Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jeeves and Wooster (The Complete Series) Review

What ho, followers all!  It's time today to tackle my very first review of a television show, and I shall attempt to do my best, but I must say that I simply can't concentrate until Anne-girl takes off that ridiculous hat.  Ladies do not wear straw hats in the metropolis, madam.  Where on earth did she get it?  I can only assume that it got into her wardrobe by mistake... or else had been placed there by her enemies.

Ah, yes, thank you for complying, Anne-girl.  Spiffing.  Very well, we can now proceed.

Now I must warn you that I am quite fond of this television series, quite fond indeed (in fact it is my favorite) and though I would like to do justice to it through writing a simply brilliant review, I'm afraid that the sheer brilliancy of the series itself tends to make me feel as though I had all the intelligence of a backwards clam and ought to just give up and join the Drones club.  At least there I'd be appreciated--might even be considered a dangerous intellect.

But anyway.  Here goes nothing.

"What? Certainly, Jeeves. What, a bit vivid do you think?"
"Not necessarily, sir. I am told that Mr. Freddy He’s-a-Riot Flowerdew often
appears on the music-hall stage in comparable attire, but…"

"No, no, no. No, no, no.  No buts, Jeeves.  I happen to think very highly of them."

Jeeves and Wooster is possibly the most hilarious television program ever to grace my portable DVD player.  The fact that I watch about four television programs with any kind of regularity does not lessen the distinction because J&W (as it shall hereinafter be abbreviated) is just plain hilarious.   Everybody says that Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are comedic genius.   The reason for this widely held opinion is that it is the truth.

Hugh Laurie (first known to me as the ever-hilarious, the one and only Mr. Palmer in S&S95) absolutely IS Bertie Wooster.  The first Jeeves book I ever read was... mmm... Thank You, Jeeves, and having seen a few photos of Bertie from the show beforehand, I was able to easily picture him in my mind.  Exceedingly helpful when one is reading a book before seeing a movie or show, you know.  It's horrid when you get one idea of a character firmly fixated in your head while reading the book and then have to get jolted into something completely different when you see the movie.  (The people in my head are generally better.)  

I knew I liked Bertie from the moment his hilarious narrative commentary began on the first page of Thank You, Jeeves.  I mean, what's not to like? The man has an impeccable sense of the ridiculous (even if he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer at all times), a delightful lack of taste when it comes to clothes, the ability to see the bright side in most situations, an unswerving loyalty to his friends, an old-fashioned code of honor (er, code of the Woosters) refreshing to see in the dissipated 1920's (and in the even-worse 2010's, I might add) and a profoundly humorous way of expressing himself.  (See above.)  And Hugh Laurie captures every bit of Bertie's personality to a T.The only thing I can't understand is why anyone so uniformly charming could acquire so many enemies as Bertie seems to have done.

Take Aunt Agatha Gregson, for instance.  She's basically the dragon of the show.  First she's played by Mary Wimbush and then she's played by Elizabeth Spriggs, and I hope that doesn't confuse you because she's not the only character in the show to get replaced.

Though I love Elizabeth Spriggs' portrayal in the last season, Mary Wimbush is my favorite Aunt Agatha.  She has the full-blown ship's-foghorn voice that I always imagined Aunt Agatha had, she has the third-best facial expressions on the show (after Jeeves and Bertie, of course-- oh, no, wait, I forgot Madeline Bassett in her third incarnation so never mind) and she has some pretty amazing quotes.  "Don't talk drivel, Bertie."  Aunt Agatha is completely convinced that her idle, rich nephew can't do anything right, and the fact that she's ninety-five percent correct somehow doesn't stop everyone from hating her.  In a good way, of course.  Because she's funny.

Elizabeth Spriggs does a fabulous job of portraying Aunt Agatha, too, and I can't help remembering Sense and Sensibility when I see her scenes with Hugh Laurie.  "Oh, Mr. Palmer is so droll!"  Only of course on J&W she doesn't think he's droll at all.  "Drooling" would be a better adjective.

Like I said, several characters get replaced over the duration of the show, and if I had one complaint about J&W it would be about that.  It's rather annoying to find that a recurring character (albeit minor) suddenly has a new face, new voice, practically a new personality (Pauline Stoker, I'm looking at you) or that one of your favorite characters has changed just enough to spark debate between you and your sister as to whether it's a new actor or not (it was. Gussie Fink-Nottle, what is up with that???).  And as for Madeline Bassett... girl, you were portrayed by no less than THREE different actresses in a four-year period, and the first actress to play you went on to be a character who is your POLAR OPPOSITE  (hi, Lady Florence!) in the latter seasons.  What.  Is.  Going.  On.  Here.

