Decline And Fall. Paul Pennyfeather (Jack Whitehall). Copyright: Tiger Aspect Productions.

Decline And Fall

BBC One comedy drama adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's 1928 novel. 3 episodes (1 series) in 2017. Stars Jack Whitehall, Eva Longoria, David Suchet, Douglas Hodge and others.

Press Clippings

Third and final part of Rev creator James Wood's tart spin on the Evelyn Waugh classic, an adaptation that has remained commendably true to the rather cruel source material. After his dodgy trip to Marseilles, hapless schoolteacher and would-be stag Paul Pennyfeather (Jack Whitehall) finds himself unexpectedly in a place with lots of bars but no drink. Surely his glamorous fiancee Margot (Eva Longoria) has not forsaken him? Heads will roll.

Graeme Virtue, The Guardian, 14th April 2017

This is a gentle comedy, and last week I complained it was rather too gentle. The permanently pale, nervous, baffled expression worn by Jack Whitehall's character, Paul, never changed and, with the rest of the cast being men, men, men (plus some bratty schoolboys), it all seemed too colourless and uniform. It was stuffed with waistcoats, brandy, cigars, school ties and dim light.

Eva Longoria appeared towards the end, all radiant and flirtatious, her arrival offering promise that things might begin to step up a gear and throw off the comedy's dull insistence on the stuffy world of ... men.

And she does improve things. Longoria plays the over-the-top, glamorous and wealthy American widow Margot Beste-Chetwynde, and she has invited nervous Paul to join her noisy world as a tutor. He hopes to win her heart while struggling to fit in with the flighty, fashionable set she associates with. Things remain gentle, even sometimes dull, but at least we have some feminine flapper-style flirtation and pizzazz going on.

Julie McDowall, The National (Scotland), 7th April 2017

Evelyn Waugh's picaresque farce continues, as the hapless Paul Pennyfeather (a nicely cast Jack Whitehall) is hired to tutor the son of wealthy socialite widow Margot Beste-Chetwynde (the divine Eva Longoria). Before long, his heart has melted all over her embroidered frock - but there's a love rival in the shape of preposterous German architect Otto ("I love her body as much as concrete"). And is Margot's international cabaret business all it seems.

Ali Catterall, The Guardian, 7th April 2017

A grand surprise arrived on Friday in the shape of Decline and Fall. It shouldn't, perhaps, have been that much of a surprise, given that the man responsible for adapting Evelyn Waugh's first published (and most splenetically Welsh-hating, liberal-baiting) novel was James Wood, also responsible for the ever-subtle Rev., and that the casting was able to plumb such glorious heights as Stephen Graham, Douglas Hodge, David Suchet and Eva Longoria.

For once, an adaptation caught Waugh's inner voice, that singular interwar fruity whine of pomp, self-pity and high intellect, the all leavened by an utterly redemptive sense of the absurdity of the human condition, particularly Waugh's own. Crucially, this was achieved without resort to the artifice of narrative voiceover, à la Brideshead. Wood just picked his quotes very cleverly. In episode one (of three), Jack Whitehall's beleaguered Everyman is sent down from Oxford (with an achingly unfair whiff of un-trouser-edness) and reduced to teaching in the boondocks, where every pupil is as damaged, yet at least 10 times as smart, as the masters. He soon alights on the ultimate piece of time-wasting for his spoilt charges, "an essay on self-indulgence. There will be points for the longest, irrespective of any possible merit."

There are the stock grotesques, yes - even Douglas Hodge, as the chief sot/pederast, doesn't get to chew the scenery with quite the liberated zest of David Suchet's headmaster, reacting to freedom from all those dreary Poirots as would a vampire released on virgin necks, toothily telling Whitehall's straight-bat ingenu that "we schoolmasters must temper discretion with... deceit" - but, by and large, this is happily grounded more in realism than caricature. What emerges is a true comic fantasy, yes, but also one which captures that dreadful damp twixt-war tristesse: a certain boredom with politics, a certain class obsession, an irresolute yet total anger at... something. An End of Days. This BBC production, in which all excel, is thrillingly timely, given our fractious nation's rude recent decision to Decline, and Flail, and also gives trembling hope that, finally, we might get a faithful rendition of the wisest funny novel of the 20th century, Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim.

Euan Ferguson, The Guardian, 2nd April 2017

Decline and Fall review

The ghastly gaggle of toffs are back with Jack Whitehall as the perfect Pennyweather and Eva Longoria bringing the glamour in this excellent companion to Evelyn Waugh's classic novel.

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 1st April 2017

Decline and Fall review

A riotously successful adaptation. Evelyn Waugh brilliantly brought to BBC One with Jack Whitehall and Eva Longoria.

Mark Sanderson, The Arts Desk, 1st April 2017

Interview: Jack Whitehall

Jack Whitehall is nothing like Jack Whitehall.

The Scotsman, 1st April 2017

Decline and Fall review

Decline and Fall is a Waugh adaptation to stand comparison with the pater of them all.

Jeff Robson, i Newspaper, 31st March 2017

Decline and Fall: great performances but book is better

Ben Dowell finds that new BBC TV version of Evelyn Waugh's 1928 classic, starring Jack Whitehall, misses much of the joy and brilliance of the book. But did it ever have a chance of measuring up?

Ben Dowell, Radio Times, 31st March 2017

Jack Whitehall interview

Jack Whitehall on scandal, public school privilege and new BBC drama Decline And Fall.

Michael Hodges, Radio Times, 31st March 2017