Comic offering: <i>Blandings</i>.

Comic offering: Blandings.

Given the world's fascination with the stiff-upper-lip world of Downton Abbey, it was inevitable, really, that someone would look for the comic angle.

Equally inevitable was that someone would remember the works of P. G. Wodehouse. One of the pre-eminent writers of English humour, he tackled the same era as Downton Abbey and summed up in parody the foibles of its idle rich by creating the ever-faithful man servant Jeeves, guardian to the upper-class fool who was his master, Bertram Wilberforce "Bertie" Wooster.

But those two characters have been done to death, so what to do? Fortunately for the writers of Blandings, Wodehouse had a few other foppish twits up his sleeve.

In Blandings Castle, the writer introduced Lord Emsworth, a man bordering on terminal idiocy, his domineering sister and a supporting cast who either dithered about embarrassingly or sneered from the sidelines. All of which made for excellent social satire.

These are broad caricatures - Emsworth (played here by Timothy Spall) is rich, entitled and annoying, his sister Lady Connie (Jennifer Saunders) even more so - and it's fun to watch them get their comeuppance.

In the premiere episode of Blandings (the "castle" has been removed, presumably to lessen the "abbey" finger-pointing), we meet his lordship as he is trying to beat a local rival in an upcoming animal show. To him, it is the most important matter in the world, but it is, after all, just a contest to raise a fat pig.

The dialogue is sharp and the stars are clearly having a ball. What lets Blandings down at times is the production itself, which seems to rely on the kind of slapstick almost all television not aimed at preschoolers gave up years ago. Emsworth's pig, for example, farts a lot.

Then there's the panto-like acting, with some of the characters so far beyond caricature it is surreal.

That said, there is an underlying, naive charm here that carries it off. So much so that the BBC has renewed Blandings for a second season in the UK and has chosen it as one of the flagship offerings on BBC First here in Australia.

It is no Downton Abbey, but anyone who has been watching Seven's juggernaut period soap, thinking how utterly ridiculous it all is that upstairs are these often clueless layabouts cruising through life, while downstairs in the engine room the workers go unheralded, will undoubtedly enjoy the caricature.

Blandings will air on BBC First later this year.