Historical ‘situation tragedy’ Blackadder is the brainchild of Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) and Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral). The pair first met and became friends at Oxford University, where they wrote reviews together and performed at the Oxford Playhouse and the Edinburgh Fringe. Ben Elton joined the pair to co-write the scripts.
Atkinson explains their inspiration for Blackadder: “We found that if you set jokes in a very hard and nasty background, the jokes actually become funnier. I love characters that are extreme and larger than life and very peculiar.”
The four series of the Blackadder legacy are each set in a different century…
The Black Adder (series 1)
England 1485. Set during the really dark part of the Dark Ages, the first season chronicles the wickedly funny misadventures of the terminally treacherous Edmund, Duke of Edinburgh (alias The Black Adder). At his side is the never faithful scalawag Baldrick, played by Tony Robinson. The Black Adder’s slimy reign of terror is about to begin in the most gripping sitcom since 1380.
Starring Rowan Atkinson as The Black Adder, with Tony Robinson as Baldrick, Brian Blessed as Richard IV, Tim McInnerny as Percy, Elspet Gray as Queen and Robert East as Prince Harry.
Black Adder II (series 2)
England 1558-1603. The nasty genes of the Blackadder dynasty bubble back to the surface of history as Lord Edmund swaggers around town with a big head and a small beard in search of grace and favor from the stark, raving mad Queen Bess. Accompanied by a small rabble of riff-raff, the black-hearted Baldrick and the pea-brained Percy, the dastardly Lord Blackadder tarnishes the reputation of England’s Golden Age.
Starring Rowan Atkinson as Lord Blackadder, with Tony Robinson as Baldrick, Tim McInnerny as Percy, Miranda Richardson as Queenie, Stephen Fry as Lord Melchett and Patsy Byrne as Nursie.
Blackadder the Third (series 3)
England 1768-1815. A time of great wealth, power and discovery – though not for Edmund Blackadder Esq. The fortunes of the previously aristocratic Blackadder family have slumped and Edmund is now butler and gentlemen’s gentlemen to the mini-brained Prince Regent.
Starring Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder, with Tony Robinson as Baldrick and Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent.
WORLD WAR 1
Blackadder Goes Forth (series 4)
The Western Front 1917. There’s disorder in the ranks when that numb-headed ninny Captain Blackadder stumbles onto the battlefields of World War One and discovers that people are trying to kill him. When he’s not dodging bullets – not to mention idiots – Blackadder makes a general nuisance of himself. The British may be able to defeat the Germans, but it’s unlikely they’ll ever survive a comic assault by Blackadder.
Starring Rowan Atkinson as Captain Edmund Blackadder, with Tony Robinson as Private Baldrick, Stephen Fry as General Sir Anthony Hogmanay Melchett, Hugh Laurie as Lieutenant The Honorable George Colthurst Saint Barleigh and Tim McInnerny as Captain Kevin Darling.
Classic Blackadder Quotes
Melchett: Blackadder – started talking to yourself, I see.
Blackadder: Yes, it’s the only way I can be sure of intelligent conversation
Blackadder: Baldrick, a chat with you and somehow death loses its sting.
Percy: I’m sorry I’m late.
Blackadder: No, don’t bother apologizing. I’m sorry you’re alive.
Baldrick: Lord Melchett is very sick. He’s at death’s door.
Blackadder: Well, let’s go and open it for him.
Nursie: If you weren’t quite so big, it’d be time for Mr. and Mrs. Spank to pay a short, sharp trip to Bottyland.
Baldrick: Don’t worry, mister B. I have a cunning plan to solve the problem.
Blackadder: Yes, Baldrick, let us not forget that you tried to solve the problem of your mother’s low ceiling by cutting off her head.
Blackadder: Have you ever been to Wales, Baldrick?
Baldrick: No, but I’ve often thought I’d like to.
Blackadder: Well, don’t. It’s a ghastly place. Huge gangs of sinewy men roam the valleys terrorizing people with their close-harmony singing. You need half a pint of phlegm in your throat just to pronounce the place names. Never ask for directions in Wales, Baldrick. You’ll be washing spit out of your hair for a fortnight.
Blackadder: Crisis, Baldrick, crisis! No marriage, no money, more bills! For the first time in my life I’ve decided to follow a suggestion of yours. Saddle Prince George’s horse.
Baldrick: Oh sir, you’re not going to become a highway man, are you?
Blackadder: No, I’m auditioning for the part of Arnold the bat in Sheridon’s new comedy.
Baldrick: Oh, that’s all right then.
Blackadder: Baldrick, have you no idea what irony is?
Baldrick: Yeah! It’s like goldy and bronzy, only it’s made of iron.
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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