JEEVES AND WOOSTER: THE COMPLETE C0LLECTION. (1990-1993) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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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:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

BLACKADDER. (1983-1989) THE COMPLETE FOUR SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BLACKADDER. (1983-1989) THE COMPLETE FOUR SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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WRITTEN BY ROWAN ATKINSON, RICHARD CURTIS AND BEN ELTON.

STARRING ROWAN ATKINSON, TONY ROBINSON, HUGH LAURIE, STEPHEN FRY, TIM MCINNERNY, MIRANDA RICHARDSON, PATSY BYRNE, BRIAN BLESSED, MIRIAM MARGOLYES, JIM BROADBENT AND GABRIELLE GLAISTER.

‘Baldrick, it’s the stickiest situation anyone’s ever been in since Sticky the Stick Insect got stuck on a sticky bun.’

‘Yes, the Teutonic reputation for brutality is well-founded, Baldrick. Their operas go on for three or four days and they have no word for ‘fluffy.’

By anyone’s standards, this British pseudo-historical situation comedy snaps, crackles and pops in all the right places. It’s bally well top-notch stuff, as Lieutenant George himself might say. It always comes near the top of Best Sitcom Lists and, as far as the English are concerned, only two other sitcoms could possibly top it: ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES and FAWLTY TOWERS. I think I’d give BLACKADDER first place, personally speaking. The writing is just pure genius.

There were four complete series of BLACKADDER between 1983 and 1989, each taking place in a different historical period of England’s long and chequered past. Each one stars Rowan Atkinson as the Edmund Blackadder of the period and Tony Robinson as his less intelligent and much less fragrant sidekick-slash-dogsbody, while the cast around them shifts slightly each time, while maintaining a little core group of regulars, if you get me.

SERIES ONE: THE BLACK ADDER is set in 1485 at the end of the British Middle Ages. These were pretty yucky times, with plagues and pestilence stalking the land and flies and muck and shit everywhere from the indifferent sewerage systems in place at the time. There were none, I think, in point of fact. With shit from the privies flowing like the Thames down the streets of English towns, it’s no wonder the peasants were always catching the plague.

Peter Cook plays Richard the Third, who accidentally gets his bonce lopped off by an inept Blackadder after winning the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard the Fourth succeeds to the throne and is played by the big, bearded, larger-than-life Brian Blessed, he of the booming voice and lavish theatrical gestures. If anyone was born to play a King with a loud booming voice, surely this guy was, lol.

The Blackadder in this series is the King’s weedy second son, the one he doesn’t like and can barely recognise when he sees him. Flanked by the malodorous Baldrick and the wonderful Tim McInnerny as the foppish Lord Percy Percy, Blackadder is a somewhat ineffectual bumbler here and nowhere near as cunning and self-advancing as he becomes in the later three series.

By the time we reach BLACKADDER TWO, the character of Blackadder has been developed into the shrewd opportunistic sycophant we’re more used to seeing. Set in Elizabethan times, the Queen is marvellously played as a self-absorbed, self-obsessed selfish psychopathic cretin by Miranda Richardson.

The mischievous, some would say malicious Queen’s mood can turn on a dime, as they say, and so it’s ‘off with his head’ for anyone who pisses her off. Blackadder therefore spends his days sucking up to her big-time, in competition with Stephen Fry as her Numero Uno Toady, Lord Melchett.

Patsy Byrne is marvellous as Nursie, the Queen’s constant companion and former Nanny, who is obsessed with the booby-feeding she did when Queenie was a nipper. She treats the Queen as if she were still in the nursery and the Queen seems okay with it, probably because of the comforting familiarity it brings.

Then of course, on other occasions, she’s all, like, shut up Nursie, what would a demented old bat like YOU know about anything, lol. It’s all part-and-parcel of the tightly-knit, almost symbiotic relationship between the pair.

As brilliantly capricious as Miranda Richardson is as Queen Elizabeth, my favourite ‘dim aristocrat’ of the whole show is Hugh Laurie as the idiotic Prince Regent, the Prince of Wales, in BLACKADDER THE THIRD. The Regency period, taking place as it did towards the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th, was the era of the fops, and nobody fops like Prince George.

In his magnificent frock-coat and knee-breeches, his wig atop his bonce and his boat-race powdered and rouged to perfection, he drives his butler Edmund Blackadder Esquire to distraction with the emptiness of his head and the idiocy of his thoughts and ideas, if he has any. If the always-strapped-for-cash Blackadder wasn’t able to make a few quid on the side by selling the Prince’s socks behind his back, he’d probably hand in his notice.

