September 04, 2016

I endorse this product

The BBC Blandings series, which re-entered production in May, does virtually everything wrong:
  • The Blandings plots always and everywhere adhere to the ancient Greek form of New Comedy in which a loving couple is sundered by the meddling of an elder, and reunited via complex business involving another elder.  This does not happen in the BBC series (at least not in the first three episodes).
  • The plots of the novels are incredibly complicated, but the tv shows are quite simple.
  • The novels often have large casts, so much so that I have taken to charting them as I read to keep track of who's who.  This BBC series relies on a recurring cast of just four main characters:  Lord Emsworth, his sister Lady Constance Keeble, his worthless son Freddie Threepwood, and butler Sebastian Beech.
  • Lord Emsworth is barely functional in the novels, but in the BBC series is marginally functional.  Timothy Spall, OBE manages to retain Emsworth's disattention and cluelessness, but also conveys a man who somehow retains enough executive function to be the central character in each episode.  This is a considerable artistic achievement, but not unprecedented - the character reminds me a bit of Buddy Ebsen's Jed Clampett.
  • Beech the butler is drawn somewhat lightly in the novels but in the series has a fine characterization from Mark Williams in the first series.
  • The Wodehouse novels have their delirious moments of course, but they are usually the culmination of a carefully wrought dramatic process.  The series, by contrast, gets to the punchline fast and goes over the top almost before our butts have hit the seats.
  • Wodehouse's running gags are often somewhat obscure, frequently alluding to his habitual reading of Shakespeare and scripture.  Each episode of Blandings starts with a car crash. 
They've turned Blandings into a surrealist sitcom, but it works for me.  I think Wodehouse probably would have liked it, too, if he could get over them using gags and dialogue he didn't write.

You can decide if the product is right for you by watching this test footage:


Blogger Laird of Madrona said...

Not sure I can do Blandings without Psmith.

September 4, 2016 at 11:38 PM  

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