like character with a remarkably silly speaking voice and demeanor to the more puffed chest huckster, concerned more for his reputation and money than anyone else’s well-being. The first series is actually something of a let down, especially when compared with the rest of the set, with some shaky writing and situations that are needlessly blustery and conceived with a little too much artfulness in mind. It is when Elton comes on for the second series that the show really takes off, balancing the period detail and the ridiculous situations (the accidental burning of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary in Blackadder The Third, for example) with panache.

The set also features the three one-off specials – Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, Blackadder The Cavalier Years, and Blackadder Back And Forth (written and filmed in 1999 with a new millennium/time travel theme) – as well as a wealth of documentary features and commentary tracks by all the principal actors and creators of the series.

January 17, 2010 - Posted by | DVD review | , , ,

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