Jeeves and Wooster, Bertie to his friends, are the creation of P.G. Wodehouse, and have become two of the better-known characters in the history of English literature. Bertie Wooster (Hugh Laurie) is of unquestionably good stock with a fine bloodline, while Jeeves (Stephen Fry) is his Gentleman’s valet and suffering employee.
Bertie Wooster has everyone’s best interests at heart, but lacks the nouse and diplomacy to really achieve much. If it weren’t for Jeeves, his life would be an even more scrambled mess than it already is. Wooster is also impeccably mannered and dressed, again thanks to Jeeves. He moves in the right circles, and is the very model of an early 20th century gentleman. His family is about as daft as he is, his friends are no smarter, but somehow they all live happily, blissfully removed from the ‘common’ folk.
Jeeves is Wooster’s rock of stability and common sense. Ever ready with advice, whether asked for or not, he is the model of diplomacy and discretion. He is undoubtedly the brains in the outfit, but it would never do to let anyone know this, least of all Bertie Wooster.
As Wooster gets himself into one mess after another, Jeeves is there to discretely save the day with deftness beyond most men. The two make quite a double act, even if Wooster doesn’t realise it. As long as Wooster has Jeeves, then he should always be in the right spot at the right time, or at least come up smelling, if I may venture, vaguely of roses.
Fry and Laurie had long established their comedy partnership before this series, and they were quite reluctant to take these roles when the idea was touted in 1989. However, with the end of Blackadder in 1989, they agreed once they had read the finished scripts. The first of four series', this collection has five 50-minute episodes spread over two discs.
Those expecting another Blackadder type performance will probably end up with mixed feelings. The chemistry between the leads is there, but much of the silliness is not, nor should it be. The characters are very real, the situations are comical and interesting, and the supporting characters are well written.
This is not exactly a laugh-a-minute stuff, but is well constructed all the same. The series works when best when considered as a whole package, rather than analysing individual situations or one-liners. It is a show that strokes your funny bone rather that trying to beat you death with gags and one-liners.
This is not going to win any awards for quality, but may score some points for originality. This series was filmed and not videotaped, yet this release has been mastered from broadcast tapes and not the original film (thanks to Mathew from Channel 31, Melbourne, for the tip-off). It is really quite soft, with very pale colouring and great use made of earthy tones and colours. There is significant grain, and constant artefacts such as scratches, dirt, dust, blobs and the odd line here and there. Now I will concede that there was probably some deliberation about this to give the series an old look as well as feel, but I am convinced it was at least meant to look a tad cleaner.
There are no episodes or scenes that are deplorable, but there are times when you might question if the colouring has gone. There is no difference between indoor and outdoor filming and little if any appears to be filmed in a studio. Black levels are acceptable, but do suffer slightly from some noise. Shadow detail is not razor sharp, but is sufficient enough to see all the action.
There is no memorable aliasing or other worrisome compression artefacts, but nothing about the end result is even mildly impressive. The layer change on the first disc is placed between episodes.
The Dolby stereo track is most unremarkable. It is a little soft, but reasonably clear. There are no crystal highs or deep lows, and only the front left and right speakers are utilised, and even then there is little to indicate that this is a stereo track.
There are no problems as such and no evidence of hiss or other glitches, but neither does it make you want to shout form the rooftops. Audio synchronisation is also fine.