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Blackadder the Third
After the storming success of Blackadder II the next series saw another jump forward in history, this time to the reign of George III with Edmund Blackadder as butler to Prince George: the Prince Regent.
He may not have the aristocratic birth of his Elizabethan ancestor but this Blackadder possesses the same biting wit and cunning and, eager to climb up from his humble social position, has an even greater Machiavellian desire for wealth and power.
He also has, as his dogsbody, another member of the intellectually and hygienically challenged Baldrick family (initial 'S', so we learn) who unintentionally but invariably scuppers Blackadder's well-laid plans and an unlikely ally in local coffee-shop proprietor Mrs Miggins.
Together Blackadder and Baldrick serve the vain and idiotic Prince George: "described by almost everyone as a fat, flatulent git".
The historical setting might not be as immediately known as the reign of Elizabeth I, but writers Richard Curtis and Ben Elton realised how much rich material from the Regency period they could work with and these six episodes were sharper than ever.
Blackadder's feelings towards his long-time master are a hilarious mixture of loyalty and contempt and their misadventures together are brilliantly woven, taking in subjects like highwaymen and The French Revolution and involving historical figures from The Duke of Wellington and William Pitt the Younger, to Doctor Johnson and the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Co-starring alongside the peerless Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson was Hugh Laurie, who'd appeared in two episodes of the last series and now slotted in seamlessly as the Prince.
And in what was fast becoming a series trademark, a troupe of Britain’s best comic actors appeared throughout, including Robbie Coltrane as Dr Johnson and Stephen Fry as Wellington.
Matching hilarious scripts with top-notch performances, Blackadder the Third is a nigh-on perfect installment in one of the BBC's classic comedies.
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