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A&E Home Video presents
Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete Fourth Season (1993)

"I endeavor to give satisfaction, Sir."
- Jeeves (Stephen Fry)

Review By: debi lee mandel  
Published: March 25, 2002

Stars: Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie
Other Stars: John Turner, Robert Daws, Elizabeth Spriggs, Joss Brook, Jeremy Brook, Deirdre Strath, Briony Glassco, Marcus D'Amico, Harry Ditson, Marcia Layton, Nicholas Palliser, Francesca Folan, Nigel Whitmey, Jennifer Gibson, Frederick Treves, Pip Torrens, Anastasia Hille, Philip Locke, Liz Kettle, Geoffrey Toone, Veronica Clifford, Otto Jarman, David Harly, Serretta Wilson, Jean Heywood, Walter James, Ralph Michael, Sylvia Kay, John Rapley, Peter Howell, John Woodnut, Elizabeth Morton, Charlotte Attenborough, Richard Braine, Simon Treves, Norman Rodway, Emma Hewitt, Colin McFarlane, Julian Gartside, Fred Ewans
Director: Ferdinand Fairfax

MPAA Rating: G for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 05h:00m:00s
Release Date: March 26, 2002
UPC: 733961704198
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AC+B D

DVD Review

In a world were women have their way, the men are bound to get one over on them, at least every once in awhile. In the precipitous world of Bertie Wooster, the women are indeed in charge, and our hapless hero wouldn't stand a chance without his man Jeeves. Bertie, ever put upon by everyone he knows—and occasionally, intrepid strangers—is a pushover, an easy mark for madcap mayhem, but the provident Jeeves manages to pick him up and dust him off, time and time again. There's a good man.

The chemistry is has settled in by now; Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry play off each other like siblings, and a single look between them—and the viewer—is worth 10 pages of script and a pound of laughter. Laurie is at his Laurel-esque best, and Fry wrests the rights to the name Jeeves from the longstanding gentleman's gentleman, the indelible Arthur Treacher. The New York episodes of Season 3 must have been successful, as this set has another go round. Many favorite and familiar characters return for the final season—including the draconian tetrarch, Spode—making this fourth in the series the most hilarious overall. Although it's difficult to let them go, one has to admire how well the Brits manage the popularity of their programming by moving on before the fun's played out.

I hazard to state the genius of this series lies in breaking free from the anaerobic bedrock of comedic formulae: the "dumb and dumber" edict. While Bertram Wilberforce Wooster is not the brightest light on Broadway, he fares far better than most of his compeers. But it is Reginald Jeeves, the bemused and tolerant seneschal, whose boundless intelligence over his charges was de rigueur long before Benson conquered the Governor's Mansion.



The two discs of Season Four include:

Episode 1: Return to New York (51m:03s)

"One must never discount wavy hair, Jeeves." - Bertie

Bertie sets his sights on one Gwladys Pendleberry, an artist he commissions to paint Aunt Agatha's portrait. In his dim wisdom, Bertie believes this act will win both the young lady's affection and the old girl's inheritance. The women, of course, are less predictable.

Miss Pendleberry invites Bertie to an ad launch party for the Slingsby Soup Company, put on by rising exec Lucian Pim; Tuppy shows up with another "can't fail" money-making scheme and promptly falls for the soup magnate's daughter. Meanwhile, Aunt Agatha arrives in the country—unannounced—and upon seeing the portrait, dismisses it and its creator with impunity, causing Gwladys to storm out on poor Bertie. Aunt Agatha discloses her purpose in New York—delivering Bertie's twin cousins, Claude and Eustace, who are to sail to South Africa in the morning—commanding Bertie to escort them to the dock. Both boys jump ship, however, leaving our luckless hero in deep water.

In this frenetic episode, everyone needs to escape from someone else, and the lot of them converge out on Long Island, where calamity ensues. While every thread (and there are many) manages to find its way to the end, most wear thin before getting there.

This first episode only rates 2.5 serving trays out of five, courtesy of Jeeves:





Episode 2: The Once and Future Ex (50m:41s)

"Monkey Mayhem Mugs Mogul Merger" – newspaper headline

Still in New York, the story again centers on young lovers' marriage plans lacking parental approval. A playwright friend wishes to win the blessing of Zenobia's Uncle Percy; said uncle needs to meet with a certain Mr. Clam about a business merger, but the press hounds them mercilessly. Meanwhile Florence, an ex-fiancée of Bertie's, is now betrothed to a rather strange chap named "Stilton" Cheesewright, who is somehow working with the NYPD and disapproving of those who partake of prohibited libations. He is also a wildly jealous man—a bit of Spode in America, it seems—and warns Bertie to stay away from Florence quite harshly (especially considering Bertie has no further interest in his ex).

