When House M.D. first came out, one review that I read said that the English Hugh Laurie had a wretched American accent. I watched a few episodes and decided I didn’t like the show and put it out of my mind.
A few months ago, a compatriot of mine found the sketch Your name, sir? on youtube, taken from A Bit of Fry and Laurie, and I realized how brilliant Laurie can be, and how brilliant Stephen Fry is as well.
In light of that, when I found Jeeves and Wooster, played by Fry and Laurie, on Netflix I added it to my list. Not only have I not been disappointed, I have become a raving fan of Jeeves and Wooster.
Enough back story. Bertie Wooster (played by Laurie) is a young man with enough money that he can do whatever he wants with his days, and afford a valet named Jeeves (Fry). The depth of Wooster’s activities in life rivals the lives of any Jane Austin character, being chiefly concerned with not getting married, and helping his friends with their little problems.
Jeeves is the ultimate perfect butler. He knows what’s going on all the time, and always has just the perfect plan. His plan is always the one that goes through, though often he just takes care of it himself, without telling anyone what he’s doing. In the end, people look at him and say “Good heavens Jeeves, how on earth did you do this?”.
I love this series for several reasons. One is that it’s gentle. There’s no violence, no sex, no genuine angst. The problems to be solved are humorous in their very simplicity.
Another is that the language is fantastic. The mere fact that it’s British English makes it fun, but it’s also high dollar language from the 1920’s (in which our story is generally set). Here’s an excellent quote:
Bertie: [singing Minnie the Moocher] Ho dee ho dee ho dee ho
Jeeves: [speaking] Ho dee ho dee ho, sir.
Bertie: [stumbles a bit at the piano] …rah di rah di rah
Jeeves: Rah di rah di rah, sir?
Bertie: Tee di hee di hee
Jeeves: Tee di hee di hee, sir.
Bertie: Yes…hm… I don’t mean to be overly critical Jeeves, I mean, I know you’re doing your best…
Jeeves: Thank you, sir!
Bertie: I just think that perhaps we could dispense with the ‘sir’ at the end of every line. You know, shows the proper feudal spirit and all that, but I’m afraid if it doesn’t play merry hell with the rhythm of the thing.
Jeeves uses the most wonderful words that I’ve never heard of, it’s dashed fun for someone who loves language.