Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:44 pm
Jeeves & Wooster (1990 – TV – 4 seasons)
Based upon the stories by P.G. Wodehouse, this TV series stars Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie as the valet Reginald Jeeves & master Bertram (Bertie) Wooster, respectively. It is basically a comedy featuring a straight man (Jeeves) & a bumbling man (Wooster) wherein Jeeves must use his intellect & suave persuasion to get Wooster out of his various social predicaments. I will note that I have in no way read or even seen an actual cover from any of the books or compilations from this author. I have no idea how true to the characters or to the stories is this series.
Overall this show is completely inoffensive and can be easily watched by the entire family. There is no foul language, at least by today’s standards, unless you find “Dash it all!” or “Blasted!” to be horrific (as people in polite company did in those days). After viewing the first season, I neither disliked nor liked the show. I didn’t find it particularly funny, even after settling in with the characters, though I had the feeling that it should have been funny, but I couldn’t place why it wasn’t. When I watched the second season, I did laugh, and I did enjoy watching the show and was looking forward to watching the third and fourth seasons. Unfortunately, those turned out to be just as boring as the first, with some added detriments. What I discovered was the second season was directed by someone who did not direct any of the other seasons. Comedic timing is a fickle thing, and the other directors just don’t do it for me, which is a shame as the production values of this show are outstanding. This may not be the case for everyone, I’m sure there are people who hate the second season, but I feel it important to point out.
The first season we are introduced to almost all of the characters we will see throughout the show. Whether because of writing or because of direction, aside from a few bright funny moments, the show lags. The second season we see Wooster’s continuing social problems, from friends trying to get married, friends trying not to get married, Wooster mostly trying not to get married, and a few social gaffs. Mostly it seems to primarily establish the motivations, traits, and personalities of Jeeves and Wooster. Some of the characters are portrayed by one actor/actress in the first few episode, and another in the final episodes. This wasn’t a big deal as I thought this may occur with a new series during the first season.
Season two was very fun to watch, and it may have been a combination of performers & director. Aside from one of the aunts, the same performers portray the same characters as the last season. There is a little slapstick comedy, but mostly this is a comedy of thoughts & words. I especially enjoyed the telegrams of the first episode. They aren’t filled with jokes, it is just the cadence and structure that struck me as funny. There are some outlandish affected American accents. I think it’s just a case of bad acting that must add to the humor for the British audience. I can think of a few bad British accents in comedies that just made it that much funnier, so for those who get offended by these things, tough luck.
And now to season three & four: the whole series seems to fall apart and get progressively worse. I was immediately bored and the first thing I noticed was the show seemed darker. It just didn’t have the light airiness of the previous season and I found it jarring given that this is a light comedy. Worse still, many of the recurring characters are played by different actors/actresses. I’m not familiar with the stories and much of the comedy depends on the viewer immediately knowing the history of a particular character, as it sets up the comedy. I was often hearing a name that was familiar and thinking, “Who is this person I’ve never seen before?” while the scene progressed, jarring me out of the comedic experience that is so essential to shows of this kind. Figuring out who the aunts are is difficult, as Wooster has many of them, and at least one aunt is portrayed by 3 different actresses, adding to the confusion. There is even an episode when an actress who plays a main character in the first episodes of the first season comes back in the fourth season as a totally different character,who is now saying some of the same exact lines as the other character! Confusing? You bet!
Some of the acting gets really annoying as well. One actress in season 2 is either affecting some kind of speech impediment or she is naturally deaf or hard of hearing. Bully for her that she got a job, but unless the character is supposed to be deaf, it was inappropriate to use her in a show that relies on fast-paced verbal repartee, as she is difficult to understand . In season 3 another actress (playing the same character) has the squeakiest, high pitched, annoying voice I’ve ever heard –just ear piercing. Worse, she is coupled with an actor who has an equally affected, high pitched, annoying voice. It is painful to watch. Then the stories get just plain weird, including some strange climb up the tower of the Empire State Building stunt, which is then struck by lightening – but no one dies. That might be funny in a cartoon, or even a show that is filled with implausibles, but for this show it was stretching belief too far.
Season 4 starts better than season 3, but it takes a few episodes to finally get back into the pacing that made season 2 so superior and at least ends the series on a positive note as far as quality is concerned.
I wouldn’t buy this show unless the whole series was going for $5. If you can rent it, I would suggest renting season 1 & 2, so that you have the first season to get into the show, and the second to really enjoy it. If it really tickles your funny bone, you may want the final two seasons, but if it was so-so with you, I wouldn’t bother with the remainder.