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BBC Celebrates ‘Blackadder,’ ‘Fawlty Towers’

2 Aug, 2009 By: John Latchem

Fawlty Towers Blackadder

BBC Video is preparing new deluxe boxed sets of two TV shows that redefined British comedy: “Blackadder” and “Fawlty Towers.” The sets pay tribute to two comedy icons — John Cleese, who starred in “Fawlty Towers” from 1975-79; and Rowan Atkinson, who appeared in four “Blackadder” seasons from 1983-89, as well as several spinoff specials.

“When we started making DVDs, they were among the first five titles we released,” said Burton Cromer, SVP of consumer products for BBC Worldwide. “We felt it was time to refresh them and bring them up to date.”

For the new releases, BBC restored the original masters. Cromer said fans who already own the shows on DVD should be eager to upgrade their collection not only for the remastered episodes but also for the new suite of extras, including new commentaries with the casts and creators.
“Doing commentary on a TV show was a wild idea back then,” Cromer said.

The sets street Oct. 20 (prebook Sept. 15), with the three-disc “Fawlty Towers” set at $49.98 and the six-disc “Blackadder” at $79.98.

“Blackadder” consisted of six-episode seasons taking place in different eras of British history, with the core actors playing the same basic role transplanted into each time period (characters in the later seasons are descendents of those in the earlier years). Atkinson starred as Edmund Blackadder, joined throughout history by his servant Baldrick, played by Tony Robinson. The show also starred Stephen Fry, Miranda Richardson and a young Hugh Laurie, who went on to star in “House.”

“A lot of people are now aware of ‘Blackadder’ because Hugh Laurie was in it,” Cromer said.

One of the series’ co-creators, Richard Curtis, later went on to write the 1994 Oscar nominee Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The “Blackadder” set includes all 24 episodes, plus the bonus episodes “The Cavalier Years,” “Blackadder’s Christmas Carol” and “Blackadder Back and Forth,” the documentary “Blackadder Rides Again,” Baldrick’s video diary about the making of “Back and Forth,” an interactive historical guide hosted by Robinson, and new interviews and commentary with the cast and crew.

“Fawlty Towers” starred Monty Python stalwart Cleese as a put-upon manager of the fictitious Fawlty Towers hotel.

“’Fawlty Towers’ is an absolute classic,” Cromer said. “It’s one of the greatest farces in the English language. It’s a bit like ‘Seinfeld’ in the sense you can’t believe where you end up based on where you started.”

The “Fawlty Towers” set includes commentary by Cleese on all 12 episodes, new interviews with the cast, outtakes, a visit to Torguay, home of Fawlty Towers, and additional featurettes.

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