Let's take this one step at a time.  We'll begin with Gussie Fink-Nottle.  I have a bit of a soft spot for Gussie-- he's a lovable eccentric, but not at all like King Louis XVI.  (Um, sorry.  Inside joke for Horrible Histories fans.)  He likes newts, first and foremost, and... well...

I'm not saying I'm agreeing.  I'm just saying he has a point.  Poor Gussie is constantly getting himself into some sort of fix--whether it be romantical, involving his off-and-on fiancee Madeline Bassett, or relating to inebriation, involving spiked orange juice and some duplicitous behaviour on the part of his dear friend Bertie.  (Melody's scowling and harrumphing at me right now, I can just see her.)  And it's usually up to Bertie to get him OUT of the fix.  Er, that is, for Bertie to attempt to get him out, to fail miserably and make the matter worse, and for Jeeves to step in and smoothly save the day.  Yay Jeeves!

Now if only Bertie could have stepped in and befuddled the day (and then summoned Jeeves to save the day) when Richard Garnett got replaced on the show and Richard Braine took his place.  I mean, Richard Braine is fine and all.  But he tries too hard to be just like Richard Garnett, and he's just... not.  The hair isn't right, the glasses aren't right, the face isn't right, and above all the adorable LISP just isn't right.  Nope.  I want First-and-Second-Season-Gussie or none at all, thankyouverymuch.

Florence Craye is another favorite character--although she's supposed to be just as horrid as Aunt Agatha, she's one of those people that you enjoy having around, if you know what I mean.  You don't necessarily LIKE her, but you're happy when she makes an appearance, because you know hilarity is bound to ensue.  Francesca Folan plays the best Lady Florence, but she did not make a very good Madeline Bassett.  I know I said earlier that the two characters are polar opposites, but they're more than that--they're PENGUIN opposites.   Lady Florence is a forward-thinking, get-it-done-and-get-it-done-now, I-tolerate-no-nonsense-from-people-named-Wooster, politically minded spirit of regurgitated womanhood.*  Just look at the look on poor Bertie's face in the picture above.  That's basically his one and only facial expression whenever Florence is around.  Any woman who can reduce Hugh Laurie to a single facial expression has to be pretty awful.  "The root of the trouble," as Bertie says in Joy in the Morning, "was that she was one of those intellectual girls, steeped to the gills in serious purpose, who are unable to see a male soul without wanting to get behind it and shove."

Oh, and don't make any disparaging remarks about poor Bertie's white jacket in that picture, 'kay?  He has enough to handle from Jeeves.

"Beautiful women used to catch my eye."
"Presumably they thought you were a waiter, sir."

Back to Florence and Madeline.  Like I said, Francesca Folan does a great job acting the part of Lady Caligula.  Madeline Bassett, on the other hand, is the kind of girl who believes that every time a fairy blows its wee nose a baby is born, or something to that effect.

Bertie himself describes Madeline as a "pretty enough girl in a droopy, blonde, saucer-eyed way, but not the sort of breath-taker that takes the breath."  (Have I mentioned how much I enjoy Bertie's narrative.  Well, I do.)  Elizabeth Morton brings this across fabulously.  As mentioned before, she is a third-regeneration Madeline, and she's the best of the lot. When she maintains that the stars are God's daisy-chain (whaaaaat?), that Winnie-the-Pooh is the be-all, end-all of great literature (I'll give her that one) or that nothing in life can compare to the glory of being Countess of Sidcup (have fun, honey) she's actually believable.  I mean, some of the time you just kinda want to smack her upside the head with a Reality Check, but for the most part you're laughing too hard to be able to do that.

And don't get me started on her voice.  Just watch this clip and you'll see.  (Excellent Florence moment, too.  And an excellent Bertie moment-- as you can see, he's managed to get himself engaged to two ladies at once.  Brilliant planning there, old sport.)

Did I mention that Madeline spends the entire series laboring under the delusion that Bertie is madly in love with her?  Well, she does.  And it's hilarious.  Because he's not.

