Sunday, August 13, 2006

Blackadder

Every summer I have a list (usually mental) of things I want to do before the fall semester starts. This summer I actually got one of them done: I watched all of the Blackadder series and most of the specials. I'd seen Blackadder Goes Forth many years ago and occasional bits and pieces from time to time but never the whole kit and caboodle. Some thoughts:

- Goes Forth is undoubtedly the best, 2 and 3 are great but the first series is only slightly above average.

- the historical settings prompted many questions from my American-educated mind, all of which were well answered by Wikipedia (I had no idea that Queen Victoria has decendents on the thrones of 5 nations today). Blackadder should be supplemental material on courses of British history.

- after seeing his foppish behavior in these series, seeing Hugh Laurie as House is funnier than ever.

- Stephen Fry, on the other hand, didn't impress me as much. I need to see him in more roles than authority types, I guess. His work in Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster makes him appear to be little more than a more disciplined Graham Chapman, which is quite respectable but not quite in line w/ Fry's legendary status.

- by the end of all 4 series it began to feel a bit formulaic in the continued jokes of the form 'dumb remark - detailed putdown'. It almost reminded me of another Britcom, Chef, which seemed to be nothing more than a series of putdowns with a veil of a plot draped on it. Blackadder's much better done but Chef is the formula taken to the hilt.

- it boggles the mind that the two writers of the series (most of it, at least), Richard Curtis and Ben Elton have gone on to write
romantic comedies and rock musicals.

- should somebody try to produce an American version (a la the many attempts to transfer Fawlty Towers) could American history be similarly skewered? Sure, any historical figure could be made fun of, but would the American audience get the historically based jokes? There are plenty of jokes that reference McCarthyism in M*A*S*H but that's still somewhat current. I guess one could have Thomas Jefferson running around having sex with female slaves but I doubt Americans would get jokes about he and Washington being hemp farmers. Still, it's worth a try...

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