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Blackadder II

Blackadder II
Title screen of Blackadder II Format Situation comedyCreated by Richard Curtis& Ben EltonStarring Rowan Atkinson
Tony Robinson
Tim McInnerny
Miranda Richardson
Stephen Fry
Patsy ByrneTheme music composer Howard GoodallCountry of origin United KingdomLanguage(s) EnglishNo. of episodes 6Production Producer(s) John LloydRunning time 30 minutes Broadcast Original channel BBC OnePicture format 4:3Original run 9 January198620 February1986Chronology Preceded by The Black AdderFollowed by Blackadder the ThirdExternal links Official website

Blackadder II[1] was the second series of the BBC situation comedy Blackadder, written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, which aired from 9 January 1986 to 20 February 1986.

The series was set in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603), and saw the principal character, Edmund, Lord Blackadder, as a Tudor courtier attempting to win the favour of the Queen while avoiding the fate that befell many of her suitors.

The series saw a number of significant changes from the format of The Black Adder, notably Ben Elton replacing Rowan Atkinson as the second writer, filming in studio sets, rather than on location, and the introduction of the more familiar Machiavellian "Blackadder" character.[2]

Contents

Plot

Blackadder II is set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603) (Miranda Richardson). The principal character, Edmund, Lord Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson), is the great-grandson of the original Black Adder, and is now a member of the London aristocracy. Unlike his forefather, he is both dashing and intelligent, although he is still scheming and cynical in his outlook. The series follows his attempts to win the favour of, and avoid annoying, the childish, yet immensely powerful (and occasionally psychotic) Queen. As before he is aided, and often hindered, by two less intelligent sidekicks, his servant Baldrick (Tony Robinson), and Lord Percy Percy (Tim McInnerny), heir to the Duchy of Northumberland, with whom Blackadder has a grudging friendship.

Throughout the series, Blackadder's chief rival is Lord Melchett, the Queen's pretentious and grovelling Lord Chamberlain (Stephen Fry). Melchett is himself in fear of upsetting the Queen, and thus attempts to outdo Blackadder by supporting the Queen in whatever current fad she is interested in. Comic relief in the Court is provided by the Queen's demented former nanny, Nursie, played by Patsy Byrne.

Baldrick, who in the first series was the most intelligent of the main trio, became more stupid, an idea proposed by Ben Elton to make him "the stupidest person in the history of...human beings", and to act as a foil to Blackadder's new-found intelligence.[3] The series was also the originator of Baldrick's obsession with the turnip, although this apparently arose from a botanical error on the part of Ben Elton, who confused the vegetable with the "amusingly shaped" parsnip.[4]

Lord Percy remained similar in character to the original series, as a foolish sidekick in Blackadder's predicaments. In this respect, McInnerny has stated that the character bears a resemblance to Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.[4] Indeed, as with The Black Adder, the series featured many tongue-in-cheek references to the plays of William Shakespeare, who, in addition to being mentioned a number of times as a contemporary Elizabethan, has many famous quotations twisted for comic effect by the writers.[4] In particular the first episode "Bells", follows a similar plot to Twelfth Night.[5]

Episodes

The series aired for six episodes broadcast on Thursdays on BBC One at 9.30pm between January 9, 1986 and February 20 1986.[2] The titles of the episodes are single words based on the theme of the episodes - "Bells" (a wedding), "Head" (decapitation), "Potato" (exploration), "Money" (debt), "Beer" (alcohol) and "Chains" (prison).

"Head" was originally intended to be the first episode, and was first to be filmed.[6] This resulted in the small continuity error of Lord Percy still having a beard in "Head" which he shaves off in "Bells". In addition, during the early scenes of "Head", the principal characters are introduced to the audience with Baldrick's stupidity highlighted.[7]

Title Air date Plot outline "Bells" 9 Jan1986Blackadder employs a young man called "Bob" (who is actually a woman in disguise) whom he finds himself attracted to, much to his dismay. Once he discovers that "Bob" is actually Kate, he plans to marry her, only to have her elope with his best man, Lord Flashheart. Guest starring Rik Mayallas Lord Flashheart.[8]"Head" 16 Jan1986Blackadder is made Lord High Executionerand decides to change the execution schedule in order to give himself more free time. Unfortunately this brings him in to conflict with the Queen's wishes.[8]"Potato" 23 Jan1986In the wake of Sir Walter Raleigh's triumphant return from America, and in an attempt to impress the Queen, Blackadder plans a voyage of his own around the Cape of Good Hope. Guest starring Simon Jonesas Raleigh and Tom Bakeras Captain Redbeard Rum.[8]"Money" 5 Feb1986Blackadder is pursued by the baby-eating Bishopof Bath and Wellsover an unpaid loanand is forced to formulate ingenious ways to make money. Guest starring Ronald Laceyas the Bishop.[8]"Beer" 13 Feb1986With the promise of a large inheritance in mind, Blackadder attempts to impress his fanatically Puritanicalaunt and uncle, while simultaneously attempting to win a drinking competition. Guest starring Miriam Margolyesas Lady Whiteadder and Hugh Laurieas Simon 'Farters' Partridge.[8]"Chains" 20 Feb1986Blackadder and Melchett are kidnapped by the German Prince Ludwig, a murderous master of disguise, and held to ransom. Guest starring Hugh Laurieas Mad Prince Ludwig.[8]

