Much before his 1990s’ ‘Mr. Bean’ portrayal turned Rowan Atkinson into a household name in, BBC’s comedy classic ‘The Black Adder’ had already ensured his entry into comedy’s Hall of Fame. Spoofing Britain’s bloody middle-ages history, Black Adder created some wonderfully comic moments on small screen in the 1980s.
The first season was aired on TV in 1983 and the viewers were introduced to an imaginary 14th Century historic character called Edmund (alias Black Adder) - a slimy, scheming and showy nobleman who has hardly done anything noble in his life! In fact, Edmund’s very first act of ‘bravery’ is to accidentally kill the reigning king of England- King Richard III! This paves the way for the King’s lunatic tyrant brother Richard IV to take over the British throne. Now, Edmund- (who is the new King’s illegitimate son!) becomes a Prince, a Duke of Edinburgh, whose only dream is to upstage the King’s legitimate, loony (and favourite!) son Harry. Helping Edmund in this endeavour are his two worthless sidekicks- his moronic cousin Lord Percy and his nitwit servant Baldrick. So acting on their so-called ‘cunning plan’, Black Adder tries every dark and devious trick in the book to get rid of his half-brother to get to the throne- only to fall flat on his face every time!
The successive seasons of the series carried forward the theme by presenting the next generations of Black Adder and his cronies functioning in pretty much similar way in the next imaginary (and imaginative!) chapters in history.
Superbly written comic plots spoof everything British, everything Royal and everything Medieval! So we get to see the Royal eccentricities, palatial intrigues, political marriages, clandestine affairs, torture chambers, bloody wars, Church- Crown fights and medieval medicinal practices in their full comic splendor. The humor mainly derives its strength from the well-written dialogues and situations but at times, even turns vulgar and vicious.
Rowan Atkinson is brilliant in his portrayal of the wicked, warped and witty Black Adder and shows a different shade of personality in each generation. These finely nuanced performances show that there is much more to his screen persona than just being Mr. Bean! The rest of the cast is equally zany and hilarious.