7 March 2006

beeb boys behaving badly

Just because I don't, as a habit, watch regularly-scheduled television shows doesn't mean I never see any; I just don't see them when everyone else does. When the library purchases the DVD sets, well, that's generally when I get to see the shows, new and old. Sometimes I wonder about their choices, though. It took them over a year before somebody (unless it was my requests, late) managed to persuade them to buy Firefly, for example, and that's a show with a fairly decent fanbase. Something like the only-available-on-BBC Manchild seems like it would have an even narrower appeal, but I can't really judge their choices.

I can, however, judge the show. It wasn't all that great. Knowing, as I did, nothing more than what was written on the front DVD cover (I hardly glanced at the back cover), I watched what I expected to be "Sex and the city, but in London, with fifty-year-old men." This didn't sound very appealing, but I know that front cover pullquotes are meaningless at best and more often misleading, so I bascially approached it with no preconceptions.

Well, it wasn't really my cup of tea. While I enjoy seeing an ostensibly all-knowing, well-put-together narrator's life not quite going the way he seems to think it is, I'm not really all that interested in the doings of four upper-crust forty-and-fifty-something men. The appeal isn't universal enough for humor centered around 'male enhancement', the proper selection of paintings as investment, motorcycle brands favorable with today's youth, and the merits of pipe-smoking. More serious bits such as one fellow's mother in a vegetative state seem tacked on to introduce a bit of gravity, and it's not unbelievable just unnecessary. Then again, so's the whole show. For me. There are a lot of boats out there, and it may well float yours.

I find myself preferring the episodes of another BBC series, Jeeves and Wooster, but saying that is like picking between the burnt brownies or the cake with much too much frosting. Both are things that are supposed to be good, but something along the way things have gone wrong. This isn't to say that Jeeves and Wooster is bad, per se, but to say that it's not as great as I'd like it to be.

Again, different boats for different folks, perhaps. For the uninitiated, Jeeves and Wooster is a decade-and-a-half old BBC series adapted from P.D. Wodehouse's turn of the century stories about the British upper class, particularly one Bertram Wooster (played by Hugh Laurie) and his valet Jeeves (Stephen Fry). Jeeves is pretty much everything you expect him to be, from hearing the name: polite, reserved, intelligent and, well, Jeeves-ish. I recall watching Mr. Belvedere as a child and then working at Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips as a teenager, so I can recognize the sort of character Jeeves should be, even though I've never read any Wodehouse.

I'm working on watching the third season right now, and it's something of an improvement over the second. Many of the episodes of the first and second seasons center around the making and breaking of marriage engagements, not normally the subject of shows I watch. Romantic entanglements, tussles with the law (well, minor chicanery like stealing bobbies' helmets) and newts all appear, but what keeps the show going is the good chemistry between the leads. Nevermind Bertie's ridiculous friends (among them we find Stiffy, Gussie, Rocky and Tuppy) or his overbearing Aunt and her near-unreasonable demands; the show is about getting them (and Bertie) out of silly jams with solutions serious and otherwise.

The third season picks up briefly with a change of venue to swinging New York during Prohibition, but sadly that is cut short midway through and its back to soap opera territory. I'll still seek out subsequent seasons, but I'm in no rush.

Frankly, I'd rather see House on DVD*, though it might be a bit jarring to see Hugh Laurie older, speaking with an American accent.


* Sadly, the library hasn't procured a copy of any seasons of House yet. Guess I'll need to put in a request for them to ignore.

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