The premise of each episode is that a tricky situation presents itself and Blackadder and Baldrick, who by now is a scruffy sight indeed, have to come up with a multiplicity of ‘cunning plans’ to try to extricate themselves from it.

The plans are always ridiculously complicated, often involve a disguise of some sort, and usually go tits-up in a spectacular way, leading Blackadder to bemoan the fact that ‘Fortune vomits on my eiderdown once again, Baldrick.’

I love the one in which the pals meet the Scarlet Pimpernel during the French Revolution, and the one in which Robbie Coltrane (who also appears in the Crimbo special) plays Dr. Samuel Johnson, the man who wrote the world’s first ever Dictionary.

When Baldrick accidentally tosses the one and only copy of this precious manuscript onto the Prince Regent’s drawing-room fire, believing it to be mere kindling, Blackadder is in a fearful bind.

He’ll have to stay up all night in order to re-write the Dictionary again, the Dictionary it took Dr. Johnson ten years to write, or risk the great wrath of the Doctor and his sword-wielding sidekicks, the boozy, drugged-up Romantic poets, namely, Shelley, Byron and Coleridge. I think Keats is absent for some unknown reason…!

Needless to say, the following morning sees Blackadder still stuck on ‘A is for Aardvark.’ The scene where Dr. Johnson is trying to explain the ‘plot’ of his Dictionary to the thick-as-a-plank Prince Regent is hilarious. Reminds me of that joke in THE SIMPSONS: ‘So, I finally finished reading the Dictionary. Turns out the zebra did it…!’

BLACKADDER GOES FORTH, the final series, is many peoples’ favourite. It’s set in the mucky, water-logged (but poetry-rich) trenches of World War One. Captain Blackadder is at his absolute wittiest and most sharp-tongued here (‘I lost closer friends than that when I went for my last delousing!’) as he battles the deprivations of warfare alongside his mates.

These are his loyal batman Private S. Baldrick (the S stands for Sod Off, as in Sod Off, Baldrick!) and the aristocratic but infinitely loveable upper-class twit, Hugh Laurie as Lieutenant George Colhurst St. Barleigh. 

Blackadder, he of the biting wit and cutting sarcasm, spares neither of them as he demonstrates to the enchanted viewer his unsurpassed skill as master of the scathing put-down.

The main aim of Captain Slack Bladder in this series is to try to avoid the certain death involved in ‘going over the top,’ or taking part in ‘The Big Push,’ as it’s known. This isn’t just because he’s a snivelling coward, but because he genuinely bemoans the awful loss of life, all of it unnecessary, caused by this dreadful war.

By Jove, you coves, it’s enough to make you stick a pair of underpants on your head, shove a couple of pencils up your nose and go ‘wibble!’ Only don’t let me catch you at it, dash it all, or I’ll jolly well have to shoot you for cowardice.

I’m always crying like a baby long before the ‘Big Push’ slow-motion finish, when the three lads finally charge out into the smoke and fog and certain death of ‘no-man’s land,’ joined by Tim McInnerny as Captain Kevin Darling. (Rik Mayall as Lord Flash-heart: ‘Darling? That’s a funny name for a guy! The last person I called ‘Darling’  was pregnant twenty seconds later…!’)

I cry when Hugh Laurie as Lieutenant George, serious for once, realises out loud that he’s the only one of his bright-eyed school chums left alive now, the tiddly-winks-playing, leap-frogging chums who signed up so hopefully to beat the ‘Hun’ three years ago when the war began. It’ll all be over by Christmas, isn’t that what they thought? And now look at the devastating waste of all the young lives gone forever thanks to the stupid war.

Stephen Fry is superbly funny as the lads’ superior, General Melchett, but he’s making a serious point here too. Commanding his men from a comfy, cosy French chateau miles behind the front line, he doesn’t live in the real world of trench foot, rat sandwiches and coffee made from mud and sprinkled with Baldrick’s dandruff-for-sugar. The generals complacently moved armies about on their little maps but it was the men on the ground- and in the trenches- who bore the brunt of these near-sighted, ivory-tower decisions.

Anyway, if you’re not bawling your eyes out by the time the mist and fog clears to reveal a poppy field, empty of living humans but silently bearing witness to the millions who died, then you’re an unfeeling monster, lol. Grown men freely admit to crying at the emotional last episode, titled GOODBYEEE, without a trace of shame. I’ll leave you, as Jerry Springer used to do, with my final thought, and it’s this:

‘If I should die, think only this of me;

I’ll be back to get you…’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. 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, womens’ 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:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor