A bland (sic) insipid betrayal

January 20, 2013

I'd been looking forward to the BBC's serialisation of P. G. Wodehouse's Blandings series for some time, the cast looked good and in general the BBC does these things well.   The ITV had a brilliant success with their version of the Jeeves novels using Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie and anything half that good would have satisfied me.

I was away for the first episode so I downloaded it on the iPlayer and watched it this afternoon while clearing email before moving to the sitting room and the wood burning stove (the most friendly of heating methods) for the second episode.  I was disappointed with the first which seemed to degenerate to pastiche at times but it was passable so I suspended judgement.  The second episode however confirmed my worst fears; throwing together various aspects of different stories without coherence. Lady Constance never threatens to go to her room, she is more than threatening enough in her own right and she never ever whinges about primogeniture.  Her character would never tolerate that.   Emsworth's plucks up the courage to get rid of the terrible Baxter over several stories and Baxter is never a pantomime villain.  That scene with the servants is absurd and his journal plays no part in the books.  Galahad, the essential balance to his brother and sister is absent, Freddie is a simplistic buffoon and I really hope the car will not crash into that tree every episode.

The actual stories are I think Wodehouse at his best, far better than Jeeves and Wooster.  There is a constant rhythm of going up and down to London and conversations in the Conservative Club that are critical to the story line, all omitted from this truly dire adaptation. God only knows what they will do to the Duke of Dunstable, although they may be saving on costs by reducing the number of characters.  Reading ahead I discover that Freddie is now to have a Portuguese wife which is never even hinted at in the books.  Its a travesty and the script writer should be fed to the pigs, or least be forced to live with them for a bit. Checking the reviews the Telegraph says:

Wodehouse has a perspicacity and wisdom that prevent him from being mere froth. And that was the problem with Blandings (BBC One), a six-part adaptation of the Blandings Castle stories. There was no authorial voice, wry, gently mocking, poised with a sinuous metaphor or sprightly adjective. Instead we were on our own with Lord Emsworth (Timothy Spall), his baleful sister Connie (Jennifer Saunders), vapid son Freddie (Jack Farthing) and beloved pig, the Empress, as they went about their lives in a crumbling English stately home… You can’t invest psychological complexity into Wodehouse’s characters, the clarity and depth comes from the writing, and so the cast were all at sea.

I agree, its a travesty of the original, and its not even a good one, time drags when watching it.


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