Why Bertie volunteers his way into this already cacophonous medley is a mystery, but he does—to the usual disastrous ends. Throw in Jeeves' birthday, a bevy of hungry chorus girls, an unintended engagement, Abe Lincoln and a gorilla atop the Empire State Building (well, a man in a costume at a fancy dress party), and you have an over-the-top episode, even for our extravagant heroes.

This episode rates 4 out of 5 serving trays:





Episode 4: Bridegroom Wanted (51m:05s)

"I did a lot of work with heavy drinkers for my PhD, and one thing I found they all had in common was that as children, they were deprived of alcohol." – Dr. Blair Eggleston

This zinger opens with Bertie and Jeeves attempting to decipher Irving Berlin's Putting on the Ritz, eventually parodying it with their own creation, Putting on the Regency. A hoot.

Bingo is in love with a waitress, and is fearful his Uncle Bigglesham will disapprove. He goads Bertie into posing as his uncle favorite author, Rosie Banks (they have supposedly used this rouse before, convincing Bigglesham this is Bertie's nom de plume) to influence him to accept the mismatched couple. The uncle is in treatment at an unconventional clinic for his rapacious gluttony, where the basic philosophy employed is that immoderation will breed revulsion. During Bertie's visit, using passages from Rosie Banks' latest novel, he convinces the uncle to agree to the marriage. The meeting ends when the indulgent old man is served a sumptuous meal of duck, lobster, salmon and a most decadent chocolate dessert!

Before leaving the building, Bertie encounters Honoria Glossop, whose Uncle runs the place. Honoria, once again imagines they are engaged, but a young Dr. Eggleston is smitten with her but too shy to come forward. Bertie hires an actress called Trixie to pose as his betrothed, a plan that backfires with devilish flare. What's a satisfied bachelor to do?

Skip town; sail home to England... incognito, of course! Well done.

This time the misadventure leads to anarchy on the voyage home—Bingo and his waitress; Trixie, her paramour/agent Waterbury, and his estranged wife; Dr. Glossop (also in disguise to escape an amorous nurse) and his niece Honoria—and our man and his man take to desperate measures to deliver themselves from "hell's fury."

The hilarious denouement employs a passage of time, a frightful change in appearance for our protagonists and a reference to the Panama Canal… A fabulous farce, this episode rates 5 out of 5 pure sterling services!





Episode 4 : The Delayed Arrival (51m:10s)

"As a matter of fact, I haven't got a 'cunning fiend's brain.'" - Bertie

Aunt Dahlia mysteriously hocks her pearls for £1000; they're worth more, she needs more, but that's what she's offered. Damn. At the same time, Jeeves returns from holiday to find Bertie mustachioed again. A letter arrives from a Percy Gorringe, stepson of L.G. Trotter, who wants to borrow £1000 to produce a play. Shortly thereafter, "Stilton" Cheesewright turns up, raising hell with Bertie for drinking, even though they're back in England. He announces that he has drawn Bertie's name for the annual darts tournament at their club and expects him to win. Florence, engaged to Stilton, shows up, loves Bertie's mustache and insists her fiancé grow one as well.

It turns out that Aunt Dahlia wants to sell her magazine, Milady's Boudoir, to Mr. Trotter, so she drags her nephew into her scheme, which results in various intrigues and subterfuges, all of which go awry as the hordes converge in Worcestershire: Florence breaks off with Stilton and proclaims to be re-engaged to Bertie; Percy pines for Florence; and Aunt Dahlia's husbands plans to have her (missing) pearls appraised. When Bertie bungles a burglary, could it be this mess is beyond even Jeeves' powers?

The script here is uproarious and the dialogue is premiere. I cannot say what makes this episode priceless, as it would spoil all the fun. But take my word, for fans, this is worth its weight in cultured pearls!

