Thursday, December 20, 2012

Blackadder's Christmas Carol

First aired December 23, 1988

"In the reign of good Queen Vic, there stood, in Dumpling Lane in old London Towne, the Moustache Shoppe of one Ebenezer Blackadder -- the kindest and loveliest man in all England." -Opening narration.

"In the feeling good ledger in life, we are rich, indeed!" - Ebenezer Blackadder

Ebenezer Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson, who plays all the members of the Blackadder family in this special) is, as the above narration says, the kindest and most charitable man in London.  He is constantly donating money and offering assistance to poor citizens who visit his mustache shop.  Blackadder is assisted in his shop by a man named Baldrick (Tony Robinson), who is a bit of a dim bulb, but well-intentioned.

"Congratulations, Mr Baldrick! Something of a triumph, I think — you must be the first person ever to spell `Christmas’ without getting any of the letters right at all."
On Christmas Eve, the mustache shop is inundated with people seeking money, food, or anything they can get.   Blackadder's tree is a mere twig. "Yes, but size isn’t important, my friend — it’s not what you’ve got; it’s where you stick it."

His business has earned him 17 pounds and a penny for the year.  Baldrick suggests that Blackadder would have made more money if he wasn't so gullible.

"Yeah, I just wish we weren’t doing so well in the bit-short-of-prezzies-and-feeling-a-gullible-prat ledger."

Shortly thereafter, a woman named Mrs. Scratchit (Pauline Melville) gets Blackadder to pay her £17  for a matchbox (£1 per match).  A neighborhood boy takes the penny to go buy gin.

"Mrs Scratchit, you have the body of a weak woman, but the mind of a criminal genius!"

Blackadder's shrill niece, Millicent (Nicola Bryant) pops in and walks out with all the presents and the Christmas Twig.  The Mr. Bumble-esque beadle (Denis Lill) from the local orphanage takes their bowl of nuts on behalf of the unusually rotund orphans in his charge.

"Oh, I just thought I pop round, you know, just on the off chance. Well, you know, Christmas is a time traditionally connected with presents…"

This is followed by a visit from Queen Victoria (Miriam Margolyes) and Prince Albert (Jim Broadbent), who are having a "Christmas adventure" in which they (unconvincingly) disguise themselves as common folk to "go out amongst the people to reward the virtuous and the good."

Prince Albert and Queen Victoria discuss their plans for a "Christmas adventure"
They have heard of his kindness and ask him for a £10 donation.  All they have left to give is their Christmas turkey, which is taken by the royals.

Queen Victoria: "Give us ten pounds for the virtuous old lady next door."

Blackadder heads off to bed, resigned to the fact that they'll have a "thin Christmas".  But Baldrick remembers something he forgot to mention earlier:

Oh by the way ...
 "‘Night ‘night. Oh! By the way — I forgot to mention: When you were out there… …there was this enormous ghostly creature coming here saying, “Beware! for, tonight, you shall receive a strange and terrible visitation!” I just thought I’d mention it.  It come through the wall, it said its piece, and then it sodded off.

Sure enough, when he is sleeping, Blackadder is visited by the Spirit Of Christmas (Robbie Coltrane).

"How do you do? Just doing my usual rounds, you know: a wee bit of haunting, getting misers to change their evil ways. But you’re obviously such a good chap, there’ll be no need for any of that nonsense!"
The Spirit tells Blackadder he makes the rounds on Christmas Eve, convincing "misers to change their evil ways".  The Spirit has just stopped by to say hello to Blackadder, since he is such a good man.  But when he mentions that Blackadder's descendents were evil, Ebenezer wants to hear about them.

Ebenezer Blackadder is shocked to learn that his ancestors were bad and wants to know more
The Spirit shows Blackadder visions of  Edmund, Lord Blackadder, who lived during the Elizabethan Era.  Edmund is always scheming and manipulative of Queen Elizabeth I (Miranda Richardson) and her advisor Lord Melchett (Stephen Fry).

"And, look, there’s a surprise present for you inside. It’s a novelty death warrant, and you give it to a friend."
Edmund is a lying scoundrel who gains wealth and power by any means necessary.  Ebenezer begins to wonder if Edmund was doing something right.

