Blackadder II

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Blackadder II
Blackadder II.jpg
Title screen of Blackadder II
Created by Richard Curtis & Ben Elton
Starring Rowan Atkinson
Tim McInnerny
Tony Robinson
Miranda Richardson
Stephen Fry
Patsy Byrne
Theme music composer Howard Goodall
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 6
Production
Producer(s) John Lloyd
Running time 30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel BBC One
Picture format 4:3
Audio format Mono
Original run 9 January 1986  – 20 February 1986
Chronology
Preceded by The Black Adder
Followed by Blackadder the Third
External links
Website

Blackadder II[1] is the second series of the BBC sitcom Blackadder, written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, which aired from 9 January 1986 to 20 February 1986. The series is set in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558–1603), and sees the principal character, Edmund, Lord Blackadder, as a Tudor courtier attempting to win the favour of the Queen while avoiding execution by decapitation, a 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, the introduction of the more familiar Machiavellian "Blackadder" character and a less intelligent Baldrick.[2]

Plot[edit]

The series is set during the Elizabethan era (1558–1603). 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 the childish Queen Elizabeth I (Miranda Richardson). 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 (Stephen Fry), the Queen's pretentious and grovelling Lord Chamberlain. 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 (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 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 plots and 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 Shakespeare's plays; Shakespeare is mentioned a number of times as a contemporary Elizabethan, and many of his famous quotations are twisted for comic effect.[4] In particular the first episode "Bells", follows a similar plot to Twelfth Night.[5]

Episodes[edit]

The series aired for six episodes broadcast on Thursdays on BBC One at 9.30pm between 9 January 1986 and 20 February 1986.[2]

"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
2-1 Bells 9 January 1986
Blackadder employs a young man called "Bob" (who is actually a woman in disguise who ran away to get a legitimate job after her father suggested she become a prostitute) 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 friend and best man, Lord Flashheart. Guest-starring Gabrielle Glaister as Kate and Rik Mayall as Lord Flashheart.[8]
2-2 Head 16 January 1986
Blackadder is made Lord High Executioner and decides to change the execution schedule in order to give himself more free time. Unfortunately this brings him into conflict with the Queen's wishes.[8]
2-3 Potato 23 January 1986
In 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 Jones as Raleigh and Tom Baker as Captain Redbeard Rum.[8]
2-4 Money 6 February 1986
Blackadder is pursued by the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells over an unpaid loan and is forced to formulate ingenious ways to make money. Guest-starring Ronald Lacey as the Bishop.[8]
2-5 Beer 13 February 1986
With the promise of a large inheritance in mind, Blackadder attempts to impress his fanatically Puritanical aunt and uncle, while simultaneously attempting to win a drinking competition. Guest-starring Miriam Margolyes as Lady Whiteadder and Hugh Laurie as Simon 'Farters' Partridge.[8]
2-6 Chains 20 February 1986
Blackadder and Melchett are kidnapped by the German Prince Ludwig, a murderous master of disguise, and held to ransom. Guest-starring Hugh Laurie as Mad Prince Ludwig.[8]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Due to the high cost of the first series, Michael Grade (the then controller of programming of BBC One) was reluctant to sign off a second series without major improvements and cost-cutting, 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.[9] 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.[9]

Filming[edit]

To make the show more cost-effective, it was principally filmed on specially designed small sets at BBC Television Centre created by designer Tony Thorpe. The sets were de-constructed and rebuilt during the period of studio filming, as was normal for studio series then.[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 30 May 1985 at Wilton House, Wiltshire. These outdoor 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 9 June 1985 with the recording of "Head". Subsequent episodes were filmed on a weekly basis in the sequence "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[edit]

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", Miriam Margolyes, who had appeared in the previous series, as the puritanical Lady Whiteadder, 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 "Bob", played by Gabrielle Glaister, a former classmate of Ben Elton's, made "his" first appearance.[9] Several of the characters were seen in similar guises in later series.

Music and titles[edit]

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, sung by countertenor Jeremy Jackman,[10] with lyrics (usually insulting Blackadder) that reflect the events of the preceding episode. The song is played over a shot of Blackadder strolling through a formal garden and being annoyed by the lute-wielding minstrel (Tony Aitken). This sequence was incorporated as a separate subplot, with Blackadder constantly attempting to apprehend the musician each time with limited success. At the end of the final episode, Blackadder catches the minstrel and repeatedly dunks him in a fountain.[11]

Releases[edit]

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, most recently as a remastered edition including a commentary on selected episodes. 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.

VHS Releases[edit]

  • In about October 1989, BBC Enterprises Ltd released all 6 episodes of Blackadder II on two single videos and in 7 September of 1992 all 6 episodes of Blackadder II were Re-Released a'Complete' double VHS releases and all 6 episodes were Re-Released on a Single Video release on 2 October 1995.
VHS video title Year of release/BBFC rating Episodes
Blackadder II- Parte the Firste (BBCV 4298) 1989 (PG) Bells, Head, Potato
Blackadder II- Parte the Seconde (BBCV 4299) 1989 (15) Money, Beer, Chains
The Complete Blackadder II (Double Pack) (BBCV 4785) 1992 (15) TAPE 1: Bells, Head, Potato,
TAPE 2: Money, Beer, Chains
Blackadder II- The Entire Historic Second Series (BBCV 5712) 1995 (15) same as 'The Complete Blackadder II' but with all 6 episodes on a single video: Bells, Head, Potato, Money, Beer, Chains

DVD releases[edit]

DVD Title DVD Content Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Blackadder II
Complete second series, no extras.
26 June 2001
22 October 2001
28 February 2002
The Complete Blackadder All four series, no extras.
N/A
12 November 2001
3 October 2002
Blackadder - The Complete Collection All four series and specials, no extras.
26 June 2001
3 October 2005
N/A
Blackadder Remastered - The Ultimate Edition All four series and specials remastered, plus Blackadder Rides Again documentary, audio commentaries on selected episodes and interviews with cast.
20 October 2009
15 June 2009
1 October 2009

References[edit]

  1. ^ The single word "Blackadder" is hyphenated across two lines as
    "Black-
        adder II"
    on the title screen
  2. ^ a b c d Lewisohn, Mark, Blackadder II at the former BBC Guide to Comedy. Retrieved 17 March 2007
  3. ^ a b I Have a Cunning Plan - 20th Anniversary of Blackadder, BBC Radio 4 documentary broadcast 23 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. Retrieved 17 March 2007
  6. ^ a b c d Blackadder Hall.co.uk. Retrieved 13 January 2008
  7. ^ a b Trivia at IMDb.com. Retrieved 17 March 2007
  8. ^ a b c d e f Blackadder at bbc.co.uk, URL accessed 2 April 2007
  9. ^ a b c Trivia at UKTV Gold.co.uk, URL accessed 2 April 2007
  10. ^ Biography, Jeremy Jackman. Retrieved 29 January 2011
  11. ^ Credits at IMDb.com. Retrieved 17 March 2007

External links[edit]