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A&E Home Video presents
Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete First Season (1990)

"Mr. Wooster is an eccentric."
- Jeeves (Stephen Fry)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: March 17, 2001

Stars: Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie
Other Stars: Mary Wimbush, Brenda Bruce, Robert Daws
Director: Robert Young

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 04h:08m:43s
Release Date: March 27, 2001
UPC: 733961701890
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-C+B D-

DVD Review

Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete First Season presents five episodes of the Granada Television series adapted from the classic P.G. Wodehouse stories. The program stars Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster, a none-too-bright but enthusiastic specimen of the idle rich, and Stephen Fry as Jeeves, Bertie's intelligent, unfailingly prescient butler. The stories generally concern Bertie's entanglement in some peccadillo, social intrigue or ill-conceived scheme, necessitating Jeeves' skillful, nearly invisible resolution of the situation.

"He thinks I've got fewer marbles than advertised?"—Bertie

Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete First Season— Episode #1

Jeeves Takes Charge
Directed by: Robert Young

Bertie Wooster wakes up (with a serious hangover) to find Jeeves at his door in this premiere episode. Jeeves' intuition that Bertie is in need of a valet proves correct, as he cures Bertie's hangover and wins the job. Jeeves ultimately saves Wooster from an unfortunate engagement to wed Honoria Glossop, primarily by encouraging her neurotic parents to believe he's insane.

The series hits the ground running with this initial episode. Hugh Laurie plays the frivolous Bertie Wooster sympathetically, allowing us to laugh with him personally even as we laugh at his misfiring schemes, and Stephen Fry is pitch-perfect as Jeeves, his amusement at the antics of his master bubbling just underneath his cool, reserved exterior. One of the funniest moments involves Bertie's plan to ingratiate his friend "Bingo" Little with the object of his affection by pushing her younger brother off a bridge, an "accident" he stages with no subtlety whatsoever. This episode also features a wonderful throwaway scene in which Wooster plays "Minnie the Moocher" on the piano, with Jeeves providing the response to Bertie's call: "Tee-de-tee-de-hee... sir."

This episode rates 5 out of 5 Serving Trays (courtesy of Jeeves):

"If you ask me, Jeeves, that animal is in the pay of the Fotheringay Phipps."—Bertie

Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete First Season— Episode #2

Tuppy and the Terrier
Directed by: Robert Young

Bertie is left in charge of Aunt Agatha's Aberdeen Terrier, MacIntosh, whose canine proclivities interfere with Bertie's pursuit of one Miss Wickham during a golf game. Later, Bertie is enlisted by Aunt Dahlia (Brenda Bruce) to break up a budding romance between Tuppy Glossop (Robert Daws) and an opera singer, in order to drive him back into the arms of his more socially acceptable fiancée. Meanwhile, Miss Wickham has given MacIntosh to a theatrical producer in order to curry his favor concerning her mother's latest play, necessitating an elaborate rescue mission.

This episode is not as strong as the first, due in large part to inconsistency—the Tuppy storyline is not nearly as engaging as the Terrier plot. Also, Bertie's romantic bent seems out of character here, as he's normally a confirmed, more-or-less asexual bachelor interested only in entertaining himself as conveniently as possible.

This episode rates 2 out of 5:

"Jeeves, you're a wonder!"—Bertie

Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete First Season— Episode #3

The Purity of the Turf
Directed by: Robert Young

Charged with steering Uncle George away from a girl 30 years his junior, Bertie and Jeeves link him up instead with the girl's mother, who turns out to be George's old flame, equally lower-class but much more age-appropriate. While away in the country to escape Aunt Agatha's wrath over the Uncle George situation, Bertie forms a betting syndicate with his friends, wagering on the races and contests at the local village fete, several of which they attempt to fix without success. Summoning phenomenal odds-calculating abilities, Jeeves ensures that the group makes a profit... honestly.

This is a fun one, filled with colorful supporting characters and comic moments. Bertie displays his fundamentally good-hearted nature, and Jeeves engineers a morally just solution to the dilemma posed by his master's unethical behavior without embarrassing him.

This episode rates 4 out of 5:

"Jeeves is not the only one with a brain. On this occasion, I am your man!"—Bertie

Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete First Season— Episode #4

The Hunger Strike
Directed by: Robert Young

During a stay at Brinkley Manor, Bertie attempts to fix Tuppy's relationship with his fiancée, Aunt Dahlia's financial problems, and Gussie Fink Nottle's romantic ineptitude in one fell swoop, by encouraging the troubled parties to feign an inability to eat at dinner. Incensed by the "rejected" food, Anatole the chef resigns and leaves the estate, but not before Bertie has a chance to louse things up further and is sent packing.

This episode is structured as classic farce, with all the benefits and penalties accorded thereto. Bertie's strategy fails miserably, of course, and a series of mistaken motives and unexpected encounters drives most of the action. It's all executed well enough, but the Jeeves-Wooster chemistry is relegated to the background and the episode doesn't stand well on its own, serving mostly as setup for the following episode.

This episode rates 3 out of 5 Serving Trays (courtesy of Jeeves):

"Jeeves, I can never thank you sufficiently. Never."—Aunt Dahlia

Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete First Season— Episode #5

Brinkley Manor
Directed by: Robert Young

The story continues from Episode #4, as Wooster is summoned back to Brinkley Manor so that Aunt Dahlia can take advantage of Jeeves' abilities. After a successful emissary mission to secure Anatole's return, Jeeves contrives to fix the damage wrought earlier, by uniting fractured family and friends in their dislike of Bertie.

The first season ends with this fine episode, highlighted by Bertie's eighteen mile, pajama-clad, late-night bicycle ride—in the rain—to secure a key Jeeves has knowingly had in his possession all along. An entertaining exchange hints at the true nature of the series' central relationship, as Wooster notes that Jeeves' customary "Indeed, sir" might often be interpreted as "Says you!"

This episode rates 4 1/2 out of 5 Serving Trays (courtesy of Jeeves):

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A&E presents the Jeeves & Wooster episodes in the original made-for-television 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio, shot on film but apparently drawn from PAL-format broadcast videotape masters for the DVD presentation. The image suffers from significant edge enhancement in many scenes, with some bleeding and smearing on reds and excessive grain in a few darker shots. The PAL-to-NTSC conversion introduces some interlacing artifacts of its own, most distracting during the closing credits, and the original telecine transfer seems to have overlooked the occasional hair in the gate.

I don't mean to be too hard on the digital transfer—given the source, detail and color are quite acceptable, and I've certainly seen worse. But the image has clearly been degraded by age and the technical limitations of videotape; one wishes the original film sources had been made available.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete First Season is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 monophonic format, ProLogic-decoded to the center speaker. It's a competent transfer with decent frequency range, though dialogue scenes suffer from the background noise and occasional hiss common to older television material. Hardly a reference-quality audio presentation, but reasonably clear and comprehensible.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:23m:37s

Extras Review: There are no real extras here, just five episodes on two discs, with 6 chapter stops per episode and attractive full-motion menus. The layer change on Disc 1 is awkwardly placed in the middle of the second episode, though Disc 2 contains only two episodes, no visible layer change.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete First Season translates the classic characters to television with much of P.G. Wodehouse's literary, verbal humor intact. A&E's 2-disc DVD set provides middling transfers but plenty of entertainment value. Witty and well-executed, not to be missed by fans of Wodehouse or British comedy in general.


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