On December 22, a retweeted message from Rowan Atkinson of Blackadder and Mr. Bean fame appeared in my Twitter timeline: “I can also confirm that there will be a return of Black adder. This February, all the main cast returning.”
How wonderful, I thought. I guess Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are now both available and on board. I’d long since resigned myself to the likelihood that 2000′s Blackadder Back and Forth was to be the final installment in the beloved British television property.
Three minutes later came, “Can we possibly get #BlackadderReturn trending? I will follow a handful that use the #. Thanks, Rowan.” Almost without hesitating, I retweeted the news, adding “You have made my Christmas,” and then went about my day.
Something nagged at me, though, and I found myself wondering. Why the concern with trending? Promotion? It seemed odd. But I actually found myself shrugging off the feeling and surrendering to the pleasure of anticipation.
Eleven similar messages followed within a half hour, most urging followers to get the hashtag trending, and culminated in the announcement: “It will appear on BBC1, February 1st. 7:30 – RETWEET. #BlackadderReturn.”
My baloney detector can be slow to engage, but now it was cranking up in earnest. I’d thought that production hadn’t started yet, but now it was airing on February 1? Had the whole thing been completed in secret? Or was it going to be a live special?
Increasingly suspicious, I checked out the Twitter profile: “RAtkinson1955.” The appended number seemed odd — surely Rowan Atkinson would have snagged a simpler version of his name? — but it wasn’t without precedent. This account also had nearly 26,000 followers, which is a lot, but not nearly as many as I would expect an entertainer of Atkinson’s prominence to have. What’s more, the account had apparently only been created a few days earlier. At this stage I needed independent verification of the news, so I turned to the Interwebs.
A moment of searching turned up the information that the “news” had originally appeared back in August, subsequent to Atkinson’s comedic turn at the Olympics — and had been exposed as a hoax. A couple of the new tweets (including the promise that the special would be “cunning and exquisite”) were, in fact, verbatim reproductions of the earlier ones. Atkinson evidently did not even have a Twitter account.
I used the “#BlackadderReturn” hashtag and tweeted what I had uncovered, but without much hope that it would have an appreciable impact. As of this writing, the retweets are still going strong.
It’s good to get these metaphorical kicks in the head occasionally (or, if you’re like me, frequently). We need reminders of how fallible we are, and best to get them when the stakes are low.
But damnit, I wanted to see that sequel.