The Black Adder
I am a fan of British TV comedies: Monty Python, Red Dwarf and Fawlty Towers are favorites I have watched over and over. Another favorite is the Blackadder series — which is now on Netflix in its entirety.
Blackadder, over the course of four series (or seasons), follows the life and times of the Blackadder family. Rowan Atkinson (who most folks in the States know as Mr. Bean) plays the first Blackadder, and each of his descendants. Each series takes place in a different period of British history, which the show utilizes for its humor.
My favorite of the series is Blackadder II. Every episode is brilliant. The writing is tight. The humor is outlandish and marvelous. Blackadder II was also my first introduction to Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, another pair of hilarious gentlemen (who would go on to star in the equally great, Jeeves & Wooster series.)
Blackadder II (as well as the rest of the series) is interesting, in that it is a sit-com set in the past — the mid-1500s. There are jokes about peasants, the Spanish Inquisition and even The New World. History was never so funny (well, made up history anyway).
My favorite episode of the Blackadder II series is “Beer.” Edmund (Atkinson) challenges another member of the Queen’s court to a drinking contest, and on the same night his wealthy Puritan relatives arrive to discuss his inheritance. Hilarity, as would be expected, ensues.
Doctor Who fans should take note — a long-time Doctor, Tom Baker plays a legless, drunken sea captain in the episode, “Potato.” Also, House fans should watch not only Blackadder II, but also The Third and Goes Forth for some choice Hugh Laurie. When I finally saw an episode of House I was a bit taken aback, as I was only used to seeing Laurie play an upper class twit on Blackadder and Jeeves & Wooster.
The whole series is only 24 episodes, and are better than most American sit-coms with hundreds of episodes.