Have you ever wondered why the name “Jeeves” has somehow become associated with butlers? Well, I can tell you >>> it comes from the classic British series, “Jeeves”, written by P.G. Wodehouse from the 1910s clear until the 1960s. (P.G. Wodehouse is one of the non-mystery authors I have on my site. Even though they aren’t mysteries, they certainly provide a Cozy-ish atmosphere due to their recurring characters and settings.)
Wodehouse’s character Jeeves so personified the unfailingly polite and devoted manservant that the name soon became almost a general noun associated with all butlers – despite the fact that Jeeves wasn’t even a butler; he was a valet!
Of course, the books are quite excellent, but today there is a more accessible way to become well-acquainted with these classic characters. Originally airing from 1990 to 1993, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie starred in the roles of the iconic valet and his bumbling master in the BBC series, Jeeves and Wooster. The series had the good sense not to meddle too much with the classic stories originally told by Wodehouse, instead only changing smaller details and allowing the actors to improvise slightly in ways that better fit their personal styles >>> and what style they have!
Both the lead actors really shine in their roles. Hugh Laurie makes an almost effortless overconfident and cheerful Bertie Wooster, who always means well but never quite has the intelligence to pull off his often-zany solutions to what other people would consider minor problems. Stephen Fry’s dry, witty demeanor is a perfect fit for ever-calm-and-collected Jeeves, always ready on hand to solve whatever misadventure his master has accidentally landed in.
The supporting cast is excellent as well, though the episodic nature of the show means that few actors return for more than a handful of appearances. Instead the audience is regaled with a rotating cast of Bertie’s social club friends, most featuring ridiculous nicknames like “Tuffy,” “Oofy,” or “Gussie” – names that really tell you just about all you really need to know about them. Also demanding on his time are Bertie’s Aunts (usually Aunt Agatha, sometimes Aunt Dahlia, just once Aunt Hilda), who are always trying to “fix” the unfortunate Bertie, often by attaching him to a “suitable” woman.
Even today, Jeeves has a clear influence on modern authors: Emily Brightwell’s Mrs. Jeffries Mystery Series shows elements of Wodehouse in the relationship she has developed between the incompetent Inspector Witherspoon and his efficient and unflappable head of household, Mrs. Jeffries. The Jeeves series has withstood the test of time, and even helped form elements of modern literature, and the televised series is a great way to at least get an introduction to the adventures of Jeeves & Wooster.
P.S. To me, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are Jeeves & Wooster – they’re perfect in the role, and are the adaptation that will likely forever cement my mental image of the characters. That said, there is another television adaptation of Wodehouse’s original works, the 1960s series The World of Wooster, starring Ian Carmichael as Bertie and Dennis Price as Jeeves. Though I haven’t seen this series, the actors seem like good picks, and I could easily see someone from an earlier generation picking them as “their” Bertie and Jeeves.