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I want to say something to you, about your method of eating artichokes.


Jeeves and Wooster
4.2 : Lady Florence Craye Arrives in New York
aka The Once and Future Ex


I don’t generally mind Jeeves and Wooster going a bit dafter than the original stories, for visual effect, but 4.2 goes that bit too far. Most egregiously so at its climax. It seems to be daring you to say enough is enough, with attempts by two police officers to shoot Bertie at (relatively) close range and a lightning strike atop the Empire State Building that leaves Wooster, dressed as Abe Lincoln, decidedly woozy. At this rate, next thing you know, they’ll be putting Jeeves in drag.

Bertie: Spinoza, eh? It shall be delivered to your door in a plain van right away.

The ending diverges so widely from the Wodehousian, it would be easy to assume Exton made entire reams of this up, but much of it does resemble the bones of source novel Joy in the Morning (1946), regarded by some as Wodehouse’s masterpiece. The TV version is very far from that.

While there’s no Aunt Agatha in Exton’s, there is Lord Worplesdon… But he isn’t Bertie’s uncle and he isn’t married to Aunt Agatha. Instead, he’s Nobby’s uncle, whereas he’s simply her guardian in the novel. He must approve her union in both, but it’s between Nobby and Boko in the novel; Exton changes Boko for Georg Caffyn, a character from Jeeves and the Chump Cyril found in The Inimitable Jeeves. Both find Nobby inveigling Bertie into a plan to persuade Worplesdon to approve their union, but there’s much more in the way of intrigue in this regard. The way Exton plays it, it’s almost an afterthought.

Bertie: If I have a spare moment, you’ll generally find me curled up with Spinoza’s latest.

It isn’t Jeeves birthday in the novel, but Bertie does offer to buy his gentleman’s gentleman a new edition of the collected works of Spinoza (as compensation for missing a fishing trip to Steeple Bumpleigh). Also present and correct is Florence Craye mistaking Bertie for a fan of Spindrift. As is Stilton, engaged to Florence; this is Stilton’s first appearance in the series, perhaps surprisingly, and it’s a shame they lift him from the realm of rural plod and deposit him in New York (he’s in two of the novels, with Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit being tapped later in the season). He makes a memorable Bertie nemesis, and Nicholas Palliser brings appropriate seething loathing – or should that be loathing seething? – for our hero. Nevertheless, you can feel the stretch in having him relocated to the Big Apple and advising the NYPD on matters (including abstinence).

Bertie: You can’t judge a man with a son like Edwin by the same standards as a man who hasn’t got a son like Edwin.

Let’s see. Edwin features in both (but burning down a cottage in the novel; Bertie is blamed) and Bertie kicking him – he “applied a boot to Edwin’s fundament” – elicits all round approval. Wodehouse’s penchant for battering loathsome children is an evergreen. There’s also Lord Worplesdon meeting with Chichester Clam, although this is where Exton’s excesses are most alarmingly fuelled. Both versions feature a fancy-dress ball (including Worplesdon in a Sinbad costume) and a meeting in disguise between them to seal the deal, but I doubt PG would have entertained the thought of Clam donning a gorilla costume and sitting in a cage at the zoo to meet Worplesdon (the latter, inevitably, converses with the wrong guy in the gorilla suit).

Bertie: I’m floating on feathers.

The pursuing throngs of press are a rather tiresome motif here too (“Monkey Mayhem Mugs Mogul Merger”), mostly because it encourages the makers to embark on more attempts at period NY polish, at which they’re entirely bereft. Come the climax, well… The good: as Jeeves ideas to wreck Bertie’s engagement to Florence go, having pages torn from Spindrift stuffing his Abraham Lincoln hat (his costume), is a good one. Ensuring she discovers it is less convincing, but many of Jeeves’ ideas in the novels rely on unlikely contrivance even.

That said, Jeeves looking at the headline “Electrical Storm Heading for New York City”, as if it’s the inspiration for a full-proof plan is desperately feeble, and this is where the season starts stretching things too far in its attempts give Jeeves – or Fry – more variety. Hence, his donning a Scaramouche costume and attending the party (while never coming clean to Bertie). There are some decent gags; Laurie makes a good fit for Abe, in a slightly Amish way, and the multiple Edward the Confessors and Stilton as Mata Hari are also amusing. As is Florence announcing “I’m going as the spirt of resurgent womanhood”. As I say, though, the shootout and the lightning strike are steps too far.

Bertie: No, well, chaq’un à son gout, Jeeves.
Jeeves: Very true, sir.

George makes for another forgettable character Bertie must help in marriage, but Jennifer Gibson lends much more of an impression as Nobby (and George’s description of her response to his failure to save the day, when Bertie unleashes torrents of insults at Percy, is notable: “like being attacked by a deranged Pekinese”). Florence Craye previously appeared in Season 3, played by Fiona Gilles. Confusingly and recklessly, she’s now played by Francesca Folan… who played Madeline Bassett in Season 1. This is a good episode until the climax; unfortunately, I don’t think I can forgive it its excesses.

Our Score


Joy in the Morning (1946)

Recurring characters

Florence Craye (3.5, 4.2)
D’Arcy “Stilton” Cheesewright (4.2)

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