There are so many other characters that I'd love to talk about in great detail (Barmy Funky-Phipps for one-- he's the chap who thinks all the buildings in New York are tall because the plans got flipped sideways) but I really haven't time or space today, and I doubt you have the patience.  (This is not meant to reflect upon your levels of patience.)  Just go watch the show, okay?  Start at the beginning and go on until you get to the end.  Then stop.

By now you're probably frowning at me and tapping your fingers passive-aggressively, wondering when I'm going to get wise to the fact that I've left out an extremely important character.  Jeeves by name, valet by nature, to be precise.

Don't be silly, I didn't forget him. I just saved the best for last.  Reginald Jeeves is Bertie Wooster's trusty valet  and my absolute favorite character on the show, bar none.  Yes, he's better than Bertie.  Yes, I would be happy to hear your long list of reasons why Bertie is actually the best character--my comment box is at the bottom.  Yes, I will happily agree with each and every one of your reasons, but I will still maintain that Jeeves is the best.

Because Jeeves is more than just a gentleman's gentleman.  He is a calming presence.  He is balm on troubled water. He is the great brain that thrives on tinned fish and saves hopeless situations. His first name, as previously mentioned in brief, is Reginald, but we try to gloss over that bit.

(He is not a butler, in spite of inaccurate popular belief, but he has served in that position in a pinch and Bertie notes that he can "buttle with the best of them" when necessary.)

Jeeves has impeccable taste where clothes are concerned and does not hesitate to inform his employer when his employer's attire is less than satisfactory. White dinner jackets are a no-no, for example. A silken tie studded with little horseshoes once reduced the inimitable Jeeves to a shaking mess. And mustaches are an abomination and degradation. (So are goatees, but thankfully Bertie never goes quite THAT far.) 

Practically everybody likes Jeeves-- how could one help it? The only notable exception is a certain gentleman's gentleman with teeth like old harpsichord keys who goes by the name of Brinkley... but then, Brinkley's probably the most easily-disliked character on the whole show so I leave you to draw your own conclusions.  Small children have been known to be uncooperative when Jeeves requests their assistance, but bribery (which, according to Rosalind Penderwick, is immoral) can work wonders.

So can Jeeves, you know. What else can I say? Watch the show with all possible speed, try not to strain a rib while laughing and then let me know what you thought of it. And please do tell me I'm not the only one who actually really liked Honoria Glossop. "What ho, Glossops all!"

...Oops. Sorry. Shouldn't have said that. "Mother doesn't like me to say 'what ho.'"


Alexandra said...

Oh gosh, I was so happy to see this review in my dashboard today!!! Love, love, love, love. One of the BEST shows eveh, evah, evah. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry are comedic genius, that is absolutely right (and BFF in real life, so I understand. Oh, and trivia of the day - Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson were pals in college and Hugh and Emma dated for a while. Which probably has a lot to do with why Emma is so brilliant. End of trivia).

And YES...the one quibble I have with the show is that they're CONSTANTLY changing the actors. Argh. But third Madeline is definitely my favorite (and that clip is awesome)...I also happen to have an extreme soft spot for Roderick Spode (my favorite bit was the "you made her cry!" scene).

Gahhhhhh...love it. You make me want to watch it again...must needs do. They're such complete genius.

AND GIRL. If you think Jeeves is the best, you MUST check out Dorothy L. Sayers' stuff. REALLY. Ok. Let me hook you the way someone hooked me. "1920's mysteries. A hero that is a cross between Sir Percy and Bertie Wooster (yes, just stick with me), with a Jeeves-clone valet named Bunter (and yes, he is actually compared to Jeeves in the books at one point)." Now you really must read them. Plus Lord Peter and Harriet Vane are my second-favorite literary couple. So yes.

Katie Edwards said...

What-ho old bean! I love Jeeves and Wooster. Fry and Laurie are a fantastic comic pairing, and I simply can't imagine anyone else playing Jeeves and Wooster, or hear any other voices in my head when reading the books. Agree with you about the swapped actors, though - what's going on there? Most confusing.

Amy Wegner said...

I've never heard of this before... is there anything that could be objectionable in it (Language, inappropriate relationships, etc...)? I would really like to watch them! Tv shows are great because they go on for longer than 2 hours. :D

Hayden said...

hahaha! My sister loves Jeeves and Wooster, and I'm quite fond of it myself. She actually just today requested the next season at the library. This was a hilarious post, and I quite want to watch some more Jeeves and Wooster now...

