Jeeves and Wooster, 1990-1993. Bertie Wooster

More information from IMDB

The Following summary is copyright to Mark Lewisohn and the guide to comedy

Twenty-three years after the BBC laid The World Of Wooster to rest, Granada TV revived P G Wodehouse's comic stories with spectacular success, casting, in a stroke of genius, comedy double-act Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry in the roles, respectively, of gentleman and gentleman's gentleman. (For a fuller explanation of Wodehouse's characters and stories see that chronologically earlier BBC series, which had starred Ian Carmichael and Dennis Price.)

Although there was some doubt among members of the Wodehouse Society about their appropriateness for the parts, Fry and Laurie were simply perfect in the roles of unsurpassable valet Jeeves and bally ass Wooster, living in a 1920s-30s world of Hooray Henries and splendidly indomitable aunts. Both were major fans of the original books, and Fry had even written Wodehouse a letter, before the master's death in 1975, which elicited a signed photograph that remains much treasured.

Shot on film, production values were high throughout the 23 episodes and all of them were very funny. The scripts were dramatised from the Wodehouse originals by Clive Exton (who also adapted Agatha Christie's Poirot books for ITV), six of them being set in New York City.

Researched and written by Mark Lewisohn.

Jeeves and Wooster gallery - more to be added

Interview with Hugh and Stephen during filming

Video clip and screencaps

The Best of Masterpiece Theatre. March 4, 2007. Jeeves and Wooster. Video clip and Screencaps

Publicity Photos:



Photos and pages below are from A Celebration of 25 years of Outstanding Television - Masterpiece Theatre

Hello Magazine, April 12, 1991

TV Times, March 3, 1992

TV Times - May 5, 1990. Article donated by marykir

Articles from the Associated Press and The New York Times

Other Articles

Hugh Laurie wrote this for The Daily Telegraph in 1999 - From

Hugh Laurie - Wodehouse Saved my Life

The Daily Telegraph 27.5.99

With today's reissue of PG Wodehouse's books, Hugh Laurie tells how the comic genius made him clean up his 'squalid' existence

To be able to write about PG Wodehouse is the sort of honour that comes rarely in any man's life, let alone mine. This is rarity of a rare order. Halley's comet seems like a blasted nuisance in comparison. If you'd knocked on my head 20 years ago and told me that a time would come when I, Hugh Laurie - scraper-through of O-levels, mover of lips (own) while reading, loafer, scrounger, pettifogger and general berk of this parish - would be able to carve my initials in the broad bark of the Master's oak, I'm pretty certain that I would have said "garn", or something like it.

I was, in truth, a horrible child. Not much given to things of a bookey nature, I spent a large part of my youth smoking Number Six and cheating in French vocabulary tests. I wore platform boots with a brass skull and crossbones over the ankle, my hair was disgraceful, and I somehow contrived to pull off the gruesome trick of being both fat and thin at the same time. If you had passed me in the street during those pimply years, I am confident that you would, at the very least, have quickened your pace.

You think I exaggerate? I do not. Glancing over my school reports from the year 1972, I observe that the words "ghastly" and "desperate" feature strongly, while "no", "not", "never" and "again" also crop up more often than one would expect in a random sample. My history teacher's report actually took the form of a postcard from Vancouver.

But this, you will be nauseated to learn, is a tale of redemption. In about my 13th year, it so happened that a copy of Galahad at Blandings by PG Wodehouse entered my squalid universe, and things quickly began to change. From the very first sentence of my very first Wodehouse story, life appeared to grow somehow larger. There had always been height, depth, width and time, and in these prosaic dimensions I had hitherto snarled, cursed, and not washed my hair. But now, suddenly, there was Wodehouse, and the discovery seemed to make me gentler every day. By the middle of the fifth chapter I was able to use a knife and fork, and I like to think that I have made reasonable strides since.

