This article is more than 4 years old

Professor Blackadder and the cunning higher ed plan

Professor Blackadder and the cunning higher ed plan
This article is more than 4 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

This news took higher ed Twitter by storm recently:

The stars of Blackadder have reportedly agreed to reunite for a new episode or series, after having met up in London to discuss the idea of bringing back the hit sitcom.
The Sun reports Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie agreed on a return, after meeting together at the Soho House members club in London.
A source told the newspaper: “They were all having a great laugh and they are all old friends. So they just said, ‘Yes, let’s do it’. It is being written now. Rowan has been saying he is extremely excited.”
The new series will reportedly be set in the modern day, with Blackadder as a university lecturer.

This news fills me with dread for two reasons. First, I have always loved Blackadder but really do think it came to the end of the road and a new series would struggle to sustain the quality of the first four. Secondly, not many have managed to make genuinely great comedy out of higher education, despite the huge potential.

We’ve looked at some candidates for the best higher ed TV programmes before with the best ones being the oldies including Porterhouse Blue, Nice Work and, of course, A Very Peculiar Practice which set a high benchmark for all HE comedy. Community, Fresh Meat and the Big Bang Theory are among the better more recent efforts.

Many have tried but few have genuinely succeeded and you only have to look back at the calamitous ‘Campus’ to see how badly things can go.

HE has appeared in Blackadder before. One of the classic scenes from Blackadder Goes Forth involves the attempt to discover a German spy in the hospital. Blackadder suspects Nurse Mary:

Remember you mentioned a clever boyfriend?
Nurse Mary:
I leapt on the opportunity to test you. I asked if he’d been to one of the great universities: Oxford, Cambridge, Hull.
Nurse Mary:
You failed to spot that only two of those are great universities!
Nurse Mary:
You swine!
That’s right! Oxford’s a complete dump!

Will Blackadder Goes to University work then? Perhaps we should be open minded – if anyone can make Augar, pensions, Brexit, REF, TEF, KEF, OfS regulation, the CMA, Prevent, Free speech and grade inflation amusing then it’s this lot.

But will Vice-Chancellor Professor Melchett and Dr Darling the Registrar, together with Professor Edmund Blackadder, Head of Humanities, George, his loyal deputy, and Baldrick his failing PhD student really deliver the goods?

There is space for high quality comedy set in HE. But it is very difficult to do. Perhaps it is for the best then that Tony Robinson has now poured cold water on this story.

3 responses to “Professor Blackadder and the cunning higher ed plan

  1. Basically you’re saying that less successful comedy groups have failed to deliver a higher education comedy to your standards, therefore the Blackadder gang will ultimately fail too, so best not bother.

    Bet you are a hoot at parties.

  2. Just catching up with all the interesting stuff PG has written on this theme – would add the 1950s film of ‘Lucky Jim’ which captures well the stuffiness of the ‘provincial’ post-War University; as also covered in Truscott’s mid-40s ‘Redbrick’ book. And then there is the (?) 1930s Laurel & Hardy film about attending the U of Oxford…

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