In a recent interview with the Radio Times, Rowan Atkinson revealed that there had been tentative talks about a fifth installment of Blackadder, widely hailed as one of Britain’s finest ever comedies. Atkinson played the scheming, sarcastic, social climber Edmund Blackadder in various historical incarnations from the Wars of the Roses up to World War I.
Has this actually been confirmed?
Atkinson did not over-egg the pudding here, going no further than to say that it was “certainly not impossible” that the show might return. He added, “I’d rather not speculate on when it could be set. But Blackadder represented the creative energy we all had in the ’80s. To try to replicate that 30 years on wouldn’t be easy.”
It would of course be a bold move to launch a serious revival given that the fourth season finale – an unexpectedly tragic paean to those who died in the First World War – is routinely credited as one of British television’s greatest moments. It is, in short, an incredibly tough act to follow.
Blackadder co-creator Ben Elton has previously ruled out a revival of the show, or at the very least ruled out the idea he himself would return, claiming “Every time Tony [Robinson] does an interview he says, ‘Oh, I think there might be another,’ but don’t listen to Baldrick on this one, you need to hear it from me or Richard [Curtis] as we write it.”. Elton is usually credited with changing the formula of Blackadder’s ropy first installment into the far more successful and better-known version of the show, although this idea has been criticised as something of a savior-myth.
If Blackadder seems lesser known than it should be, it’s because it’s overshadowed by Atkinson’s other great work Mr. Bean. Being Chaplin-style silent comedy, Bean can be and has been exported to any audience in the world, no matter their home language – whereas Blackadder, by nature, assumes its viewers are relatively familiar with the history of the British Isles.
What else is Atkinson up to?
Atkinson also noted that he was “in the foothills” of developing a Mr. Bean animated film, something he preferred to the previous, live-action film appearances of the character. “It’s easier for me to perform the character vocally than visually,” he said. “I don’t much enjoy playing him. The weight of responsibility is not pleasant. I find it stressful and exhausting and I look forward to the end of it.”
Curiously in this light, the other thing Atkinson currently has in the works sounds very Bean-like: an upcoming Netflix project titled Man Vs. Bee, in which Atkinson plays a man housesitting a large mansion who finds himself in conflict with a bee. This certainly has the sound of something which will be wacky and slapstick in the same way as Bean, but he could yet surprise us all by making his conflict with the bee a battle of minds, something introspective and cerebral – or, should I say, cebeebral.
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