Jeeves and Wooster (1990–1993)
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But the original P.G. Wodehouse books are, it should go without saying, better. Bertie Wooster's narration of his own adventures is hilarious, and much of his bizarre "wit" is inevitably lost in translation to TV. Thankfully, though, Clive Exton's scripts do retain an enormous amount of Wodehouse's original dialogue, which really can't be beat.
All the plots are the same, of course; Wooster is either helping a friend get married, or trying to avoid getting hitched himself. Somehow, though, this repetition doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the series; in fact, it's sort of a wacky bonus. I find that, if anything irks me, it's that some of Wooster's friends are total jerks or weeds who really don't deserve his help - though I suppose that's part of the joke. The oily Gussy Finklenottle drives me absolutely nuts, especially in the first two seasons!
The production values are surprisingly lavish, especially for British TV (though there is a rather lame recreation of the Empire State Building in one episode). The period detail is impressive, and the music is great. The casting is mostly spot-on, too, though some of the guest actors perform a little too grotesquely, and certain very important characters are re-cast midway through the series. It's quite distracting when a major character like Madeline Basset is suddenly played by a new actress, especially when the original Madeline later shows up playing another character, Florence. Thankfully, some of the best cast members stay the course.
There's a definite change in tone after the first two seasons. The show gradually becomes weirder, and when you get to the later episodes Wooster is suddenly getting shot at, jumping off boats, etc. But there's plenty of great material throughout the whole run, and I highly recommend picking up the whole set on DVD. I don't even mind the American characters, who seem to take a lot of heat on this site; aren't the bad accents silly on purpose?
Ultimately, what makes this series so memorable is its offbeat combination of different elements - it's like a comedy of manners, a musical, and a goofy slapstick routine rolled in one. I didn't really get it when I was a kid, but I think it's a hoot now, and Wodehouse's commentary on the laziness of privileged people and the fickleness of love still feels very relevant. Great stuff.
i) Wodehouse was a highly prodigious writer ii) All of his stories feature upper class idiots iii)There is always a happy ending iv) The plots are never plausible v) None of the first four points will prevent you from enjoying his work vi) Wodehouse is one of the greatest ever writers of English prose.
A surprising variety of humourists have been influenced by Wodehouse, including Peter Cook, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Ben Elton, Spike Milligan, Woody Allen and even Billy Connolly.
Television and film adaptations are rarely as good as the original book, but this production is about as good as it gets. Apart from Stephen Fry being rather too young at the time to play Jeeves, the casting is nearly perfect, particularly Hugh Laurie as Wooster.
There are time constraints on television programmes that books are not limited by. There is also the problem that Wodehouse was at his best in narrative passages rather than with dialogue. Nevertheless, this programme will still make you laugh out loud. Great music too.
Better still, read the books. Not just the Jeeves and Wooster titles, but also the Blandings series, Psmith, Mr. Mulliner and Ukridge books.
Whatever your taste in comedy, The Fast Show or Last Of The Summer Wine, Dad's Army or Monty Python, the chances are that PG Wodehouse will make you laugh.
'Jeeves and Wooster' still crops up on satellite and cable channels. It is well worth a look.
Some people (few people) scoff at this version for being too visual. In fact, they scoff at any visual version for trying to interpret what in essence are novels driven by wonderful narrative. However, the charm comes in the perspective as well as the aesthetic.
Yes it's a beautiful show. It uses locations perfectly and remains diligent to those halls as to their fictitious namesake. You eventually come to know these halls and manors yourself as Bertie once again is called out to Tottley.
The music is a beautiful pastiche of all things 20s. Incidental score, while fairly repetitive (you'll hear the same motifs and themes pop up regularly) just adds to the warm familiar atmosphere. It adds charm and period distinction. The actual songs in the show are fun as well and made for a wonderful soundtrack.
The acting as well is perfect. It characterises the pomp without anyone seeming awkward. The scripts flow and the pace always complements the stories. Fry and Laurie were born for this part and never once slip from character or wither in the spotlight.
But as I was saying, the beauty comes in perspective. Some people have grumbled that Laurie's "Wooster" is too much of a fool compared to the beautiful prose he's meant to have jotted in "his" books, yet I think it adds, as I said, perspective. We all write and dictate experiences from a personal perspective, what the show does is offer similar instances (and they are similar not exact in most cases) from a third party perspective. What we write in hindsight is rare to what objectively happened. This warm hearted Oxford gentlemen is educated, but not over gifted in the sense department. He writes and plays beautifully, but he's not quick and we see that demonstrated perfectly through Laurie.
Fry is masterful as Jeeves. Younger than what some would prefer, nevertheless you don't doubt his presence for a second.
The stories are a mix of accurate rendition and loose interpretation. The final fourth season especially has a couple of episodes which don't really feel quite on the ball as the rest, possibly because the divert too far from Wodehouse's material, nevertheless, the fourth season does sort of tie up the loose ends yet has a finale which keeps Jeeves And Wooster feeling as eternal on the TV screen as it does in book form.
A wonderful compliment to Wodehouse's masterful books. Miss at your peril.
I remember watching this series every Saturday on TV for quite a long time. And my view on both Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry is still marked by this. Both are in my opinion perfect in their parts. Laurie with his rather silly and foppish British looks, his accent and his voice. And of course Stephen Fry who looks every bit the aristocratic manservant.
The stories presented are usually both silly and with little reference to reality. But they are entertaining nevertheless, and why watch something like this if not to be entertained? The silly aristocrat and his wise servant is a classic theme, and rarely is it done better than here.
5 stars, check it out!
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID