June 15, 1983 on UK TV: The Black Adder

The_Black_Adder-1983The Black Adder is the first series of the BBC sitcom Blackadder, written by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson, directed by Martin Shardlow and produced by John Lloyd. The series was originally aired on BBC One from 15 June 1983 to 20 July 1983, and was a joint production with the Australian Seven Network. Set in 1485 at the end of the British Middle Ages, the series is written as a secret history which contends that King Richard III won the Battle of Bosworth Field, only to be unintentionally assassinated by his nephew Edmund and succeeded by Richard IV, one of the Princes in the Tower. The series follows the exploits of Richard IV’s unfavoured second son Edmund (who calls himself “The Black Adder”) in his various attempts to increase his standing with his father and, in the final episode, his quest to overthrow him.

Conceived while Atkinson and Curtis were working on Not the Nine O’Clock News, the series covers a number of medieval issues in Britain in a humorous and often anachronistic manner—witchcraft, royal succession, European relations, the Crusades and the conflict between the Crown and the Church. The filming of the series was highly ambitious, with a large cast and much location shooting. Shakespearean dialogue is sometimes adapted for comic effect. Despite winning an International Emmy, The Black Adder is generally regarded as the weakest series of Blackadder, even by its creators.

Each of the episodes was based on a medieval theme — the Wars of the Roses, the TV-UK-06-15-1983Crusades and Royal succession, the conflict between the Crown and the Church, arranged marriages between monarchies, and the Plague and witchcraft. The final episode follows a planned coup d’état.

In this series, the character of the Black Adder is somewhat different from later incarnations, being largely unintelligent, naive, and snivelling. The character does evolve through the series, however, and he begins showing signs of what his descendants will be like by the final episode, where he begins insulting everyone around him and making his own plans. This evolution follows naturally from the character’s situation. “The Black Adder” is the title that Edmund adopts during the first episode (after first considering “The Black Vegetable”). Presumably one of his descendants adopted it as a surname before Blackadder II, in which the title character becomes “Edmund Blackadder”. Furthermore, Baldrick is shown in more favourable and intelligent light here – his ‘cunning plans’ are typically superior and more workable than Edmund’s own. Starting from the second series, the character’s relative intelligence and naivety clearly switch. [Wikipedia]

The Black Adder is born on the BBCWorldwide YouTube Channel.

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