I spent the following couple of years meandering happily back and forth through Blandings Castle and its environs - learning how often the trains ran, at what times the post was collected, how one could tell if the Empress was off-colour, why the Emsworth Arms was preferable to the Blue Boar - until the time came for me to roll up the map of adolescence and set forth into my first Jeeves novel. It was The Code of the Woosters, and things, as they used to say, would never be the same again.

The facts in this case, ladies and gentlemen, are simple. The first thing you should know, and probably the last, too, is that PG Wodehouse is still the funniest writer ever to have put words on paper. Fact number two: with the Jeeves stories, Wodehouse created the best of the best. I speak as one whose first love was Blandings, and who later took immense pleasure from Psmith, but Jeeves is the jewel, and anyone who tries to tell you different can be shown the door, the mini-cab, the train station, and Terminal 4 at Heathrow with a clear conscience. The world of Jeeves is complete and integral, every bit as structured, layered, ordered, complex and self-contained as King Lear, and considerably funnier.

Now let the pages of the calendar tumble as autumn leaves, until 10 years are understood to have passed. A man came to us - to me and to my comedy partner, Stephen Fry - with a proposition. He asked me if I would like to play Bertram W. Wooster in 23 hours of televised drama, opposite the internationally tall Fry in the role of Jeeves.

"Fiddle," one of us said. I forget which. "Sticks," said the other. "Wodehouse on television? It's lunacy. A disaster in kit form. Get a grip, man." The man, a television producer, pressed home his argument with skill and determination. "All right," he said, shrugging on his coat. "I'll ask someone else." "Whoa, hold up," said one of us, shooting a startled look at the other. "Steady," said the other, returning the S. L. with top-spin. There was a pause. "You'll never get a cab in this weather," we said, in unison.

And so it was that, a few months later, I found myself slipping into a double-breasted suit in a Prince of Wales check while my colleague made himself at home inside an enormous bowler hat, and the two of us embarked on our separate disciplines. Him for the noiseless opening of decanters, me for the twirling of the whangee.

So the great PG was making his presence felt in my life once more. And I soon learnt that I still had much to learn. How to smoke plain cigarettes, how to drive a 1927 Aston Martin, how to mix a Martini with five parts water and one part water (for filming purposes only), how to attach a pair of spats in less than a day and a half, and so on.

But the thing that really worried us, that had us saying "crikey" for weeks on end, was this business of The Words. Let me give you an example. Bertie is leaving in a huff: " 'Tinkerty tonk,' I said, and I meant it to sting." I ask you: how is one to do justice of even the roughest sort to a line like that? How can any human actor, with his clumsily attached ears, and his irritating voice, and his completely misguided hair, hope to deliver a line as pure as that? It cannot be done. You begin with a diamond on the page, and you end up with a blob of Pritt, The Non-Sticky Sticky Stuff, on the screen.

Wodehouse on the page can be taken in the reader's own time; on the screen, the beautiful sentence often seems to whip by, like an attractive member of the opposite sex glimpsed from the back of a cab. You, as the viewer, try desperately to fix the image in your mind - but it is too late, because suddenly you're into a commercial break and someone is telling you how your home may be at risk if you eat the wrong breakast cereal.

Naturally, one hopes there were compensations in watching Wodehouse on the screen - pleasant scenery, amusing clothes, a particular actor's eyebrows - but it can never replicate the experience of reading him. If I may go slightly culinary for a moment: a dish of foie gras nestling on a bed of truffles, with a side-order of lobster and caviar may provide you with a wonderful sensation; but no matter how wonderful, you simply don't want to be spoon-fed the stuff by a perfect stranger. You need to hold the spoon, and decide for yourself when to wolf and when to nibble.

And so I am back to reading, rather than playing Jeeves. And my Wodehousian redemption is, I hope, complete. Indeed, there is nothing left for me to say, except to wish, as I fold away my penknife and gaze up at the huge oak towering overhead, that my history teacher could see me now.

