Poirot, Jeeves & Wooster

Now that I’ve watched through the Jeeves & Wooster series several times and read a number of the books (all highly recommended), I feel vaguely qualified to do a bit of comparing and contrasting between it and Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

It seemed a logical move. After all, the two series do have several rather notable things in common. Here’s some listage for you.


• Both were produced, in the late ’80s- early ’90s, by Brian Eastman.
• Both are heavily defined by some excellent Clive Exton scripts. He adapted well and maintained quite a lot of the original authors’ dialogue and atmosphere, to the lasting satisfaction of hard-core fans. Speaking of which…
• Both series feature source material from 20th-century British authors that are known to be #1 in their genre. Not just close, but actually at the very top. You don’t get more superlative than Christie in mystery and Wodehouse in humor.
• The title character actors in the two series– namely, David Suchet, Stephen Fry, and Hugh Laurie– are unquestionably some of the greatest talents England has ever seen fit to put on screen. And they all do great accents. 🙂
• Gorgeous sets, gorgeous locations, gorgeous clothes. All the great visuals of well-done period drama. Not to mention snappy theme songs.
• Eastman deliberately infused both shows with a cultivated domesticity that further endeared the characters to the viewer. There is an unmistakable “family” atmosphere at Whitehaven Mansions and Berkeley Mansions.
• Likewise, the shows are quite family-friendly, remaining consistent with the original authors’ material.
• The original stories which form both series include bachelor gentlemen friends sharing a flat and moving in more-or-less upper-class English society. One of the pair is super-intelligent, sartorially impeccable, and great at solving problems; the other is pleasant but not terribly bright, and serves as a frequent stooge and an admiring chronicler of the tales. This is very “Sherlock Holmes” in setup, but in both cases, the authors subvert things in their own ways: Christie makes her brainy cove an eccentric Belgian, while Wodehouse makes his “hero” the servant.


• Brian Eastman made a deliberate decision with Poirot to not include the character of George in those early episodes. This was entirely because he was working on Jeeves & Wooster simultaneously, and didn’t want another series with a valet! This led to greater emphasis on the character of Miss Lemon instead. Another result is that Hastings (patient soul that he is) ends up performing a number of minor tasks that you might normally associate with a valet, although he isn’t really employed in that capacity– paying cab fare and tips, helping with the jacket, nabbing drinks, and so on. To contrast Poirot’s actual valet, George, with Jeeves– it is clear that although George is a sort of paragon in his own way (he must be to come up to Poirot’s standard), he doesn’t possess nearly as much imagination or intelligence as Jeeves. Still, in the books at least, George is instrumental in helping Poirot with some of his cases (“The Under Dog,” “The Lernean Hydra”).
• Because Eastman produced, and Clive Exton scripted, ALL of Jeeves, there is greater consistency in the feel of the shows in many respects. The fact that it ran only four seasons would also be a contributing factor. Poirot, on the other hand, spanned some 25 years, with various script writers and others dealing with production. On the other hand, Jeeves & Wooster has a tremendous inconsistency in casting; Fry and Laurie are in every episode, but nearly every other important character is played by multiple actors, which can result in very confusing viewing. Only rarely in Poirot is a different actor cast for the same role (e.g. Vera Rossakoff). And Suchet’s consistency in the role over a 25-year-span is impressive, to say the least.
• There are some locations shared in common, as is typical in British period drama. Halton House, for example, appears in The Labours of Hercules as well as “Bertie Sets Sail.” Yet there isn’t quite as much location overlap as one might expect. Since Jeeves & Wooster leans “1920s” and Poirot is set firmly in the 1930s, and careful decisions were made regarding period architecture, there is some significant divergence here. Including…
• Although we often think of Agatha Christie’s cozy mysteries in an English country house setting, it seemed to me (correct me if I’m wrong) that Jeeves & Wooster takes us out into the country more often, despite Bertie’s preference for the metrop, while Poirot’s cases were quite often right in the city. Obviously there are a number of exceptions. But this may be because the Jeeves stories generally revolve around Bertie’s family and friends, many of whom are extremely rich and live in these huge country houses.
• If we are contrasting Hastings with the character of Bertie Wooster, we will find that Hastings is, understandably, not nearly so silly. Their manners of speech are quite different. In themselves, there are few great similarities beyond their time at Eton. But I’ve been wondering if Clive Exton didn’t deliberately (or not) imbue some of his Poirot scripts with Wodehousian moments. Hugh Fraser’s Hastings becomes known for his catch-phrases, including “I say!” But offhand, I can only recall Christie putting those words into Hastings’ mouth once– in Black Coffee! But Wooster is always dropping “I says” all over the place. Consider his very first words after meeting Jeeves. Another scene that suggests Wodehouse is at the beginning of The Incredible Theft, in which Hastings is lying on the couch, rambling about cubic “whatsits” and “thingummies.” Again, words never used by Christie’s character, but by Wodehouse’s. Exton’s adaptation of The Veiled Lady includes Poirot chastening Hastings for leaving him “in the soup”– never used by Poirot in the books, but a ubiquitous phrase Wodehouse uses for describing Bertie Wooster getting into trouble. And in Murder in the Mews, Poirot disparagingly asks: “‘The thing,’ Hastings? You think Poirot concerns himself with mere thingness?” The use of “thingness” is pure Wodehouse.

Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse– I don’t think you can possibly enjoy one without loving the other as well. Hercule Poirot is even mentioned in more than one of the Jeeves novels (Wooster being a big fan of detective fiction). For example:

“I mean, imagine how some unfortunate Master Criminal would feel, on coming down to do a murder at the old Grange, if he found that not only was Sherlock Holmes putting in the weekend there, but Hercule Poirot, as well” (The Code of the Woosters).