Music and titles

The opening titles are accompanied by a mock-Elizabethan arrangement of Howard Goodall's Blackadder theme played on a recorder and an electric guitar, and feature a black snake slithering about on a marble table. The snake, noncompliant to the wishes of its handler, is eventually removed and replaced with something related to the episode title, which in this series is always a single noun. The opening ominous string crescendo and imagery are a parody of the opening credits of the 1976 BBC television adaptation of Robert Graves' I, Claudius.[7]

The closing titles use a different arrangement of the theme on various instruments, accompanied by a countertenor[9] who sings lyrics reflecting the events of the preceding episode, over a shot of Blackadder strolling through a formal garden and being annoyed by a lute-wielding minstrel played by Tony Aitken. This sequence was incorporated as a separate subplot, with Blackadder constantly attempting to apprehend the musician each time with mixed results. At the end of the final episode, Blackadder catches the minstrel and repeatedly dunks him in a fountain.[10]

Production

Due to the high cost of the first series, the then controller of programming of BBC One, Michael Grade was reluctant to sign off a second series without major improvements and cost cutting to be made to the show, leaving a gap of three years between the two series.[2]

Rowan Atkinson did not wish to continue writing for the second series, so writer and stand-up comedian Ben Elton was chosen to replace him. According to producer John Lloyd, Ben Elton was particularly keen on the choice of the Elizabethan age for the series, because it was "a sexy age that the kids can relate to."[4] As a stand-up comic, Elton often acted as the studio warm-up comic to amuse the audience before filming began.[11] The scripts were also tightened up during principal rehearsals with the actors - according to Richard Curtis, a whole script for a murder mystery-style episode was dropped because the writers felt it did not work.[11]

To make the show more cost effective, it was principally filmed on general purpose indoor sets at BBC Television Centre.[4] In particular, the Queen's throne room and Blackadder's front room were featured in every episode, with only two further unique sets per episode, including an execution chamber in "Head" and a Spanish dungeon in "Chains".[2] Only one outside location shoot was used in the whole series, which took place before principal filming on Thursday May 30, 1985 at Wilton House, Wiltshire. These outside scenes were Blackadder's courting scene in "Bells" and the end title sequences.[6] Studio recordings shot in front of a live audience began on Sunday June 9, 1985 with the recording of "Head". Subsequent episodes were filmed on a weekly basis in the order "Bells", "Potato", "Money", "Beer" and "Chains".[6] Director Mandie Fletcher was keen for the action to be shot spontaneously and was averse to complex costume changes or special effects which required recording to be halted. She is reputed to have said filming it was "a bit like doing Shakespeare in front of an audience - it's not at all like doing sitcom."[6]

Cast

Rowan Atkinson as Lord Blackadder

The size of the principal cast was reduced compared to the previous series, with a fixed number of characters appearing in every episode. Richard Curtis has been quoted as saying that due to the familiar cast, the series was the happiest for him to work on, comparing it to a "friendly bunch of school chums".[3]

The series also featured at least one significant cameo role per episode, with notable appearances from Rik Mayall, playing the debonair Lord Flashheart in "Bells", two figures famous for their roles in science fiction series - Tom Baker and Simon Jones - in "Potato" and Stephen Fry's comedy partner Hugh Laurie appearing twice, first as the drunken Simon Partridge in "Beer" and in the final episode as the evil Prince Ludwig. Laurie was later given a larger role as George in the next two series. Also seen for the first time was Bob, played by Gabrielle Glaister, who went to school with Ben Elton.[11] Several of the characters were seen in similar guises in later series.

Releases

The complete series of Blackadder II is available as a Region 2 DVD from BBC Worldwide, as well as in a complete box-set with the other series. An earlier VHS release of the series was also produced in 1996. The series is also available in Region 1 DVD in a box-set of the complete series. In addition, an audio recording taken from the television episodes is available on cassette and compact disc.

References

  1. ^ Presented as "Black-Adder II" on the title screen, but referred to as one word by the BBC
  2. ^ a b c d Lewisohn, Mark, Blackadder II at the former BBC Guide to Comedy, URL accessed 17 March, 2007
  3. ^ a b I Have a Cunning Plan - 20th Anniversary of Blackadder, BBC Radio 4 documentary broadcast 23rd August 2003. Excerpts available at bbc.co.uk/comedy/blackadder/interviews/
  4. ^ a b c d e Britain's Best Sitcom - Blackadder, 2004 BBC Television documentary, presented by John Sergeant
  5. ^ Bells at bbc.co.uk, URL accessed 17 March, 2007
  6. ^ a b c d Blackadder Hall.co.uk, URL accessed January 13, 2008
  7. ^ a b Trivia at IMDb.com, URL accessed March 17, 2007
  8. ^ a b c d e f Blackadder at bbc.co.uk, URL accessed April 2, 2007
  9. ^ Official Howard Goodall website, URL accessed 17 March, 2007
  10. ^ Credits at IMDb.com, URL accessed March 17, 2007
  11. ^ a b c Trivia at UKTV Gold.co.uk, URL accessed April 2, 2007

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Blackadder II v • d • eBlackadderSeriesThe Black Adder · Blackadder II · Blackadder the Third · Blackadder Goes ForthSpecialsPilot episode · Blackadder: The Cavalier Years · Blackadder's Christmas Carol · Blackadder: Back & ForthOthers List of Blackadder episodes · List of characters in Blackadder · List of minor Blackadder characters Categories: Blackadder | Television set in Tudor England | 1986 television series debuts | Television shows set in London | 1980s British television series

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