Text © Hugh Laurie/Daily Telegraph
Layout © R.D. Collins 2004

Jeeves' a 'jewel in the dust'
Daily Herald TV critic

"Masterpiece Theatre's" new five-part presentation, "Jeeves and Wooster" strikes a funny bone that's been largely ill-served this side of the Atlantic. Based on five stories by humorist P.G. Wodehouse, the series pokes fun at the class divisions of British society in the '20s .and '30s, when rich London lads with lots of time and nothing to do had man-servants attend to their every need. Pity the man-servant role never caught on over here. I could use one.

In the first episode at 9 p.m. Sunday on Channel 11, Bertie Wooster, the rich n'er-do-well, stumbles into his well-appointed apartment at the crack of noon, scarcely able to speak. His evening had been that rich. His hangover will be that fierce. But there, to save the day, is Jeeves, his newly-hired valet. In no time, with the attending, "Indeed, sir," and "Really, sir," and "Very good, sir," Jeeves whips up a secret concoction of tomato juice, cognac and raw egg, serves it to Wooster in a crystal glass on a silver tray and "presto!," hangover is cured. To young Wooster, who has a passion for drink and long nights, Jeeves' mixology skills are a revelation. They allow him play and not have to pay.

Wooster and Jeeves become quite a team. Predictably, Jeeves has all the brains. Wooster is a cad. "Bertie, it is young men like you who make a person with the future of the race at heart despair," says his judgmental Aunt Agatha. She suggests he marry "someone strong, self-reliant and sensible to counteract the deficiencies of your own character." He does not.

America doesn't have its own comedy of manners. And even if it did, it wouldn't compare to those spun by Wodehouse. In the third episode, Bertie and Wooster head to the country, where Wooster gambles recklessly on some silly village contests, such as the three-legged race and the 80-yard dash for geriatrics. But he meets his match when a fellow guest stacks the deck against him. The cheater is suspect from the get-go, when Wooster runs into him on the street. Standing outside a tavern, the fellow suddenly beats a path to the bar, "I'm going inside," he says. "This fresh air is getting into my lungs."

How can you not like a show with lines like that?

Stephen Fry, as Jeeves, and Hugh Laurie, as Wooster, make this series sing. The two have worked together
in comedy for the last several years and in the Wodehouse series they mesh like a team.

In addition to being refreshingly funny, "Jeeves and Wooster" is beautiful to watch. Filmed, rather than taped, in and around London, it has exquisite production values. On a TV schedule littered with mediocre sitcoms, "Jeeves and Wooster" represents a jewel in the dust.

Jeeves & Wooster'; PBS's Winsome, Wayward Odd Couple

Kate Tyndall. The Washington Post

Copyright The Washington Post Company Dec 27, 1992

One is wayward, one is winsome. Laid end to end, they comprise 12 feet, 6 1/2 inches of comedic versatility.

Stephen Fry, the wayward one, and Hugh Laurie, the winsome one, are affably sharing their Marlboros and time with a stranger on the set of Granada Television's "Jeeves and Wooster" series, based on the books by P.G. Wodehouse. In Granada's recasting of what Fry calls "the sacred text," Laurie plays the perpetually addled Bertie Wooster, and Fry, his unflappable manservant, Jeeves.

Fry, a baby-faced giant in corduroys and workshirt, plays host, inquiring genially of the visitor: "And what is your brief?" Perhaps he was practicing for his debut as host of Masterpiece Theatre, beginning Sunday at 9, when PBS will begin the first of four "Jeeves and Wooster" tales.

On those evenings, Stephen Fry will do double duty, when he also takes over Alistair Cooke's spot introducing the shows - what that gentleman once deprecatingly referred to as "performing the tasks of a headwaiter."

Though Cooke's replacement has not been publicly named, Fry seems a likely candidate, based on his cheerful assertion back in October that, "I'm going to be the Cookie Monster {a reference to the pipe-chomping `Sesame Street' character} who's retiring or resigning or something."

The two are speaking in a trailer parked on the grounds behind this grand old country home less than two hours from London and just meters from the lunch crowd queuing at the Granada canteen.

