14/01/2013 11:17 | By Dan Owen, contributor, MSN TV

Blandings: Jennifer Saunders stars in bland adaptation

TV review: Based on the Blandings Castle stories of PG Wodehouse, the BBC's latest hit stars Jennifer Saunders.


Jennifer Saunders in Blandings (© Jennifer Saunders in Blandings Image. BBC)


Summary

Blandings is a six-part comedy-drama based on author P.G Wodehouse's stories. It centres around the eccentric Lord Clarence Ermsworth (Timothy Spall) and his attempts to keep his dysfunctional family together, which includes stubborn sister Connie (Jennifer Saunders).

Highlight

The first episode was very much a case of performances operating far above the material; I quite enjoyed Timothy Spall, Jennifer Saunders and Jack Farthing as key members of the Emsworth aristocracy.

Lowlight

Where do you start? The farting pig, let's agree it was the farting pig.

Full review

Screenwriter Guy Andrews gave us the brilliant 2008 ITV miniseries Lost in Austen, but his adaptation of renowned English author P.G Wodehouse's Blandings Castle short stories left much to be desired.

It's easy to see why the BBC would attempt to bring Blandings to our screens; it's a perfect fit for Sundays - period setting, genteel Englishness, bucolic scenery, recognisable actors, source material from a celebrated author...

"I found Blandings monumentally dull"

On the face of it - a good decision. It debuted to overnight ratings of nearly 6 million viewers.

However, I found Blandings monumentally dull and lacking in drama or comedy.

Timothy Spall played against type as eccentric toff Lord Emsworth; he was given ample support from Jennifer Saunders as his indomitable sister, together with Jack Farthing as his nice-but-dim son Freddie.

The Fast Show's Mark Williams even made for a likeable butler stereotype, while Robert Bathurst was good value as Emsworth's rival, Sir Gregory.

Trouble is, the cast were adrift in a tepid storyline mostly devoid of jokes and fun... unless your sense of humour stalled three decades ago, perhaps.

And maybe that's as it should be, given that Blandings is adapted from a series of stories published between 1915 and 1975.

Blandings is rather bland

It started and finished with a flatulent pig, and what happened in-between wasn't much funnier.

We watched as Lord Emsworth desperately wanted to win the local Fattest Pig competition. But his chance started to disappear after his pig lost its appetite and his farmhand was jailed, allowing for victory to inch closer to opponent Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe.

Fortunately, Emsworth's niece's boyfriend offered a ray of hope, having learned a special call ("pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey!") guaranteed to make swine feel hungry.

Blandings isn't really aimed at the younger demographic so it's fair to cut it some slack. After all, it's stress-free Sunday night entertainment that demands little of its audience.

If viewers enjoy picturesque countryside, handsome costumes, beautiful turn-of-the-century architecture, and familiar faces wrapping their tongues around Wodehouse's effervescent old-fashioned dialogue - look no further.

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Did you enjoy the BBC adaptation of Blandings?

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  1.  
    42 %
    Yes - it was a jolly good show
    237 votes
  2.  
    58 %
    No - it was a jolly old bore
    334 votes

Total Responses: 571
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I imagine a nation of grandparents finally have something to replace Last of the Summer Wine, but for most people under the age of 50, it's a tougher sell.

And that's not strictly because it's set in the past and has a sense of humour particular to a bygone era; if so, it wouldn't explain the broad appeal of ITV's adaptation of Jeeves & Wooster (starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie).

I enjoyed watching that series back when I was a young teenager. In comparison to the estimable Jeeves & Wooster, this adaptation of Blandings was dull and failed to make its audience care about any of the characters.

It didn't help that the thin story felt utterly inconsequential, so perhaps it'll find its footing if the plots become a good deal more interesting.

Blandings is pretty to behold with a familiar cast doing their best to entertain, but boredom set in quickly. There just wasn't a strong enough narrative or enough good jokes to keep me engaged.

  • Verdict: Blandings is, I fear, appropriately named; it is bland television.

    Star grade

What other reviewers said

The Telegraph: "The lively chat could not save what was ultimately an arch and rather empty effort."

The Guardian: "It's silly - of course it is, it's Wodehouse. It's also rather charming. What?"

What people on Twitter said

@jimshelley17 (Daily Mirror critic) - "The pig was easily the best thing in #Blandings. And even he was a bit hammy."

@thejamesmax (ex-Apprentice star) - "#bbc #Blandings on now. Does anyone else think it's a bit lame?"


The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft

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