Jeeves and Wooster: Should Have Stopped after Three

After we went to Wall-E on Saturday, we came home and put Micah to bed, and then Mary and I watched the very last episode of Jeeves and Wooster, an A&E series from the early nineties which we’ve been watching on DVD.  For some light entertainment the episodes, based on P.G. Wodehouse’s short stories, are well worth viewing.  There’s little philosophy and less controversy (one does run into a communist here and there, but they’re about as harmless as communists get) and less still along the lines of plot variations (Hugh Laurie seems to gravitate to shows with three plotlines or fewer), but the one-liners are good, and Jeeves does in fact know everything.

I will say, though, that the writers probably should have stopped after three seasons.  In season four, some of the more lovable minor characters lose their more lovable actors and gain some of the most irritating minor comedic character actors that I’ve ever seen, and whether the writers ran out of Wodehouse or just started thinking that stupid gimmick plots were gold, the episodes got just plain bad.  To offer a sample, the last four episodes feature a character who starts quoting Spinoza after being stricken by lightning; an ending in which Jeeves and Wooster become lost at sea for eight months and grow long beards; Jeeves and Wooster in drag; and a kangaroo.  Yes, a kangaroo.  This is the sort of thing for which TV critics invented the phrase “jumping the shark.”

So I’ll give an unreserved recommendation for the first season, an enthusiastic one for seasons two and three, and a cautious one for season four.  The theme music will keep you coming back, but the writing definitely drops off at the end.


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