JEEVES AND WOOSTER: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION. (1990-1993) BASED ON THE NOVELS BY P.G. WODEHOUSE. DIRECTED BY ROBERT YOUNG AND FERDINAND FAIRFAX. MUSIC BY ANNE DUDLEY.
STARRING STEPHEN FRY AND HUGH LAURIE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This complete series is just such a treat, a delight, the televisual equivalent of afternoon tea with tons of cream cakes and jam and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off. My kids and I re-watched the entire series during the Lockdown of 2020 (well, of course we’re still in it!) and it brought us nothing but pure absolute joy.
The stately home and country garden settings are utterly exquisite and the period costumes and motor cars stunning. The attention to period detail is just incredible.
The series decamps to ‘Thirties America for some of the episodes and the detail in these episodes is equally painstaking, even if the series does somewhat imply that you can pop over and back to the States from Blighty in the blink of an eye, and not the several weeks on an ocean liner that it would probably have taken…!
Bertie Wooster is an English toff from the ‘Thirties, and Reginald Jeeves is his butler or valet or gentleman’s gentleman. Bertie is forever getting into scrapes, whether romantic or downright criminal (for example, involving the theft of a country copper’s helmet!), and the infinitely learned Jeeves, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything from the Life Cycle of the Worm to Greek and Roman classics, is called upon to exercise his ‘little grey cells’ to extricate his master from yet another jam.
Bertie loves to booze it up at the Drones Club for Gentlemen with other young bucks of his class (Hammer Horror’s Michael Ripper plays the porter there in several episodes), and he’ll put a bet on virtually anything that moves.
He loves to sing and uses his ‘pleasing baritone to great effect about the flat,’ in the words of the inimitable Jeeves. Check out the episode in which he decides that Irving Berlin has ‘come a cropper somewhat’ by putting too many words in his classic song, ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz…’
Bertie is a highly eligible bachelor with his own classy London pad. He’s also very easy-going and generous in nature, which is why his aristocratic peers from the Drones Club downtown are constantly trying to take advantage of him.
They’re always embroiling Bertie in their zany schemes, usually involving inheritances, allowances, young ladies of their acquaintance and disapproving relatives who would stand in the way of their romantic dalliances with said young ladies.
Bertie gets into the most hilarious scrapes trying to help his friends achieve true love, familial approbation and the weekly or monthly stipend which would enable them to continue living the work-and-worry free life of the idle rich.
Bertie’s closest friends all have ridiculous names such as Gussie ‘I gave her a newt’ Fink Nottle, Tuppy Glossop, who is very fond of his grub, Bingo Little, a hopeless romantic, Oofy Prosser from the Drones Club and Barmy Fotheringay (pronounced ‘Fungi’) Phipps, whose real name is Cyril.
One such hilarious scheme involves Bingo Little and his desire to get married to a waitress, a match he was sure his uncle would frown upon. Jeeves’ plan in this instance was to get Bingo to read a series of books to his uncle, all involving the romantic unions of waitresses and toffs.
‘SHE WAS ONLY A FACTORY GIRL’ by Rosie M. Banks went down particularly well, especially when Bertie was persuaded to masquerade as the aforementioned Rosie M. Banks. How was Bertie, never mind the dozy Bingo, to know that Bingo’s waitress lady love, a Rosemary Bancroft, was in fact the illustrious female author in disguise, working undercover as a waitress to acquire material for her next book…?
Women are drawn to Bertie like flies to jam. They frequently decide that they want to marry him, and Bertie is too much of a people-pleaser to say no to them. It is left to Jeeves, then, to extricate his master from the romantic entanglement.
Although we, the viewers, adore Bertie, you’d be surprised how many fathers, uncles, guardians and casual observers violently oppose the match of their precious female relatives to ‘that idiot Wooster…!’ Death before Wooster, even.
Some of the women who give Bertie the most trouble are the hale and hearty, mannish Honoria Glossop, the revoltingly insipid and brainless Madeline Bassett, the terrifyingly bossy Florence Craye and Pauline Stoker, daughter of American business billionaire, J. Washburn Stoker.
Stiffy, aka Stephanie, Byng, a cousin of Madeline Bassett’s who doesn’t even want to marry Bertie as she has her own bloke, Stinker Pinker the Vicar, has no compunction about using blackmail to get the poor hapless Bertie to do her bidding.
This usually involves Bertie’s putting himself at great risk by stealing something from her old uncle and guardian Sir Watkyn Bassett, and breaking into this unwitting uncle’s stately home to either pinch the thing in question or put it back.
Bertie therefore spends a lot of time running away from the law, which at Totleigh Towers in Totleigh-in-the-Wold comprises Constable Oates, who thoroughly loathes Bertie and thinks he is an imbecile Hooray Henry.
Bertie gets no end of trouble from his Aged Aunts Agatha and Dahlia as well, who are always forcing him to look after dud relations, get engaged to women he can’t stand or (yes, again!) steal something or put it back.
The actresses playing these Aged Aunts changed a lot over the course of the four series. My favourite incarnations of both were Elizabeth Spriggs as the last Aunt Agatha and Brenda Bruce as the first Aunt Dahlia.
My favourite character by miles, apart from Jeeves and Wooster themselves, is one Roderick Spode, a friend and frequent house-guest of Sir Watkyn Bassett of Totleigh Towers. Spode is hilariously made out to be a sort of English equivalent of Adolf Hitler.
With the toothbrush moustache, the passion for oratory, his political organisation, the Blackshorts, and their swastika-like symbols, their Hitler Youth-style marching and rallying and their Hitlerish breast-beating and right-arm-extended salute, the comparisons are obvious and hilarious.
Spode hates Bertie’s guts, denouncing him for an idiotic toff waster, and several times threatens him with actual bodily harm. But, never fear, Jeeves has put Bertie in possession of the one little word designed to scare the manners back into this belligerent, blustering British Fascist. Come closer and I’ll whisper it in your ear. That’s right, Eulalie. No, Bertie, not Euripides, Euclid or Eucharist, it’s Eulalie…! Try not to forget it. It could come in very useful…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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