Review of 'The True History of the Black Adder'

The True History of the Black Adder by J.F. Roberts

the_true_history_of_the_black_adder.jpg I am a big fan of the British TV comedy classic “Black Adder” or “Blackadder” (depending on the season) that aired between 1983 and 1989 over four seasons. It is a silly show that is not quite as intellectual (!) as “Monty Python” but a bit more than “Are you Being Served?”, perhaps more like the humour of “Fawlty Towers”. Each season was set in a different era and followed the life of one “Black Adder” (played by Rowan Atkinson, before Mr. Bean), a conniving and nasty self-serving bastard (as he himself would agree) trying to claw his way up the social scale though never quite managing to do so. “Mr. B” has only one person who might be considered a “friend” – The dim-witted and every-so-simple Baldrick (played by Tony Robinson, before Time Team).

“The True History of the Black Adder” is a book telling the story of how the sitcom was created by Richard Curtis (now a famous director) and Rowan Atkinson (later joined in writing duties by Ben Elton), and what followed the original series including subsequent appearances by the characters (including in the Millennium Dome feature “Black Adder Back and Forth”) and what happened to it's principal cast. This incredible cast featured many now comedic and acting greats such as Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Brian Blessed (the loud-voiced actor famous for his part as the OTT Prince Vultan in the 1980 Flash Gordon), Robbie Coltrane (known for his role as Hagrid in the Harry Potter films), Jim Broadbent, and Rik Mayall (star of “The Young Ones”). Amongst this there are excerpts from a “lost history” of the Black Adder which are more dry than overly amusing but do provide a bit of a break from the endless dates and personalities involved. It is interesting to read how all the stars aligned at just the right point in time to create Black Adder which very much reminds me of the founding of the, earlier, Monty Python troupe. Indeed, like the Pythons, many of the cast of Black Adder are now household names and have gone onto incredible things.

There are a lot of details here but “The True History” is quite interesting reading and has several sections of photographs to break up the text. J. F. Roberts was able to gain access to the principal production team and cast so there are some wonderful quotes and insights provided by them. There are also some wonderful excerpts from Black Adder and other less known works to keep the laugher flowing but, generally, this book is really only for obsessive fans of not only the series but classic British comedy.

The appendices include a complete episode guide, “A Fragment” of the unfinished script “Blackadder in Bethlehem” and an index if you want to look anything up…

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2022-03-27

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: Preface

Publication Date: 2012

ISBN: 9781848093461