It is difficult to compare Blackadder to any other kind of British comedy, purely because it bears very little resemblance to anything else; the period settings, the genealogy of Lord Percy, Edmund Blackadder and Baldrick, and the progression of ancestry bears no resemblance to anything else. However, I find it enchanting, and it remains my favourite comedy of all time, displacing less sophisticated British sitcoms such as The Inbetweeners.
The first series lacked an element of Blackadder’s character which he was later renowned for: his sparkling wit, and immense cynicism. For this reason, “Blackadder” received little critical acclaim, however by the second series, and the introduction of Ben Elton to the writing team, Blackadder II evolved into an eloquent, witty lord, taunted by misfortune and the threat of beheading wherever he went. The third series sees Blackadder decreasing in status, going from Lordship to the Regent’s butler, however if anything, his intellectual merit and witticisms increase even more. The final series, “Blackadder Goes Forth” tackles possibly one of the most difficult periods in British history, however does so with a good deal of humour and sensitivity at the same time. This culminated in one of the most moving scenes in comedy history; the final episode, “Goodbyeeeee” which tackles the death of Blackadder’s lineage (we assume) in the Great War.
The high point of the comedy for me however is the second series; the portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I by Miranda Richardson changes the viewers perception of the Elizabethan period altogether, provoking the imagination to explore a far less serious age than the one portrayed in the history books. Rowan Atkinson’s acting places a degree of emphasis on physical expression; for instance in “Bells” (series two), and saying the word “Bob.” This is not inherently funny, however the use of wordplay and expression creates a humorous effect that to a literature student, is completely fascinating. in particular however, the comedy proves that ‘funny’ is not a set concept, and in fact the sophistication and the extremely ‘dry’ humour of the television show makes it perhaps even more accessible to a wider audience, in that it does not alienate the older generation by using innate, base ideas and simultaneously does not alienate the young by being perfunctory in theme; many storyline are completely preposterous, however the sophistication of the writing manages to retain that wide-reaching influence that so many have grown to love.
I am not ashamed to say that I love Edmund Blackadder, and my only regret is that I’ve now watched all the episodes ever made (including specials) and now there is no more to come, and all I can do, it watch them over and over again. And I still chuckle at every joke.