Monday, August 23, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 10. Blackadder

Just look at that face. You want to punch it, don't you?

That's the beauty of Edmund Blackadder; He's a protagonist we don't so much love to hate as we just want to deck him once. You feel like he deserves it, even as you're rooting for him. Something about that face.

In the first series, Blackadder was about as bright as a burnt-out bulb, really, and his man-servant Baldrick was the brains behind the operation. While the brilliant Rowen Atkinson played dim with tenacity, you never really bought it, did you? He's got an intelligent glint in his eyes that few can match, and it was once the roles were reversed in the second series that things took off.

The revised Edmund is one of the great television protagonists. He's cocky, self-important, conceited, clever, witty, and as arrogant as anything. It should make him alienating, but we identified with the man too clever for his own good set adrift in an ocean of morons. That's the beauty of Edmund, really; even if we don't actually identify with that, even if we are one of the morons, we swear we're right there with him, and so he appeals to everyone.

Another way you can tell this is great television: Everyone has a different favourite series. Few people would pick the first (which is worth watching simply for this man), but the remaining three stand pretty evenly divided. I'm a big fan of the comedy in Series 2 ("Bob" is one of my favourite individual episodes of any comedy), the characters in Series 3 (Hugh Laurie as the Prince is, well, spectacular, really), and the stories in Series 4.

I strongly considered Yes, Minister for this slot. I adore the jokes in that show ("You know what it is, Dudley's envious of me." "It is one of the seven Dudley sins." I could go on and on.). And I imagine Father Ted could also have a very strong go at the number 10 spot. But what separates Black Adder is how it ends. Yes, Minister, like so many comedies, ends while maintaining the status quo, and, to be fair to Father Ted, they didn't have a chance to end it properly. But the finale of Black Adder Goes Fourth is an incredible achievement. At just the right moment, Edmund stops thinking of himself as above everyone else, and reveals himself to be profoundly human. I cried, I'm not ashamed to admit it.

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