Paul Pennyfeather (Whitehall) is kicked out of Oxford after (well nothing he did) someone took against him. Having no means by which to live off, he has to find gainful employment. This leads him to the boarding school in Wales that is a hub of perversions and absurdity. With school sports days that see live fire weapons, criminal grounds keepers and another teacher who marries the headmasters daughter to hide he is gay… that’s just episode 1!
Its a tale of three halves in this BBC retelling of everyone’s favourite class lover Everlyn Waugh. Episode 1 is creeping brilliance. Whitehall gets Waugh well here. He has the subtext and the subversive humour on the mark. The absurdity also counters Waugh, who could sometimes turn satire into homage and make those ‘better’ than us, heroic. All the cast get the balance right and keep it ticking until its laugh riot final third.
Episode 2 however is a tired affair. It lacks the satirical swipe of the first and is brought down by not utilizing Longoria. She has great comic timing. Also the episode plays away from the take on of Waugh, it literally plays to his words and not to his sentiment. Whitehall also loses great performances from Suchet. He is excellent as the headmaster in episode 1.
Episode 3 left me unsure. It was funnier and used its cast better but the second episode had brought it down to literally being filler. We wanted episode one and get a damp version. Like waiting for Star Wars and getting what we did with episodes 1-3. That said it works…
Extras are all very good to be fair. The docs on the making are broken down into the three steps of making the series and explore its creation with skill and make it well worth a watch. Overall worth watching on TV but not on the DVD….