Fry instructs the visitor: "You be the quarterback and we'll catch the ball." Then he leaps into high interview mode. "Now Hugh likes Cheerios with semi-skimmed milk and I like boiled oats with non-skimmed milk." Alarmed by a look of non-comprehension, he hastens to elaborate. "Boiled oats, porridge. It's a Scots, um, thing. Scots grow up on the stuff." He warms to his subject. "It's very, very nutritious. Very good for the colon. I like porridge." End of lesson.

"Stephen was a difficult child," Laurie says, considering his colleague. "Intelligent, precocious, wayward."

"Wayward, mmmm, an excellent word," Fry rumbles, nodding his head approvingly. He offers a couple of reasons for his waywardness: "Religion. Genes."

Sent off to boarding school at age 7 (Laurie didn't go until he was 13), Fry defends the honor of a much-pilloried institution. "Certainly the most neurotic people I know are the ones who didn't go to public {private} schools. Most people who go to public school seem to be much more at ease in the world; more poised, and much more confident. And that's what one wants one's children to be," says the man who hasn't any.

If Fry does prove to be Cooke's permanent replacement, the choice is a good one. Like his predecessor, the Cambridge-educated Fry is a man of many parts, especially for one of his relatively tender years (late 30s). As an actor, he has played generations of bombastic, bumbling Melchetts in the "Blackadder" series, a collaboration among friends, including Laurie, that takes a cockeyed, satiric view of British history. He has also played roles in drama, such as Simon Gray's "Common Pursuit," shown last month on PBS, and "Peter's Friends," a film produced by Kenneth Branagh that opened in the United States last week.

As a novelist, his first book, "Liar," published in 1991, was a British bestseller; as a comedy writer, he collaborated with Laurie on a winning sketch series called "A Bit of Fry and Laurie"; as a playwright, his first play, "Latin, or Tobacco and Boys," won the Fringe Award at Edinburgh and his revision of the book for the musical "Me and My Girl" was a West End and Broadway success; and as a fledgling screenwriter, he has a two-picture deal at Paramount. Of the latter, he will say nothing except that his ideas "are not particularly high concept," and therefore not explainable.

Laurie, 6-feet-2, fresh-faced and all kitted out in tweeds as Wooster, is almost as Renaissance a man as his companion, just less talkative. He is still shell-shocked from a recent four-hour, one-on-one interview with a reporter from British GQ from which he has taken away a significant lesson: "Say as little as possible."

Rolling those huge blue eyes that Bertie often employs to hilarious effect when he is flummoxed by events or pursued by unwanted fiancees, Laurie moans: "In four hours you can get in such a jam talking about things you really don't want to talk about. And I said some of the stupidest things. I wasn't thinking about what she would be thinking about what I said."

Hard on Fry's heels, Laurie is also writing a novel, but under an assumed name. In fact, he figures that since he plans to do it under an assumed name, he might as well say it's already done.

When the pair were first offered the parts of Jeeves and Wooster, Laurie says, "Actually, we nearly turned it down." He thought for a moment. "We sort of did turn it down, because we thought it was an impossible thing to achieve. Among a certain class of British life, it's a, a sacred ..."

"Hmm, a sacred text," Fry finishes.

Laurie continues: "Yes, and if you muck it up, you really are in such trouble.

"But then I read the scripts straight through at one sitting, which I don't normally do, since scripts are generally such dull things to read, and I just laughed. There was some really great stuff and so I rang up Stephen and said, `Wait, don't, don't say no yet.'"

Fry picks up the narrative: "Part of the reason we thought we could say no is that the books are written by Bertie, as it were, in the first person. And he describes Jeeves, for instance, as, y'know, his feet don't touch the floor, he shimmers into rooms, he oozes out of rooms. He seems to flicker and then he isn't there. He coughs and it's like a sheep clearing its throat of a blade of grass on a distant hillside or something."

Fry laughs. "I've got real feet. I'm very physical."

