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E. A Solinas Says, in 1-17-2010 at 07:16:15 from     

Who knew the War of the Roses was so funny?

Or at least, the first season of “Black Adder” was, as it chronicled an erased era in English history, and the life story of the slimiest, creepiest, least impressive prince ever. Rowan Atkinson brings the legendary Black Adder to life, with plenty of slapstick and bawdy humour — too bad it doesn’t quite measure up to its sequel series.

On the day of the Battle of Bosworth Field, the Duke of York (Brian Blessed) and his son Harry (Robert East) accompanied the king (Peter Cook) into battle. His second son Edmund (Atkinson) hopes to come along, but he oversleeps. The battle is practically over when he arrives, but he succeeds in beheading a knight who tried to take his horse. Unfortunately, it was the king.

His friends Baldrick (Tony Robinson) and Lord Percy Percy (Tim McInnerny) help him cover it up, and to Edmund’s delight, his father is made king. He dubs himself the “Black Adder” and decides to one day become king of England… too bad nobody likes him, and the ghost of the late king has decided to play some mind games with him.

But being the Duke of Edinburgh has its own problems. Edmund soon has to deal with a Scottish laird getting his lands, being made the endangered Archbishop of Canterbury, an engagement to an unattractive Infanta, and being accused of witchcraft. Finally, when all his titles but Lord Warden of the Royal Privies are seized, he decides to usurp the throne himself… but unfortunately gets into the grasp of the evillest men in England on the way.

“Black Adder” is in some ways the least polished of the series, since the whole idea is pretty new here. But it’s a unique sitcom, and handled with the sort of wonky zaniness that the setting demands (“Why, some people over there aren’t fighting! They’re just lying down!” “They’re dead, my lord”).

And while the first episode is a bit jumpy, it quickly gains humorous momentum. Lots of hilarious dialogue (“Dear Enemy, may the Lord hate you and all your kind. May you turn orange in hue, and may your head fall off at an awkward moment”) and knotted-up storylines, such as Blackadder doing whatever it takes to avoid marrying the Infanta, or selling fake relics as the Archbishop.

Of course, things always go horribly wrong, and the more Edmund attempts, the more disastrous things turn out for him. The last episode is a glorious mixture of Greek Tragedy, Shakespearean history and madcap comedy with some blood and gore, as well as a hilariously ironic final line.

Atkinson is pretty perfect as the slimy, sniveling, creepy, cowardly, inept, whiny-voiced Edmund, who repulses almost everyone around him with both his appearance and personality. Absolutely sterling. Robinson and McInnerny are equally good as his grubby servant and birdbrained pal, and Brian Blessed is wonderfully bombastic as Richard IV.

The first “Black Adder” series is not the funniest of the overall series, but it is a hilarious, crazily funny little comedy series that just gets better as it goes on.
Rating: 4 / 5

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