Sunday, January 5, 2014

The formidable Jeeves and Wooster...

What Ho, dear friends on the Interwebs!

If you are like me, you go weak-kneed at the thought of the Roaring Twenties....  The dresses, Beautiful Art Deco, Victorian reminiscence,  flappers and sheiks....

I'm not sure how I have been able to live through 3+ decades of entertainment in my life without knowing about the comedy team of Fry & Laurie doing a TV show called "Jeeves & Wooster."  (although it may have something to do with my not being British)

Jeeves and Wooster was a three year series from 1992-1995 (though the seasons were not like what are normally considered TV seasons - only about 5 episodes each).   It is based on PG Wodehouse's characters from several books he wrote starting circa 1917, The Man with Two Left Feet, (although there was an earlier book in 1915 (Extricating Young Gussie) where Wooster & Jeeves make an appearance.)

If you are fan of Boardwalk Empire, you will absolutely adore this series.   Where Boardwalk Empire often shows the dark and shadowy world of the teens and twenties,  Jeeves & Wooster is a gay old time.   It follows the high jinx (if you will) of 'Bertie' (Bertram Wilberforce Wooster) and his 'Gentleman's gentleman'  (valet)  Jeeves.   Bertie is an upper-class English dilettante who spends his time visiting various country homes of friends from school, getting engaged and narrowly escaping matrimony, lunching at the club, and doing the biddings of various Aunties.   Jeeves is the quiet ever-present servant who seems at times to be three steps ahead of the game, having an answer to Bertie's quandaries, plans-of-action for the many debacles that Bertie & his friends often got themselves into.  I was wont to wonder at times whether Jeeves got some slightly sadistic pleasure at being a cat at the mouse games. 

There seems to be some recurrent themes in the shows, that of meddlesome Aunts for instance...
Bertie's Aunt Agatha is pushy and proper, and tries on several occasions to hook him up to a suitable young lady.  Aunt Dahlia,  although seemingly more modern and less pompous than Aunt Agatha, often takes Bertie to task to do something mischievous or illegal on her behalf.   Some of the dialogue is priceless when Wooster speaks about them to Jeeves....

"On the occasions when Aunt is calling Aunt like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps"

Also of note, are Bertie's renditions of popular hits of the day "Forty-Seven Ginger headed sailors,"
"Nagasaki," and my personal favorite:  "Putting on the Ritz" where Bertie comments on the odd syncopation of the song - " That Irving Berlin fellow has a bit of a cropper here, Jeeves...too many words and not enough notes."  Of course Wooster's character makes perfect use of Hugh Laurie's song and dance talents, as does Jeeves' character showing off Stephen Fry's dizzying intellect. They could not have found more perfect men for these roles.

I happened to enjoy watching the series with my sweetie Chris, who had found it on Hulu, the TV service we subscribe to  (we discontinued using Satellite or Cable last year, as it was getting to be so pricey... so now we have Hulu & Netflix).  I believe many of the episodes are also on Youtube.
Chris managed to do a little research into Wodehouse's youth, and found that his father was a magistrate posted to Hong Kong, so little PG was sent off to boarding school.  His holidays were spent being shuffled from one Aunt's to another, which explains his marked off-putting characterizations of them.
The books I believe were originally compilations, but I have also seen them in single volumes, so the publishing company must have broken them out at some point.  I found this list on Amazon that lists them chronologically.  (I managed to get a few of the series for Chris for Christmas presents)

There was plenty of early twenties stuff to drool over: Art Deco furnishings of his English flat and a NY apartment, a travel cocktail set that makes an appearance in several episodes, beautiful dresses, Bertie's roadster.  Some of the comedy comes when Bertie comes home with the latest fashion (i.e. a straw boater, a white 'evening' jacket) and Jeeves makes an understated remark about how it should be disposed of in short work.    

One small criticism,   although the supporting characters were awesome, they had a variety of actors play the recurring roles throughout the duration of the series.   It was a little difficult following them from one to another as they often looked different.

Sadly, we made short work of the episodes as if they were Christmas pudding...
So 'til next time dear ones!
xo Yvonne