Christie, for her part, dedicated her Poirot novel Hallowe’en Party to Wodehouse.

“To P.G. Wodehouse – whose books and stories have brightened up my life for many years. Also, to show my pleasure in his having been kind enough to tell me he enjoyed my books.”

So, gentle blog reader, not only should you get watching– get reading, too! 🙂


“Well, I’m jiggered”: a discrepancy most curious in “Murder in the Mews”

In Christie’s story, “Murder in the Mews,” we have this quote from Poirot…

“That man is now in prison, he will serve a long sentence for other matters. Do you really wish, of your own volition, to destroy the life– the life, mind– of any human being?”

In the television episode of Poirot, we have this interesting variation on the quote…

“The man you wish to trap is already in prison. Do you really wish to destroy him? Do you really wish to destroy the life– the mind– of any human being?”


The word “mind,” you may have noticed, is being used in two completely different senses. Christie has Poirot saying “the life, mind [you]”; Suchet delivers the line as though Poirot is speaking about the destruction of the human mind by murder.

So the mystery is: accidental or intentional? Did the script writer misread the story and write the script exactly as it was delivered? Did Suchet misread the script and deliver an alternate meaning by accident? Or was it a deliberate choice on the part of either of those people to depart from Christie slightly, and have Poirot equate the tragedy of murder with the destruction of that most prized faculty, the human mind?

I will never have the guts to ask, so I fear I shall never know.

“Well, I’m jiggered.”

The painted miniature books (7)

Since I’ve already covered the Hastings novels (no pun intended),  I thought I’d round off the rest of the covers with “series sidekicks” Inspector Japp and Miss Lemon.


This cover for the story collection Murder in the Mews features Japp and Poirot contemplating a red “kipper” of a cuff link. Apparently I took this picture before painting the black line frame around the image! The quote on the back features an oft-reiterated sentiment from Poirot on the topic of murder.


This mini was the last one I ever painted, and I was happy to get Japp on just one more cover before the series was completed. He features in seven novels, after all, but was often squeezed off my covers by Hastings. This novel features Japp but not Hastings, and so was an ideal one to feature the good inspector. While I was painting this, my iPod actually fired up “Take On Me” by a-ha, and if you don’t know why that’s hilarious, well, it’s because Philip Jackson (in magnificent, rotoscoped glory) appears as Pipe Wrench Guy in the song’s video, which is considered by many to be one of the greatest music videos ever made. Go watch it now. Or maybe watch the literal video version for some extra giggles. Anyway, I was in hysterics while painting for that reason.


This photo is terrible, terrible, terrible, but Pauline Moran turned out nicely enough on this cover of Hickory Dickory Dock. Yellow is for Lemon. This novel was the most obvious one to feature Miss Lemon on the cover, as she (and her sister) feature prominently in the story. I rather wish I could take better photos of these book minis, but I don’t have them anymore. (And if I did, my photos would still be terrible!)

The painted miniature books (3)

The eight Hastings novels were finished, but I wasn’t quite finished with putting Hugh Fraser on the book covers. After all, there were five short story collections yet to go, two of which feature the character prominently, as well as Black Coffee. “But Black Coffee is a novelized play, and wasn’t filmed,” you say, sagaciously. Shut up, I’m going to have a complete set, dangit!!

I cheated on Black Coffee by collecting a large number of stills throughout the series of Poirot and Hastings with tea or coffee cups… there are a lot of them… and finally choosing this shot from “The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb” for the cover. There’s a cup on the table, and a Highly Ambiguous Hastings with a Highly Ambiguous Poirot, neither of which have clear faces. This seemed appropriate in light of my shameful trickery.

Is it just me, or is the quote from Black Coffee, like so many other quotes from that book, a duplicate from something in The Murder on the Links or some other book?

Is it just me, or is the quote from Black Coffee, like so many other quotes from that book, a duplicate from something in The Murder on the Links or some other book?

Poirot’s Early Cases, on the other hand, features an honest shot and matching quote from a story in the actual collection: “The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly.” It’s one of my favorite Poirot/Hastings visuals for the sheer loveliness of the surroundings, with Poirot characteristically holding forth. The book color was a sort of “twilight gray,” as it would be the penultimate in book listing, next to the inky-dark Curtain. The image of the two strolling away from the viewer also seemed appropriate in that wistful light.

“A pleasing little problem, obscure and charming,” murmured Poirot. “I will investigate it for you with pleasure.”

And finally, I finished off with Hastings in Poirot Investigates (I’ve given away three copies of that book this year, ma foi). I returned to my deceitful ways by painting a scene from “Murder in the Mews,” which is not in this collection. But I was very keen to paint this shot. The scene is a fun one (although Poirot is not actually investigating as such in this moment). And it’s difficult to find shots of the sort I could use where Hastings and Poirot are so close in size, rather than a less-distinct Hastings hovering behind Poirot’s shoulder; fine for film but harder for miniature painting.

It might be that I used the shot here instead of the Murder in the Mews collection because I’d already decided on a shot from that particular episode that featured Japp, and I wanted to make sure he got on a cover or two as well. There are even fewer Japp novels than Hastings novels. “Then why,” you ask with superior tones, “didn’t you just choose a different Japp shot for Poirot Investigates, since he features in the collection, and use this picture for the Murder in the Mews collection?” …Shut up.

No, actually it was because Hastings doesn’t feature in the stories from the Murder in the Mews collection, though he’s in the episode, and I didn’t want Hastings on book covers in which he wasn’t an appearing character, like Murder in Mesopotamia or Evil Under the Sun.

Poirot investigates... golf. The quote is from

Poirot investigates… golf. The quote is from “The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan.”