Black Adder's Christmas Carol
directed by Richard Boden
(BBC, 1988)

Rowan Atkinson's involvement with a project is a clear warning that irreverence and hilarity are sure to come.

He serves up both in double measure with his Christmas spoof, Black Adder's Christmas Carol. Anyone familiar with Atkinson's wildly popular BBC series Black Adder -- set across the ages in the times and courts of Richard III, Elizabeth I and mad Prince George, as well as the trenches of World War I -- has a fair idea what's coming in this hour-long special.

But no ... Ebenezer Blackadder is a good man, the nicest man in all England -- a humble shopkeeper who will give his last penny to someone in questionable need. Sure, he still verbally abuses his ubiquitous servant Baldrick (Tony Robinson), but he does it with a smile on his face and fewer blows to the head.

When Ebenezer retires to sleep on Christmas Eve, his slumber is disturbed by a strange manifestation. The Spirit of Christmas (Robbie Coltrane in a marvelous, over-the-top performance) drops by to take a break from all the misers and skinflints he usually has to deal with on this holiday night. While chatting over a bit of a Christmas nip, he tells Ebenezer about his nasty ancestors, the long line of Edmund Blackadders who lied and schemed their way to power.

The best bit is in Elizabeth's court, where Edmund gambled his head on the queen's ever-changing attitude towards Christmas and presents.

It's the glimpse of his bloodline's future that seals the deal, however; unlike Scrooge's reclamation in his well-known tale, Ebenezer Blackadder learns an entirely different lesson from his Christmas Eve visitation. And we can all rest easy that the nasty future of the Blackadder clan is assured.

Instead of Charles Dickens' popular refrain, "God bless us, everyone," Atkinson delivers his signature message: "Bad guys have all the fun."

The show features guest appearances from a number of Black Adder series regulars. Miranda Richardson reprises her role as Queen Elizabeth I and takes a futuristic role as Asphyxia XIX. Stephen Fry is back as Lord Melchett, as well as Lord Frondo. Hugh Laurie is Prince George and Pigmont. And Patsy Byrne returns as Nursie and Bernard.

The royal couple makes a few appearances as well, and Miriam Margolyes and Jim Broadbent make a fabulous Victoria and Albert. Pauline Melville is a whining, irritating Mrs. Scratchit.

Readily available on both sides of the Atlantic, Black Adder's Christmas Carol is guaranteed to add spice and side-splitting laughter to your holiday festivities.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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