15 January 2008

Jeeves and Wooster, complete (starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie)

'Jeeves and Wooster', in my view, is one of the masterpieces of book adaptations.

I have enjoyed - off and on - the PG Wodehouse books about Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves since I was about 12 or 13. They are full of irony, great satire on the upper classes in the early part of the 20th century. Bertie is supposedly a typical good-hearted and slightly gormless idle rich guy in his 20s, with a series of aunts of varying character. He keeps on getting himself into scrapes - or else someone else does it for him - and sooner or later Jeeves comes to the rescue.

Predictable? Undoubtedly. But great fun, nonetheless. When the BBC first started broadcasting episodes of these classic books featuring Stephen Fry as Jeeves and Hugh Laurie as Wooster, I was reluctant to watch them, fearing that they might taint my enjoyment of Wodehouse's brilliance. But curiosity got the better of me, and I'm glad it did. The pair are superb in the title roles, bringing them to life in a way that did not at all detract from my imagination.

I was delighted when the entire series - four seasons of it - became available in a boxed set, at not too great a price, and was even more pleased when someone gave them to me. I have been watching them over some months, in random bursts, with one of my sons. We have enjoyed them all very much.

The scenery is excellent, the mood just right, the atmosphere perfect. It's true that some of the plots veer decidedly away from the Wodehouse originals, but others stay true to the novels. What matters most are the characters - all extremely well portrayed - and the humour, which comes across perfectly despite the difference of medium.

The very 'British' (indeed, English) style will not appeal to everyone. Irony and satire does not go down in all cultures. But for anyone who likes this kind of thing, who is willing to suspend reality and enter into 1920s upper-class society, these come highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews