What I’m about to tell you, is something that I am telling you because the Netflix well is deep and I think we often miss gems just because of that Netflix-overwhelmed feeling. To save you from missing a real delight, let me just tell you Blackadder is a true gift. Put it in your queue. Watch it.
You know Rowan Atkinson right? Aka Mr. Bean, aka the incredibly slow department store attendant in Love Actually, aka the voice of Zazu in The Lion King. Well today is his birthday, and Blackadder may very well be the greatest gift he’s ever given us.
Have you heard of it? No? Time to get started.
History has known many great liars but Blackadder (the titular character from this ’80s comedy masterpiece) may be the best one. The premise of the show is this: every season of the show takes place in a different time period but with two protagonists and some similar characters (think, the American Horror Story framework). Empire magazine actually called it the greatest sitcom of the 20th century. Each season follows Edmund Blackadder, part of a British family dynasty. There’s also Baldrick played by Tony Robinson: the dunce and “lovely little sausage” who always surmises a “cunning plan” to save the day. Other cameos include Hugh Laurie (aka Dr. House), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), and Brian Blessed (Clayton in Tarzan). The list goes on, but just know that everyone in the troupe is a stud.
The show is straight up smart comedy brimming with historical references, but that is not to say you had to get a 5 on your history AP to understand what’s going on. If you do know your history though, you’ll be rewarded because writers Richard Curtis and Atkinson keep a snappy pace throughout, throwing in references to Shakespeare’s plays, women’s and universal suffrage, and many an ill-behaved English monarch. It’s honestly like studying history, but with laughs.
Now, about watching the series, my advice is don’t start with the first season. As each season is kind of it’s own mini-series you don’t need to take things chronologically so I vote for starting with season three when all the actors have really hit their stride. Gear up “Dish and Dishonesty” and you’ll see Dr. House squawk like a chicken and Mr. Bean dressed in period clothes that aim to poke fun at beauty and fashion standards of the day.
Another must-see episode is “Goodbyeee,” which is season 4 episode 6. Blackadder and Baldrick’s descendants are stuck in the Western Front trenches in WWI. They both get stir crazy from waiting, so Blackadder, very Hamlet-like, feigns madness by shoving two pencils up each of nostrils, and putting a pair of underpants on his head. In his own words, “‘This Is a Large Crisis’. A large crisis requires a large plan. Get me two pencils and a pair of underpants!”