Blandings, TV review


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The Independent Culture

Blandings Castle, the fictional seat of Lord Emsworth (Timothy Spall), is much more the sort of building of which Prince Charles would approve, and Blandings, which started a second series on BBC1 last night, is much more the sort of Sunday programming we’re used to.

But if you must wind down with nostalgic mush populated by aristocratic nitwits, at least let these nitwits be the creations of PG Wodehouse.

This episode began with a red-faced Duke of Dunstable (Harry Enfield) roaring through the house, while brandishing a poker. My reaction was similar when I discovered that The Fast Show’s Mark Williams, who played the butler, Beach, in series one, had been replaced with stand-up Tim Vine.

Still, even minus Williams, Blandings is a lot of fun. Enfield doing his Cholmondley-Warner on steroids was just one of the several guest stars we’re promised. Mathew Baynton also turned up as an unsuitable suitor to Dunstable’s niece, and this forbidden match led, in a roundabout Wodehousian way, to an attempt to have Emsworth committed. Even among English eccentrics, entering one’s prize pig in the Epsom Derby is considered outré.

As ever, it was the butler’s discreet intervention that saved the day. Blandings is set in 1929, but Beach/Vine’s scheme hinged on a reference to the 1944 film To Have and Have Not: “You know how to whistle, don’t you?” he asked Freddie. “Yes, yes. You blow and then you put your lips together.” Rest assured such glaring anachronisms would never have been permitted at Blandings in Mark Williams’s day.