Jeeves and Wooster: Hugh Laurie in the House

Jun. 6, 2009
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The snarling physician played by Hugh Laurie in “House” is intellectually and temperamentally opposite to a character he depicted 15 years earlier, the role that earned him a devoted following. In the popular British television comedy series “Jeeves and Wooster,” Laurie stared as Bertie Wooster, a twit of the first order. The complete “Jeeves and Wooster” is out now on DVD.

It’s a perfect production of its kind, starting with the Constructivist-Deco animation under the credits, illustrating a chamber jazz combo playing the series‚ elegantly upbeat theme, drawn in a few well-chosen swirls and colors. Based on the stories of P.G. Wodehouse, “Jeeves and Wooster” is a brilliantly acted and mounted master-and-servant comedy set in the posh precincts of England during the 1920s Jazz Age.

Wooster is brought to life by Laurie’s rubbery face and bulging eyes, expressing sheer bewilderment at the world confronting him. He is the dim child of entitlement, too indolent to be arrogant, yet cunning in his blinkered way. Endlessly scheming to uphold his precariously fragile dignity, Wooster is inevitably aided in his endeavors by the good counsel of his faithful servant, Jeeves (Stephen Fry). Expressing disapproval with barely an arch of his eyebrow and devastatingly dry putdowns, the impassive Jeeves draws from an encyclopedic stock of knowledge on everything from aristocracy to zoology, and a well of good sense.

Adapted for the screen by writer Clive Exton (who also dramatized David Suchet’s “Poirot”) and director Robert Young (previously known for British horror films), “Jeeves and Wooster” was produced with an eye for exquisite historical detail and an ear for the madcap sophistication of Wodehouse’s prose. A gentle satire of the British class system, “Jeeves and Wooster” suggests that the kingdom would have been better off had Jeeves and his mates been in charge.


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