Undeniably, and yet well into a fourth round of the series, Fry has managed to flicker and shimmer with a skill that even Jeeves' progenitor would approve. Laurie's Wooster is no less an accomplishment as anyone knows who has ever seen his peeled eyeball look of appalled concentration as he listens to a plan his Mensa-caliber manservant has hatched to keep him out of harm's way.

As Bertie has a propensity for getting in harm's way, so does the actor who portrays him have a bent for physically expressive comedy. In "Blackadder III," Laurie played another rubber-faced peanut-brain as the highly rouged, good-natured, good-time Prince of Wales.

Laurie can be charmingly addled in real time, too. An assistant director, poking her head in the door of the trailer, sings out, "Jeeves, five to 10." Puzzled, Fry asks: "She said five to 10? We're on at five minutes to 10 o'clock?" (It was early afternoon.) The AD says patiently, "Five to 10 minutes, on the set." "Oh, right," Laurie says, against a background of Fry's low-register chortles.

"I've got to go slip into my togs," Fry says and oozes, Jeeves-like, into a room at the back of the trailer. Donning Jeeves' working black in less time than it takes to shuck a half dozen oysters, Fry reappears, the corduroys and workshirt in a puddle on the floor.

Glancing at the transformed Fry, a trace of pathos etching his voice, Laurie says: "He gets to stay in the same clothes. I have to change clothes about eight times a day. The boiled shirt I had on this morning could have stopped a .38 {caliber bullet}. It really could."

Since their Cambridge days, where Fry and Laurie met in 1981, introduced by actress Emma Thompson - "No, I never dated her," Fry says imperturbably; Laurie blushes - the two seem to have been joined at the hip. They met because Laurie was looking for someone to help him write and perform in Cambridge's big end-of-the-year production, "Cambridge Footlights Revue."

"I mean, he's about a foot taller than anyone else and had a very deep voice and looks about 30 years older than everyone else," says Laurie. An indulgent smile flickers across Fry's face through the smoke of his cigarette.

Tall and deep-voiced, granted. But old-looking? With that baby face?

"Well, he's got a baby face now. He's got younger as he got older," Laurie says. "He'll be in short trousers in about 10 years' time."

But about that Emma question. "We, we were very good friends," Laurie says with that melting expression halfway between terror and exasperation with which Bertie often faces the wrathful Aunt Agatha.

Pressed for an explanation, he protests weakly: "Ah, well, I don't want to bandy names about. I, I don't feel I can say. She might be horrified and embarrassed by being linked with me." He throws a mute glance of desperate appeal to Fry.

Moving smoothly into the breach, Fry says helpfully in that voice that could lull a lion to sleep: "Oh, they went to the cinema once, that sort of thing."

Aside from dating Emma Thompson, since married to actor/director/producer Branagh, is there anything that the two of them don't do together? His smooth face aglow with innocence, Fry offers: "Ahh, Hugh has a family with two children that I have had nothing to do with." Pause. "So far as Hugh knows."

The two are often found at one another's houses in North London, especially when they are working on "A Bit of Fry and Laurie." "Even if we're not writing the same thing together, we can be in the same room writing separate things together so we can kind of pull out of the atmosphere of despair," Fry says.

And does Laurie's wife run from the house screaming when she sees bachelor Fry strolling up the garden path yet again? "No, no, no. She's very fond of him, fonder of him than I am, actually," says Laurie.

Now that's a tough sell

People Weekly;

11/12/1990; Hiltbrand, David

PBS (Sun., Nov. 11, 9 P.M. ET)

Jolly good show! Masterpiece Theatre has adapted the comic stories of P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), featuring that feather-brained gentleman of leisure, Bertie Wooster, and his godsend of a valet, Jeeves, into a five-part series.

As soon as he arrives, Jeeves (Stephen Fry) takes his ineffectual master in hand, getting Wooster (Hugh Laurie) out of all kinds of fixes, usually involving the fairer sex, the members of which are complete mysteries to Bertie and his clubby chums.

