But why, might I gently enquire, did Clive Exton, who adapted the scrips from Wodehouse's magnificent original books, introduce so much slapstick? And cut and splice several unconnected stories together? Particularly when the originals as they stand appear to lend themselves perfectly to translation for the screen. The best of the lot are undoubtedly the two adapted from The Code of the Woosters in the second series, which stick fairly tightly to Wodehouse's original novel, and are magnificently realised.
Oh well. Best to accept them as they are. And they really are very good indeed. Direction is generally good, the scripts are slick, and the performances of Laurie and Fry irreproachable. They look spot on too. Some consider Fry too young -I beg to differ; it works perfectly for me, and he's thoroughly convincing.
The rest of the cast are a mixed bag -literally. Spode is played superbly well, with huge enjoyment, as is Sir Watkin Basset and Harold 'Stinker' Pinker. However, things are somewhat complicated in the rest of the cast by the fact that different people take the same role in different series, and occasionally, the same person plays a different character. To cite just a few examples:
The first Gussie Fink-Nottle, in series 1 and 2 for example, is truely brilliant. In series 3 & 4 Gussie is played by someone else (who originally performed the role of Rupert Steggles), who is, quite frankly, dreadful. Same goes for Madeline 'the' Basset. In the first series, she's played by the girl who would in series 4 play Lady Florence Craye (which she was much better suited to, despite being dark, not blonde). The second Madeline, in series two, captures the character perfectly. But the third Madeline, in series 3 & 4 is abysmal. Charlotte Attenborough plays Stiffy brilliantly in series 2 and 4, someone else plays her (badly, and with a completely different breed of dog) in series 3. A raft of other characters had different actors playing them too, to varying degrees of success. Consistancy was clearly a problem.
Never mind. The charm remains, the sets and costumes are perfect, and you can feel youself slipping into Wodehouse's wonderfully innocent world every time you watch one. The music is wonderful, and both the audio and picture quality are first-rate. Despite the problems, the genius of the original author is still easily discerned, and if you like charming comedy, performed for the most part by actors at the top of their game, look no further. I love it. You won't regret buying.