Jeeves and Wooster-Complete First Series (Universal) (1990)
Main Menu Audio
|Year Of Production||1990|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Robert Young|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||None||Smoking||Yes, very mild/occasional|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
There isn't really anything I can write about P.G Wodehouse that hasn't been said already, and there aren't many accolades that he didn't receive during the many years in which he wrote over 70 novels, hundreds of short stories, plays, musicals, poems, and so on.
As a brief recap for anyone unfamiliar with his work though, Wodehouse was one of the great 20th Century comedy writers (some would say the greatest). He created his own little world based on 1920s/1930s England, and populated it with dozens of eccentric characters all with their own unique quirks and oddities. The man had an incredible penchant for observing people and finding humour in both their personal and national traits. His years spent writing scripts in Hollywood also allowed him to observe national characteristics of Americans, which he made use of in his books.
An eccentric man himself (it's been said he used to throw letters out the window of his flat in London, trusting to a passer-by to pick them up and post them), the humour is not cruel or critical, but very gentle and almost self-deprecating at times.
Two of the most popular characters that Wodehouse created were Bertie Wooster and his "gentleman's gentleman", Jeeves. To associate the word "Jeeves" with a valet or butler-like individual is now such a part of our culture that a lot of people don't even realise it originates with Wodehouse's beloved character.
In this Granada Television adaptation of the books, Bertie (Hugh Laurie) is what one of his Aunts calls a "Wastrel". He's basically a simple-minded but good-natured and enthusiastic member of England's upper class who's never done a day's work in his life and yet never seems short of things to do. Jeeves (Stephen Fry) is the long-suffering, all-knowing and multi-talented valet who generally ensures that Bertie's life does not spiral into a self-inflicted catastrophic heap.
These are by no means the only characters who populate the stories, as there is an endless procession of Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, fiancés, and of course the myriad and equally brainless members of the Drones Club; a meeting place for all young men of Bertie's ilk.
One of the hardest things about adapting any book is getting actors to portray characters in a way that isn't going to conflict with every readers' individual mental picture of them. I'd say this is one of the reasons for the success of this production. I admit that at first I didn't like Stephen Fry's Jeeves since he wasn't at all how I pictured/heard him in my head, but he won me over in only a short time. Bobbie Wickham I also found to be nothing like the books portray her, but this is getting very picky because besides these little niggles the actors play their parts to perfection (especially the many layabout members of the Drones club). These episodes really are Wodehouse come to life, and I doubt any fan of his books would be disappointed.
The episodes included on this disc, which make up the first season of the series, are as follows:
Because the episodes are a mixture of short stories and novels, some have more mini-plots than others, but all are an equally excellent watch. The production standards are very high, and compare favourably with what you'd expect from the likes of the BBC - which is quite a compliment.
With great material, superb performances, and authenticity in costumes and surroundings, any Wodehouse fan simply cannot go wrong with this series.
Unfortunately, while watching these discs I had to remind myself what the advantages of watching DVD over VHS actually were. Basically you may as well watch the VHS version for all the difference in quality, which leads me to deduce that this set was transferred from the broadcast video source, rather than the original film source. If this is true then this is a crying shame, since it could have been of such high quality had they taken the time to clean up and use the film.
This transfer is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and hence is not 16x9 enhanced.
"Sharp" is certainly not a word that springs to mind when watching this transfer. Throughout the whole runtime of these DVDs, the transfer exhibits grainy soft images and low level noise in the blacks. Some scenes are very soft focus, with hazy lighting that blurs edges. Just two of the many such examples of this are in Episode 3 at 10:36 and 12:00, and in fact most of Episode 3 is particularly bad in this area. I own a VHS copy of most of these episodes, and as mentioned above there is no noticeable difference in clarity of image between those and the DVD in question.
Colour is not generally something you expect to be perfect in an older TV broadcast series, but when that series was recorded on film as recently as 1990 you expect a whole lot better than this. Colours are pretty pale and washed out, and although colours can be more muted in the English countryside than say the Nevada desert, that is not what is responsible for this complete lack of depth or richness. At the risk of sounding like a broken record - there is no improvement here over the colours on the VHS copies of this series. Admittedly there does seem to be a slight improvement in colour levels after the third episode, but it is only slight.
At last an area that has a few positive notes to it. Most film to video artefacts are pleasantly absent, although there is some moiré that shows up whenever the checkered suits appear (for example: Episode 3 21:35). I suppose you wouldn't really expect edge enhancement or aliasing on an image so grainy and lacking in sharpness, but let's just be thankful for small mercies. There are film artefacts galore, but most are not too glaring. One of the few exception is a hair that appears at Episode 3 25:33, and remains there for a good ten seconds or so.
There are no subtitles present.
The layer change on the first disc I imagine is between the episodes somewhere because I didn't notice it, and the second disc is single-layered.
Well at least the sound isn't as bad as the video quality. It's certainly nothing to write home about, but it does what it needs to do.
There is one audio track; English Dolby Digital 2.0 recorded at 224 kbps.
The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, helped in no small part by the well-spoken actors. Audio sync is also spot-on.
The music by Anne Dudley is exactly what these sorts of light-hearted stories need. It is based on catchy jazz-style tunes that fit in well with the time period, and successfully add to the mood. The main theme is decidedly hard to get out of your head once in there.
There is no surround activity or subwoofer action to be found here.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menus are static and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with the theme music looping in the background.
Ah, if only this really were what it claims to be. I was quite excited by the prospect of commentaries by some of the cast for each episode. What this extra actually is though is a short segment of clips from the first season, with a rather bored sounding narrator reading some information about P.G Wodehouse and his characters. Admittedly the segments are somewhat related to the information being read at the time, and some of it will be quite interesting to those that know nothing about the history of these characters and their author. For those even passingly familiar with Wodehouse though there is little here of interest.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;
The audio commentary isn't much to sway a decision either way. However, the fact that the source used for the video transfer seems to be the PAL broadcast video means conversion to NTSC for Region 1 would most likely make the local copy a preferable choice. As best as I could ascertain the Region 2 version doesn't seem to be any different to Region 1, besides not having the PAL-NTSC conversion issues.
An excellent adaptation of some of the most light-hearted, humorous writings of the last century. Acted excellently and with characters you come to love, this series is guaranteed to be a hit amongst Wodehouse fans, and probably anyone with a penchant for British humour.
Oh dear - there's nothing here to distinguish the DVD transfer from the VHS version.
The soundtrack brings the dialogue across nice and clearly, which is all that's really needed for such a production.
Extras-wise, there is nothing but a short featurette on the background of the characters and their author. I doubt it would bear repeat viewings.
|DVD||Omni 3600, using RGB output|
|Display||Sony 1252QM CRT Projector, 250cm custom built 16x9 matte screen. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS797- THX Select|
|Speakers||Accusound ES-55 Speaker set, Welling WS12 Subwoofer|