Blackadder I (1983)

blackadder-iThis is the first series of “Black Adder” and the only truly great one. The scripts are masterpieces of TV comedy writing – one belly laugh after another, and all perfectly structured plotwise, while at the same time being bizarre, original and very intelligent, without resorting to the pointless unfunny absurdity of lower quality Python. There are too many highlights to single out any particular episode or scene. They are the finest thing Richard Curtis or Rowan Atkinson would ever write.

For me the first series was right up there in the pantheon alongside Fawlty Towers and Peep Show. It made me understand for the first time why Rowan Atkinson was so admired as a comic actor. I still laugh when I remember his Earl of Doncaster impersonation or the way he said “Hello peasant!” His effeminately weedy deer-in-the-headlights persona is a joy. His life really seems to be threatened in every episode. The supporting cast is also outstanding, especially Brian Blessed, Miriam Margoyles, Frank Finlay and Jim Broadbent as the show-stealing Spanish translator. Their acting considerably enhances the jokes. In fact there is not a dud performance in the whole series, helped no doubt by the absence of Fry and Laurie (they wouldn’t have fitted in with this one) along with Ben Elton.

The usual and irrelevant complaint about the first series is that the character of Edmund is contemptible, stupid and weedy rather than strong, clever and sarcastic. But the original Edmund is for laughing at, rather than laughing with. The former category of comic characters are invariably much funnier, while the latter is the domain of unfunny standup comedians desperately trying to be loved. Perhaps having a strong, admirable lead character gives the audience somebody to identify with rather than mock and deprecate, but I struggle to understand why that is desirable in a comedy. I never could understand why Ben Elton’s sub-Carry On humour in the later series was more highly regarded by some.

Perhaps it is because the later series had a louder laugh track. Although the budget may have been considered exorbitant, it allowed for much more variety in the type and setting of the jokes than the later studio bound, cheap-looking and visually tedious series. The large budget wasn’t wasted, but used to good comic effect, especially in crowd scenes like the witch trial. The opening theme is perhaps the grandest original theme song ever heard in a TV comedy. We may never see television comedy with such high production standards ever again, so enjoy this one. It is one of the few comedies that bears repeated viewing.




  1. Couldn’t agree more, I think the first series of Blackadder is highly underrated. Can’t beat the original theme tune either!

    Liked by 1 person

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