TV Review: Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

Posted: December 12, 2009 in Holiday, Reviews
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Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988 BBC Dir. Richard Boden)

Well, every other successful BBC show from the 80s and 90s besides Red Dwarf seems to have a Christmas Show, so why not Blackadder? Well, actually I can think of a couple of reasons. Mostly because a great deal of them are shoddy and crap and this isn’t exactly an exception. It’s not that this is a bad special, it’s just that it’s not that great. When you compare this to the rest of the Blackadder cannon, it’s not so hot. It’s funny, but not as funny as the rest of Blackadder. Part of the problem is that this parody is really rooted in anti-Thatcher feelings as well as a lot of the sort of ideas that were floating around in the 1980s. I mean one can argue that this is a parody program of how some fairly liberal people think conservatives would have written A Christmas Carol. This is sort of the Stephen Colbert version done 20 years early. The kindly liberal guy discovers that he’s been made a chump of and that bad guys get all the kicks so he turns evil. OMG! SPOILER! You know, if you haven’t seen enough Blackadder to know the drill you shouldn’t even be watching this.

Here we see where Baldrick spelled Christmas without getting any of the letters right at all.

Sadly, the frame story of this special is the weakest part of it. That’s sad because it’s also the longest part of it. Ebenezer Blackadder is the kindest man in all of Victoria’s London, and the biggest chump. The pieces with Blackadder and Baldrick are good, with good rapport between the two they manage to come off as being comfortable with each other. Since Rowan and Tony were well established, this isn’t such a surprise though. We also see a little bit with Victoria and Albert, which actually is pretty funny if you know the history between them. The show goes a long way toward slipping in guest stars that I recognize from spots on other shows from the period and letting them rip him off. Mostly though, you slog through the piece of Ebenezer, his niece, Mrs. Scratchit and all the other assorted people who he happily lets rip him off. The show becomes more and more depressing as we go along. It’s not until Robbie Coltrane shows up that the programs gets any life.

Yeah, really. In another 15 years or so I’ll be more recognizable with a beard than without.

When Mr. Blackadder goes to bed, he is accidentally visited by The Ghost of Christmas, played by Robbie Coltrane in what looks like the first attempt at Hargrid’s make-up. He dances around, makes a few jokes, and then we get to what should be the main plot. He tells Blackadder about how he gets bad people to change their ways by showing them visions and then offers to show Ebenezer his ancestors for the fun of it. It’s here that the show suffers, because the flashbacks should be the meat and they end up being just a bit of cheese. We really want to see Miranda Richardson come back as Queen Liz, and she’s only on for about a minute or so. Same with the other two sections. They go by so quick that they’re hardly worth having unfortunately.

Just sign the nation away here.

We’re then taken to the Elizabethan version of Edmund Blackadder, who finds himself in trouble again. As he is about to give Queen Elizabeth her present, she tells him that she has decided to abolish Christmas and will kill anyone with a present. He quickly gets away and tells his nemesis Lord Melchit the news, which of course he doesn’t believe. In the meantime it seems that the Queen has decided to love Christmas again. As Melchit has decided to go against Blackadder’s advice he gives the queen a present. This turns her for Melchit (giving him a castle, title and saucy wife) and against Blackadder (who she decides gets and axe). He manages to get her to sign a novelty death warrant he got in a Christmas cracker and gets Melchit name in the place of the victim. They decide since it’s such a good joke, she will kill Melchit and give Blackadder everything that Melchit had. Ebenezer concludes that Edmund was quite a guy. The Spirit seems slightly put off, and decides to show him another evil doer in his family tree.

Elizabeth gonna hafta smack a bitch!

We’re then taken to the area covered by Blackadder the Third. Blackadder comes up with a scheme to get the presents away from the Prince Regent by getting him to give the presents to an old woman. The old woman turns out not to be Baldrick in a dress though and they are forced to go out into the night and steal them away from her. Once again, Ebenezer notices that the naughty Edmund of 1788 gets the presents.

Ah, um… sorry I forgot to think of something funny here.

We’re then taken to see the future as it might be if Ebenezer started being a bad guy. As it turns out, that the Blackadders become the rulers of the universe, conquering the queen of the galaxy. When we see the future with Blackadder being good, it turns out that the Blackadders become Baldrick’s slave. This encourages to Ebenezer announce that “Bad guys have all the fun!” which the spirit tries to wriggle out of but can’t quite manage. The spirit then vanishes in reverse of the way he came in.

The future looks like Spencer Gifts

The morning shows us a very different Blackadder, turned dark and evil. All the people he was so incredibly kind to before now find him mean and cruel. This does backfire on him, at the end as he insults Victoria and Albert mistaking them for being impersonators. They were going to give him money, title and a big house only he’s so rude they run away into the cold. We end with poor Blackadder having just discovered his mistake.

Now he’s a bad guy.

I can’t really throw myself into recommending this to any but a real Blackadder fan, and if you are such a fan you’ve probably got a copy already. Mine was supplied on the collector’s DVD set and yours probably was too if you have it. I think probably this was thrown together at the request of some higher ups at the BBC and much of the format was dictated to the producers. It probably was really cool when they came out with this in the 80s, but only interesting as a curiosity now. Probably of more interest is the special made in ’99, Blackadder: Back & Forth, which confirms that Miranda Richardson will still be cute as hell at age 98 if the path she’s taken is any indicator.

Baldrick’s Card

In the end, this turns out to be like a lot of Christmas specials that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. Thrown together quickly, on half the budget of a normal episode, using pre-existing sets and costumes and of course, probably shot in September. It’s possible that this was done in December, but I would suspect that it was shot in the fall, and then a laugh track was later added.

T’was pure evil made me put this one up here.

Now allow me to end with some German Disco…

Because why not?
Official Score:
5 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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