Wednesday, January 5

At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.

--P.G. Wodehouse, Uneasy Money.

You can't stick lighted matches between the toes of an English
butler. He would raise his eyebrows and freeze you with a glance.
You'd feel as if he had caught you using the wrong fork.

--P.G. Wodehouse, The Old Reliable.

Last night, my family and I watched five episodes straight through of the wonderfully funny old British TV series, Wodehouse Playhouse, an anthology of adaptations of P.G. Wodehouse's short stories made back in the seventies. P.G., if you never heard of him (shame on thou) wrote over 70 novels and 300 stories over a career which took in a good chunk of the twentieth century and chronicled the inspired lunacy of a circle of comically naive upper-class-twits, spunky girls, boisterous (and sometimes wicked) aunts and their clever servants, in an edenic Jazz Age England. Everything's funny in P.G.'s world, from the innocently amoral plots, centering on crazy capers in country estates involving stolen cow-creamers, hasty engagements, old Etonian spats, fascists in soccer shorts, and banjo-playing men-about-town, to the very language he uses, which pops with an inspired mix of slang and comic metaphor.

P.G. actually lived to see the first few seasons of Wodehouse Playhouse (and narrated the introductions!) and Jonathan Alderton, who plays the lead in each episode, does a brilliantly bashful, rubber-faced job of inhabiting Wodehouse's Drones Club gents, Mulliners, Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, young country curates, golf enthusiasts and transplanted Brits in Hollywood, whether he's trying to turn a girl's head (by, for example, memorizing some awful obscure poet or get out of a nasty emotional entanglement, or possibly both. Anyway, three seasons are out on DVD, so drop by your local literary or videographic emporium, pick up a copy, and sit down with a big glass of Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo and join the fun!

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