Acorn Media has released the first season of Blandings, Series 1, based on the Blandings Castle stories by P. G. Wodehouse (Jeeves and Wooster). A brightly-lit farce, which takes nothing too seriously, Blandings is a breath of fresh air, a far cry from some of the usual British drawing room dramas that audiences have become used to over the years. The series features many scenes filmed outdoors (on location in Northern Ireland), with natural light — why don’t more American shows look like this?
The inhabitants of Blandings Castle are not only eccentric, but very funny. Lord Clarence Emsworth (Timothy Spall) cares only for his prize pig The Empress. Nothing would make him happier than to hang out day in and day out by her pig pen, feeding her bits of potato or pudding, but his oh-so-proper sister Connie (Jennifer Saunders) is constantly after him — to dress up or in some other way improve himself. Connie has for all intents and purposes written off her nephew, Lord Emsworth’s dotty son Freddie (Jack Farthing), who never saw a tree he couldn’t crash his car into, or a girl he didn’t want to propose to. Presiding over the whole wacky bunch is the butler Beach (Mark Williams), who wisely keeps himself in a constant state of inebriation.
Although the cast sometimes takes the characterizations to cartoonish levels (especially in the case of Farthing), Blandings is all good fun. The colorful period costumes and late 1920s era setting adds another level of hyper-reality to the comedic goings-on, while the regular cast and a parade of guest stars (Robert Bathurst, James Norton, Natalie Burt, Jessica Hynes, and Brendan Patricks) keep the pace brisk and the quips flying. While Clarence may hope (in vain) for just a little peace and quiet, the viewer is more than happy to watch the mayhem unfold. In the first series the challenges to the Earl’s quiet country life include The Empress losing her appetite and possible entry in a local livestock competition, and Connie’s insistence on getting her brother organized and respectable — which includes everything from hiring a personal secretary, the horribly officious Baxter (David Walliams), who terrifies his new boss, to getting him to preside, in formal attire, over the local fete.
Blandings Series 1 includes six episodes on two discs, with a total running time of approximately 182 minutes. The six episodes include:
1 – “Pig-Hoo-o-o-o-ey”
2 – “The Go Getter”
3 – “Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend”
4 – “Company for Gertrude”
5 – “The Crimewave at Blandings”
6 – “Problems with Drink”
All of the episodes are directed by British actor-turned director Paul Seed (House of Cards, New Tricks, Northern Lights). The picture quality is high, sharp with bright colors and detailed sets. The screen’s aspect ratio is 1.77:1, widescreen, and looks great on a large-scale high-definition television screen. Scene selection and SDH subtitles are available, but unfortunately no other extras are included on the discs.
Jennifer Saunders may seem at first world’s away from the role that made her famous, Edina on Absolutely Fabulous, but Connie and Edina do share some similarities. Both are very sure that they are absolutely right about everything, and neither woman has much concern for her family members as long as she is getting her way. Harry Potter veterans Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail) as the harried Lord Emsworth, and Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) as the perpetually soused Beach, on the other hand, play very different characters from their film roles; but they both seem to be having a blast trying to avoid or circumvent Connie’s latest “improvements.” Rounding out the core cast, Jack Farthing’s mobile face (and hair) add a lot to his role as Lord Emsworth’s dim-witted but likable son Freddie.
Blandings may certainly be silly, but it is also highly enjoyable to watch, and viewers will be happy to learn that the series will be back with new episodes in early 2014. That’s great news for fans of British comedy and prize-winning pigs.