This episode rates 5 out of 5 services:





Episode 5: Trouble at Totleigh Towers (50m:37s)

"I was merely wondering whether they also stock the leather trousery that would undoubtedly set it off to full effect." - Jeeves

Emerald Stoker, an art school student, comes by to say she is off to Totleigh Towers, home of our notorious Bassett family. It appears she is rather soft on Gussie Fink-Nottle, who is currently engaged to Madeline Bassett. Gussie comes by the club and says Stiffy expects Bertie to join them there as well. Stinker also shows up at the club, complaining he still has no money to marry Stiffy, and tells Bertie about some strange, supernatural force at work in the Bassett household. Bertie dons a new alpine hat, much to Jeeves chagrin, and the two travel to Totleigh . Upon their arrival, they discover Madeline believes our Mr. Wooster still carries a torch for her, and that Bertie's archenemy Spode is in residence as well.

Madeline expects Gussie to become a vegetarian even though she herself is "too frail" to be so herself. Emerald, who needs to pick up some extra money for tuition, is the temporary cook at Totleigh, and offers to sneak Gussie midnight snacks of steak & kidney pies—it would seem this man's stomach is indeed the way to his heart!

The main plot pivots around a carved, "black amber" African tribal totem that sits centered on the dining table, which a Major Plank sold to Watkyns. Stiffy believes it is cursed and blackmails Bertie into stealing it! The chief of the Ungali tribe happens to be in London and actually wants totem back. He can't come, so impersonation is the form of the day—again.

At a Totleigh School carnival Stinker put on, Spode—ever Miss Bassett's champion—catches Gussie making his move on Emerald. Stiffy finally gets Uncle Watty to give Stinker the vicarage so they can be married—or does he?

Further silliness includes: Spode in his jammies complete with teddy bear; Jeeves poses as Chief Inspector Witherspoon of Scotland Yard ( "Alpine Joe, we call him Sir, on account of his strange head gear"); both Stinker and Emerald knock Spode out; and Madeline accepts Spode's proposal!

Everyone sings happily ever after to the tune of 5 Serving Trays:





Episode 6: The Ties That Bind (51m:11s)

Bertie: Ha! Have you ever felt like throwing open the window and shouting the world it is a lovely place, Jeeves?
Jeeves: Uh, no, Sir.

After visiting Jeeves' Ganymede Club, the valiant valet must admit to Bertie that the Club book, which has all the "eccentricities" of the "gentlemen's gentlemen's gentlemen," has been stolen!

Off to Totleigh-on-Wold for the wedding of Madeline Bassett to Bertie's nemesis, Spode. Florence is there, engaged to Harold "Ginger" Winship, who is running for political office, backed by the fervent Spode—but something in the missing book might foil his plans, which in turn could wreak havoc for poor Bertie! A chap named Brinkley has the tome and tries to sell secrets about candidate Winship to his opponent. If Ginger does not win his seat, Florence will break off their engagement; likewise for Spode and Madeline—look out, Mr. Wooster!

Meanwhile, Tuppy has invested in a Plumbo-Jumbo contraption ("Is that a joke?") and is called down to Totleigh Towers to fix a plumbing problem with his new-fangled device. Jeeves and Bertie convince Tuppy to steal the book from Florence—it has comically landed in her possession when she mistakes it for a novel—as he has access to all rooms as the plumber. Desperate to avoid the alter the next morning, Bertie awaits Jeeves' return from London with the one thing that will save him—but who will save him from Florence?

One word: Celia.

A tad slow (in Jeeves and Wooster terms) at the get go, this series finale takes on every major storyline of all four seasons and weaves each thread into one uproarious fiasco as only P.G. Wodehouse—via Clive Exton—could.

What-o, Bertie! 5 out of 5 servings:



Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: A&E presents Jeeves & Wooster in its original made-for-television, full-frame format. While there is still an overall softness, the film-like quality makes for quite pleasant viewing. Episode 4, in particular, is overly muddy in its darker interior scenes but there are few digital anomalies such as edge enhancement and shimmering patterns. Reasonable enough for the material, and perfectly watchable.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEngishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Anne Dudley's theme song is a deadly contagion; thankfully, delightfully so. The Dolby 2.0 monaural transfer serves the material well, although dialogue is occasionally hampered by the thinness of the track. About as one might expect from television source from a decade ago.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. P.G. Wodehouse biography/bibliography
Extras Review: As with the other sets in the series, this last season offers a total of 6 episodes on two discs with looping video highlights on the main menus, complete with corresponding audio bites. Each show has 6 chapter-stops accessed from a sub-menu.

The same brief bio and bibliography for P.G. Wodehouse is the only supplement that graces the series.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry bring P.G. Wodehouse's madcap mayhem to life with comedic brilliance. Season four is, overall, a sidesplitting treasure in top Britcom form. Highly recommended.

 


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