They don't make them like this any more. Actually, they really don't. The first of the series, with Edmund as a lily-livered medieval ward, wasn't up to much. Only with Blackadder's Elizabethan incarnation does the programme hit its stride, forging a wordy bawdiness and maintaining a period detail in the writing that the remaining two series developed brilliantly. The sharp characterisation and performances don't stop with Rowan Atkinson's conniving, cynical turn as Edmund, and Tony Robinson's preternaturally stupid Baldrick. Miranda Richardson is perfectly cast as the coquettish Elizabeth I, as are Tim McInnerny as Lord Percy, Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent in Blackadder the Third and Stephen Fry as General Melchett in Blackadder Goes Forth. Watch also how Curtis and Elton transformed the tone of the programme from upmarket Carry On to popular historical satire by the moving conclusion of the last series. A classic.
Talking Heads 2 (12), pounds 14.99
It somehow seemed inevitable that this second collection of six, half- hour monologues would find critics driving a qualitative wedge between it and its decade-old predecessor. Most of the carping seemed to centre on Bennett's admittedly selective apprehension of contemporary Britain. When the heads talk about their jobs or pastimes, for instance, it's true that none of them have a marketing post or surf the Internet: Patricia Routledge's Miss Fozzard works in an archaic-sounding department store, Eileen Atkins's character is an antiques dealer, and David Haig's Wilfred is a park-keeper.
Their language also tends to resort to Northern bathos and excessively polite circumlocution. But it's hardly as if any of this is unintentional on Bennett's part. Each character is revealing a long-held secret, or unearthing a fundamental truth about themselves - Miss Fozzard turns out to be a highly respectable sexual deviant, Wilfred a child molester, and Julie Walters is the wife of a serial killer. The superb drama at the heart of each these monologues isn't so much their inherently clearcut predicaments - and with the lottery, lesbianism, the media's appetite for a killer and sexual freedom, they're hardly old-fashioned - but the compassionate, elegiac way in which Bennett nudges his characters to a certain realisation.Reuse content