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.
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.)
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.)
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.'"