The Spirit then shows Ebenezer scenes from the Regency featuring the behavior of his grandfather, Mr. Edmund Blackadder, Esquire, butler to Prince Regent George (as played by Hugh Laurie).

"Right, Balders…  I’m sick of getting no presents and the Prince Regent getting the lot, so this is the plan: We play our traditional game of charades, and, when he gets bored and asks for a story, you come out here, stick the dress and the hat on, and then knock on the door. I’ll take it from there. Have you got it?"

In this era, we witness Blackadder and Baldrick trying to steal the Prince's collection of Christmas gifts.  A poor old woman shows up and asks for the gifts and George gives them to her.  Blackadder chases her down and steals the presents for himself.  Upon seeing this, Ebenezer says of his grandfather "his behavior, as you say…disgraceful. But, he actually got the presents!"

Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent
Next, in an attempt to undo the damage he fears he may have done, the Spirit shows Blackadder what the distant future will hold for his  family.

Husbands: Hail Queen Asphyxia, Supreme Mistress of the Universe. Asphyxia:
…and hail to you, my Triple-Husbandoid. I summon you here to group-greet our swift imperial navies home.
 Approach, Grand Admiral of the Dark Segment and Lord of the High-Slung Bottoms of Zob!
Apparently, if he is bad, Blackadder will become ruler of the universe, with Baldrick's descendent as his slave.  But if he behaves kindly to his fellow humans, he will end up poor and the slave of Baldrick.

"For God’s sake, Baldrick — if you’re going to wear that ridiculous jockstrap, at least keep your legs together!"
The visions of past and future convince Ebenezer Blackadder to change his ways ... for the worse!

 He wakes up Christmas morning and punches Baldrick twice as a jumping off point for his new-found nastiness.

Ebenezer makes Baldrick a fist for Christmas
 Millicent shows up with her fiance Ralph, Blackadder is cruel to them and tosses them out.

"Oh, my dear Millicent come for her dinner. …And she seems to have brought the fish course with her."
Ebenezer throws several more people out of his mustache shop before the night is over.  His newfound bad attitude will lead to the acquisition of wealth and power for himself and future generations of Blackadders...or will it? 


J.A. Morris says:
 Blackadder's Christmas Carol was my introduction to the BBC's Blackadder series and it's a good gateway to the characters.  It gives us a "reverse-Scrooge" scenario.  A good, generous man is visited by a Spirit, wakes up on Christmas morning and decides "that bad guys have all the fun."  I would like to think that Mr. Dickens himself would appreciate this parody.  If you watch through the end of this special, you'll see that its message is not quite as cynical as it first appears.

Instead of presents, Lord Melchett and Edmund Blackadder exchange insults for Christmas.

If you haven't seen this series, please check it out.  Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson were always hilarious as Blackadder and Baldrick, respectively.  They were assisted by one of the greatest ensemble casts of all time.  Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent and Robbie Coltrane are all stars in their own right and they're all great here.

In this version of the story "Scrooge" buys the "prize turkey" for himself

This special can be found on dvd and also streams on Netflix (as does the entire Blackadder series).

Blackadder give the Spirit a "medicinal" beverage.

Blackadder's Christmas Carol is one of the best parodies of this story and it's all the funnier since (like the original) it's set in the Victorian Era.  Highly recommended!

J.A. Morris' rating:
4 candy canes


RigbyMel says:

The Blackadder series is one of my favorite British tv shows ever and this snarky Scrooge-in-reverse takeoff on A Christmas Carol is laugh out loud hilarious.   Ben Elton and Richard Curtis' acerbic script is very well rendered by very talented comedic actors.   I particularly enjoy the over the top ridiculous performances of the various royal personages.

Queenie (Miranda Richardson) and Nursie (Patsy Byrne) with paper chain Christmas decorations
 I still laugh out loud each time I watch this episode and it is a nice antidote to the sometimes overly-treacly Dickens adaptations floating around this time of year. 

RigbyMel's rating:
4 candy canes (or should I be giving naughty Mr. Blackadder a lump of coal?)

Closing credit card with bonus Christmas message courtesy of Baldrick

1 comment:

bga said...

Another show to put on my "to do list" for Christmas!