Which season(s) of Black Adder should I get my friend?
January 26, 2010 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Which season(s) of Black Adder should I get my friend?

My best friend just found out that her father has cancer and is going into surgery shortly. I'm a thousand miles away and can't do anything in person, so I thought I'd order her some DVDs so that she'll have something to distract her in the upcoming weeks (and perhaps to watch with her father, who is going to be on bed rest for at least a month). She's a bit of an anglophile (her father is part British) and I've seen Black Adder recommended here a bunch of times, so that seems like a good bet.

I can afford 1-2 seasons, but having never actually seen Black Adder, I have no idea which two to get her. Is there continuity between the seasons (i.e., should I get her the first and second seasons so that she won't be confused)? Or is each season self-contained? If the latter, which are the two funniest/best seasons?

Also, if this is a terrible idea because Black Adder is about fathers dying or people with cancer (I'm pretty sure it isn't about either of those things), please let me know.
posted by pluckemin to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Second and Fourth are my favorites and seem to be the ones most people I know who love the show recommend. No people dying of cancer as a plotline.

If she's a big Hugh Laurie fan, though, he's a major character in Three and Four. Stephen Fry is a major character in Two and Four.
posted by inturnaround at 5:44 PM on January 26, 2010

- The seasons are independent.
- Season 1 is funny but patchy, Seasons 2 and 3 are the most purely funny, and Season 4, while it has its share of laughs, is much more serious satire.
- There's a fair bit of cartoony death in the first three seasons, but season 4 ends with heartrending death. No fathers or cancer, but still, pretty bleak.

Try seasons 2 and 3, but I can't guarantee that even the cartoony deaths won't affect your friend.

Or try A Bit of Fry and Laurie instead. It's British, dead funny, but rather more gentle. (If she's a pet-lover, you may want to skip season 4 because of this skit.)
posted by maudlin at 5:46 PM on January 26, 2010

The basic concept and characters carry over (loosely) from season to season, but they're each pretty self-contained, so getting one or two seasons on their own should be fine. Feel absolutely free to skip Season 1; it's the weakest of the lot. IMO, Season 2 is very good, but Seasons 3 and 4 are brilliant (this is probably due to the fact that I adore Hugh Laurie). However, Season 4 ends on a sad/grim note (though not specifically about fathers dying of cancer), so that may not be the best bet under the circumstances, leaving Seasons 2 and 3 as my recs.
posted by scody at 5:46 PM on January 26, 2010

The seasons are self-contained to some extent. I like two and three the best; four has that ending episode, aaarg. (You may want to avoid four if she's sensitive about death, actually, if only because it takes place in the Great War and the last episode is a depressing...depress-o-fest.)
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 5:47 PM on January 26, 2010

Blackadder is one of my favourite TV shows.

One thing to bear in mind, series 1 is very, very different to series 2-4. It's hard to really even imagine that they're really the same characters. Series 1 is darker in both senses of the word.

My favourite series is 4, set in WW1, and after that series 2 which is set in Elizabethan England. And even series 3 has it's moment.s
posted by selton at 5:47 PM on January 26, 2010

Nthing seasons 2 & 3. Season 4 is also hilarious but, as already pointed out, has a sombre (and lump-in-throat-inducing) ending. Don't bother with season 1 - it simply isn't in the same league as the others.
posted by jonnyploy at 5:52 PM on January 26, 2010

And an alternative suggestion to Blackadder, and very light viewing, is Jeeves and Wooster (Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry in the title roles).
posted by selton at 5:55 PM on January 26, 2010

I love all 4 seasons, each of which are independent of the other as others have pointed out. Season 1 is sidesplitting if you like broad physical humor, while Seasons 2 and 3 are funny because of the wit. I think Season 4 is a bad idea for the reason others have pointed out.

You cannot go wrong with Atkinson, I think. Another thought is his Mr. Bean series, which is simply a hoot, or one of the Mr. Bean movies.
posted by bearwife at 6:04 PM on January 26, 2010

I'd agree with 2 and 3
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:05 PM on January 26, 2010

Season 4 has a heartbreaking ending, but features Stephen Fry at his funniest; Season 3 features Hugh Laurie at his funniest; Season 2 features Miranda Richardson.

