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Thursday, March 11, 2010

BLACK ADDER (Remastered: The Ultimate Edition) (1983-89/1999)

Brit-Coms are like litmus tests for the funny bone,* and this Rowan Atkinson series has a cult following that rivals STAR TREK. This six-disc DVD set contains all four series (six-episodes each) along with a handful of specials, including the wan finalmento Millennium Edition which does manage to bow out with a face-saving double-twist ending. The show follows a remarkably small handful of characters thru a darkly dyspeptic alternate history (1-Plantagenet, 2-Elizabethan, 3-Regency, 4-WWI) that’s as ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish & short’ as any Hobbesian could wish. And, at its best (in series 2,3 & especially 4), often appallingly funny. Just be prepared to wade thru a lot of dialogue that substitutes noise & rudeness for actual humor. You’ll find your own way into its special curmudgeonly delights only to be brought up short by the sheer daring of its breathtaking end. (It’s the final moment you wish M*A*S*H* had dared to do and its serendipitous making is uncovered in one of the set’s Extras.) The truly remarkable cast (Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry, et al.) helps you skate past a lot of lame non-sequiturs and, when all else fails. you can marvel at the shockingly skimpy production values. Compared to Series 2, THE HONEYMOONERS looks like Versailles.

*My test paper goes positively purple for YES, MINISTER and YES, PRIME MINISTER.

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