I watched the first episode of the new adaptation of Blandings the other day. The predictable response from Wodehouse fans is to hate it because it is not as good as the books. I’m fortunate in having never got round to reading the Blandings books so I found it all very entertaining without having the burden of anything to compare it to.
I have heard it said that Wodehouse cannot be adapted and be as good as the originals, and there is something in that. I am re-reading the Jeeves books at the moment and keep coming across brilliant bits that you just could not put into a play, film or TV show, but that doesn’t mean the adaptations would be useless. They might add other dimensions in compensation.
As an example of something that would be lost in an adaptation there is a passage I read today which was mostly a section of dialogue written as direct speech until one point where it changes to Wooster saying something like “and then he called me something offensive so perhaps he wasn’t won over by my argument”. Actually it wasn’t anything much like that. It was far better written. I really ought to go look it up and quote it properly but I’m not going to. The point is that it was funny because you can let your imagination fill in what the offensive term might have been. In an adaptation you couldn’t just cut from direct to indirect speech like that – unless you had a very contrived production where the action kept cutting to a narrator.
I think that any adaptor will recognise those limitations and an audience ought to as well. Just enjoy an episode with 100 jokes or witticisms in without worrying about those that were left out.