Hamlette said...

I LOVE Stephen Fry, so I must try to find this post-haste. I've read a few of the books and found them smashing fun. Thanks for the awesome intro to the filmed version!

Maddie Rose said...

I love your post m'dear! I was laughing out loud at the little engagement clip! I MUST find this tv series.... and there's a book series too? Wonderful :)

Jane said...

LOVE Jeeves and Wooster! Excellent review. Now I want to watch them again! I am forever grateful to the friend who introduced me to both the books and series! And some of the books are on the public domain (Project Gutenberg) for those who want to read them. I just love Bertie's literary style!

Melody said...

I do like this show, but I must say it is far from my favorite. I think RTA is much bettah. Actually, I probably like LRTC better even. J&W, you see, has to be in moderation with me. If I see too much at once I start to get Veddy Annoyed. :P

What's not to like about Bertie? Haha... a lot of things. :P Shall I make a list?

Trust me, m'dear, an actress who was formerly one character playing a polar opposite character later is much better than the actress of one character changing and and becoming the polar opposite in looks and personality, and we're not supposed to wonder what on earth HAPPENED here?

And that is NOT about RTA this time... it was even worse than the Cecily change. I'm ranting about the Love Comes Softly movies again. :P Towards the end, a character I liked in the books (Belinda) was on a movie and she was this cheery, spunky-ish girl with wavy dark hair, and in the next one she was a depressed, more sarcastic and serious person with really straight, really blond hair. UGH.

Anyways. Ha, sometimes when we say "nute" it makes me think of Gussie and his newts. :P
You know, m'dear, most of the time when you reference me in a blog post, I catch my name while scrolling down to the comment box and then read it 'afore I'm supposed to. As to scowling and harrumphing--I thought, m'dear, that YOU did not like that part either. :P I scowl and harrumph at the episode, of course, and if you ruby-red-ed me as to disliking that part, then I shall favor you with those as well. :P Also, it wasn't just Bertie that time, it was also Jeeves, and it made my respect for him go down several notches, believe me. Haha.
'Adorable' lisp? HAHA! Well, I wouldn't go that far myself although it is rather amusing.

The stars are God's daisy-chain... hahaha, that was my reaction too. Whaaaaat?

BAHAHAHAHAHA THAT CLIP OH MY WORD. I loved it when Jeeves yelled. "You trod on my toe." BAHAHA. I really want to see that episode. And Florence. And Elizabeth Spriggs. Are you ever going to tell me where to skip in that one episode so I can continue the serieeeees? Pweeeeease?

Barmy and a lot of the other Bertie friends actually annoy me quite a bit. Sigh. I don't think he was the one who annoyed me the most, but I can't remember. :P

His first name is Reginald?? Ah! How interesting!

So are goatees.... BAHAHAHAHAHA. I'm quite certain your thoughts were very far from me and mine when you said that. *snort*

I actually do rather like Honoria Glossop in some ways. Most of the girls on here are either flaky and annoying or obnoxious and maddening and a disgrace to women everywhere. But Honoria isn't either. ;D

M'dear, you never mentioned the theeeeme song! It's so fun but very annoying sometimes to be stuck in one's head... it annoys me much less than it annoys Mamma, though. I start singing it and she's like "NO NOT AGAIN." :P

Hilarious and delightful post, as usual. :D

Jessie said...

Oh my! I absolutely ADORE Jeeves and Wooster! One of my favorite "old" TV shows. The "Tee de hee de hee, sir" line is so funny. :D I must get back to watching this show; I laughed out loud just reading your review!
Have a lovely day,

Isabella said...

Oh my LOVE this TV series!!! Glad you saw it! In fact I really want to watch it again.


Melody said...

HA... I just realized that when I said "me and mine" it made it sound like I had a goatee. Which obviously is not what I meant.

I just said me and mine rather than me, to imply that I was indicating something to do with me & other people in connexion with me.

Anonymous said...

Madelyn: "We should loosen his collar."
Jeeves: "I hardly think such drastic measures are called for, Miss Basset."

Rofl - Just breezed in via pinterest and thoroughly enjoyed every word of your review. I quite agree that the swapping of actors dented the later episodes, but since that was the price of having later episodes, I cheerfully swallow the pill.

Thanks for making me smile!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I love Honoria Glossop! Great actress and great personality, I hope that, if Bertie ever does find himself a help-meet, that it will be Honoria :-)