The shows, airing on consecutive Sundays, abound in delights. They're full of dotty, preposterously smug English society characters from the '30s with fruity names like Barmy Fatherington-Phipps and the Rev. Beefy Bingham. Then there are the well-preserved pleasures of Wodehouse's idiom-rich language. When Wooster asks a friend why he's tutoring way out in the country, he replies, "Money, Bertie -- ooph, moolah, spondoolik."

In its sharper installments, this is the most deucedly clever Masterpiece Theatre undertaking since The Irish R.M. Carry on, Jeeves. Grade: A-

COPYRIGHT 1990 Time, Inc.

The Scouse play

Daily Telegraph (London, England); 3/8/2001; Methven, Charlie

An unlikely alliance of Jeeves and Wooster and Home and Away has been formed to produce a new film version of Macbeth. Hugh Laurie - Bertie Wooster in the BBC series - will star alongside Aleetza Wood, the Australian soap star, in a very modern adaptation of the Scottish play.

Set on Merseyside Docklands, the film will feature Laurie playing Macbeth as a contemporary Scouse villain. Wood has been cast as a jazzed-up version of Banquo's son, Fleance. "It's a wonderful adaptation of the original work," she tells me.

"The Docklands will look stunning and I'm very excited indeed about working with Hugh. He's a great actor and I think that he'll be extremely good as Macbeth. For my part, I'm having to learn sign language. In this adaptation they have made Fleance a mute girl to add depth and impact to the role. At least it means I won't have any lines to learn."

COPYRIGHT 2001 Daily Telegraph

Life stories: At peace with my inner brat.(Small blurb about Hugh Laurie in the article)

The Independent Sunday (London, England);

6/8/2003; Eyre, Hermione

I retired at the age of 12, giving up a thriving TV career to spend more time with my hamster. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that at 12 I was all washed up, my career poleaxed by some savage orthodontic engineering. Either way, like many child film actors, I found that as I hit puberty, the parts started drying up. But this was probably a good thing.

For the child actor treads a dangerous path. One moment they're amusingly precocious, the next they're a total prat. I was conspicuous on set for lugging around a big copy of Les Miserables, which I was re-reading. I cringe as I recall reedily cross-examining the BBC make-up artist about the accuracy of my wig when I was playing the young Agatha Christie in an Arena documentary. And characterisation was a very serious issue for me. Once, when we were filming Jeeves and Wooster (my role, "the kid Clementina") there was a long delay as technicians adjusted light reflectors. Hugh Laurie kindly tried to keep me amused by offering to show me how to play the castanets with of spoons. I told him gravely that I'd rather not, thank you. I was trying to "focus".

I'm not the only one to recall excruciating pre-teen luvviedom. I'd known David for about a year when, in a flurry of mutual confession, we discovered that we'd both been signed-up members of Groucho junior, as it were. While playing a lead in a major children's TV drama series he'd developed an unusually loud voice and a penchant for Armani waistcoats. He was often too busy to see his parents after filming, because he had to meet the adult stars in the hotel bar, where his lemonade would hype him up until he held court with anecdotes. He blew his earnings on spending sprees, when he would tip, generously. He began to take the New Yorker and would read it ostentatiously on set while waiting for his close-up.

As we vied for "most obnoxious child" title, we decided our precocious behaviour wasn't entirely our fault. After all, having a chaperone, a personal tutor, a driver and a stand-in is bound to have strange effects on a kid. Once, a runner was escorting me through the rain (umbrella aloft over my costume) when he discovered some extras had strayed into my trailer to warm themselves at my gas fire. I was mortified when he shouted "Background artistes out!"

But filming was a privilege and a positive experience. For one, I learnt to keep quiet: I just knew it wasn't right to talk about it back at school. And I found out I didn't want to be an actress. I also have some good memories. Once, filming at night in the Swiss Alps, I was trying take after take to get my lines right when Kim Novak took my hand. She breathed "You and me are gonna play a game" and stared into my eyes, challenging me to blink. Although wasted on a nine-year-old girl, it was a nice way to learn about concentration. And of course, I still get the odd repeat fee cheque in the post.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.

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