The Complete Series
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Reviewed by Will Harris
was sent by the agency, sir. I was given to understand that you require a valet.” - Jeeves
You hate to begin a review of one of the most entertaining British comedy series by clarifying that it stars “the dude from ‘House,’” but if that’s what it takes to introduce a new audience to the adventures of Jeeves and Wooster, then so be it.
Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry met when they were students at Cambridge University, neither suspecting at the time of their introduction – which was done by Emma Thompson, no less – that they would forge a partnership which would make them British comedy legends. If you’ve never had the pleasure of investigating their sketch series, “A Bit of Fry and Laurie,” you’d do well to check it out first. Once you’ve laughed yourself silly over their antics in that context, then it’ll be time to move on to “Jeeves and Wooster.”
British author P.G. Wodehouse created the characters of Reginald Jeeves and Bertie Wooster in 1915, and it is in this approximate era where their various adventures take place. Jeeves (Fry) has been described as “the gentleman’s gentleman,” a highly educated soul whose lot in life is to take care of Wooster (Laurie), a member of the so-called “idle rich.” It would be fair to say that Bertie Wooster is a man who’s inappropriately confident of his own intelligence, spending his days following his unique brand of logic to such inopportune ends that Jeeves’ presence in his life proves to be a near necessity.
“Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete Series” offers up 23 tales of the duo. Sometimes there’s a mystery in which Wooster invariably finds himself embroiled, such as a missing necklace (“Pearls Mean Tears”), but more often than not, there’s some sort of romantic entanglement going on. Wooster’s Aunt Agatha would have him married off as quickly as possible, but when things go awry when she attempts to set him up with Honoria Glossop in the very first episode (“Jeeves Takes Charge”), it very much proves to be a sign of things to come. He also finds himself caught up in the relationships of his friends on a regular basis – most notably those of the delightfully named Bingo Little and Tuppy Glossop. (Come to think of it, virtually every character in the series has a name which warrants a chortle or two. Or, at least, Cyril 'Barmy' Fotheringay Phipps certainly does.)
If you’re the sort who finds yourself snickering at the pretentiousness of the Brits, you might be surprised to find that “Jeeves and Wooster” has a great deal of fun doing the exact same thing. Oh, make no mistake, it’s veddy, veddy British, but there’s no doubt that Wodehouse’s intentions were to mock the pompous stylings of people like Bertie Wooster. Jeeves’ dry retorts to Wooster’s outlandish observations are hysterical, and the chemistry between Fry and Laurie only serves to up the laughter level.
“Jeeves and Wooster” is one of the most intelligent and entertaining comedies to have emerged from the UK, but it requires a bit of thought to appreciate some of the humor. (The characters’ vocabularies are decidedly more highbrow than your average sitcom.) But so what if it’s not for all audiences? Put it on, have a giggle, and feel comfortable in the knowledge that you’re one of the elite who can appreciate it.
Special Features: That’s the disappointing bit. Although those with a literary bent will no doubt appreciate the Wodehouse biography and bibliography included on the set, even they will be disappointed that there’s nothing else in way of bonus material.