All things being equal, as selton says, I think Jeeves and Wooster would be a better choice. It's lighter, more playful, and relies on slapstick and situational humor, while Blackadder is more acerbic and relies on dialog.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:09 PM on January 26, 2010

The second. For Miranda Richardson's Queenie. Because a few of the later series' characters are much funnier if you know who that actor played in Blackadder II. And for the Baby-Eating Bishop of Bath and Wells.
posted by holgate at 6:16 PM on January 26, 2010

Two or Three. Four ends on a heartbreaking note that is also kind of awesome when you consider what they did there. However, not the best introduction to the series. Season one is a little bit all over the place.

You can pretty frequently find the entire series used for $40 or so and Amazon sometimes put the entire series on super special too.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:30 PM on January 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far! Looks like seasons 2 and 3 are the clear front-runners if I do go with Black Adder.

Quick follow-up question about Jeeves and Wooster -- light and funny (and lots of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry) sounds like a good call, but I think she and her father may have seen at least some of it already (whereas I know they haven't seen Black Adder). Does J&W stand up to multiple viewings?
posted by pluckemin at 6:37 PM on January 26, 2010

J&W is a different sort of funny. It might appeal if you like historical stuff, but if you're not viewing it with the understanding that it's historical in nature, a bunch of it can run fairly offensive for the sort of person who trends towards politically correct. (I don't mean that term in a bad way, I couldn't think of a better way to say that.) J&W also runs fairly long. There aren't a lot of hour-long comedies and there's a good reason for that. I like it myself, but a lot of the people I've recommended it to haven't.

Blackadder-wise, I think season 4 is very good, but I think it's easier to appreciate how very good it is if you've already seen seasons 1-3. I'd start with 2-3 if you can only afford two.
posted by larkspur at 6:43 PM on January 26, 2010

Season 4 is the best of the lot in my opinion, followed by 2. 1 is rubbish, 3 is passable. The ending of 4 is poignant rather than depressing I think.
posted by djgh at 7:05 PM on January 26, 2010

There is absolutely NO continuity between series, especially between Series 1 and the others, so you needn't worry about that.

One other thing: Blackadder, being British, consists of just six episodes per series, compared to the typical 13 to 24 episodes in an American TV season. Blackadder's great and all, but don't pay too much for it.

(And, yeah, series 2 and 3 are best for neophytes, but my favourite is 4.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:42 PM on January 26, 2010

PS: As for Jeeves and Wooster, you really need to have read the (quite excellent) books to get into it. That was my experience, anyway.

PPS: Blackadder is really, really not for everybody. You should maybe watch an episode or two on YouTube (they're all there) and consider whether your friend would like it.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:49 PM on January 26, 2010

Jeeves & Wooster - helps tremendously and is more enjoyable if the person viewing it has read some Wodehouse and is familiar with some of the storylines, characters and humor involved. Entirely different sort of humor from BA. (There's a new complete set of J&W listed on half.com for $31.65 right now.)

You might want to check you tube to see if you can tell which of the Fry and Laurie vehicles your friend would prefer.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:11 PM on January 26, 2010

Another vote for Seasons 2 and 3. As mentioned, season 1 was nearly a different show, and Season 4 got more than a bit preachy. For pure funny, it's hard to beat Season 2.

Another possibility for anglophile comedy might be Black Books; you can sample a bit on Youtube, if you've not run into it...
posted by nonliteral at 10:00 PM on January 26, 2010

2 and 3, for sure. Series 1 I liked a lot, but I don't really think of it as "proper" Blackadder, as it's so different from the other 3. Series 4 suffered from too many amusing similies and not enough jokes, IMHO.
posted by salmacis at 2:53 AM on January 27, 2010

I enjoyed season 4 the most, but it might be because I saw it first. (I then saw them in order, but the person introducing me to Blackadder felt that Season 4 was the best as a stand-alone series.)

posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:15 AM on January 27, 2010

I'd reccomend watching season 2 first, then 3, then 4 and only watching 1 if you're particularly keen. They are all self-contained, but there are a few, very slight, in jokes which re-occur. Certainly in the UK you can get all 4 series quite cheaply as a box set...
posted by prentiz at 5:42 AM on January 27, 2010

4! definitely 4. I saw it before I saw any of the other seasons. 4... and then 3 if you have money leftover. I don't think the ending of 4 is depressing... more like thought-provoking or sobering.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:56 AM on January 27, 2010

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