Plot: Paul Pennyfeather (Jack Whitehall) is a theology student at Oxford, a quiet, even naive young man who barely stands out in a crowd. But when he gets mixed up with some loud, mischievous members of a social club, he finds himself naked, alone, and soon, booted out of Oxford. The simple prank was just supposed to make him feel foolish and awkward, but now Paul has been kicked from the university and with no real options, he accepts a teaching position at a third rate boarding school. This less than reputable institution might not have the highest of expectations, but Paul will have to at least attempt to educate his students, even though the subjects he has been assigned are ones he knows nothing about. While in over his head, Paul soldiers on and with a little luck, perhaps his fortunes will change for the better…

Entertainment Value: Decline and Fall is a three episode mini-series based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh, most famous for writing Brideshead Revisited. While some have said this adaptation loses the more subtle elements of the source, I think it still winds up as a humorous, worthwhile adventure. The journey of Pennyfeather is a memorable one and with about three hours to work with, a good amount of detail is included and there’s enough time to develop most of the supporting characters. The humor here takes a broad approach, with slapstick banter and even physical comedy involved, but there’s a certain intelligence to the material as well. The show can be silly and even over the top at times, but remains well written and never goes over the line too much. I found the series to be a consistent stream of humor with a lot of laughs, if nothing else, Decline and Fall never fails to entertain. I wouldn’t call it one of the funniest shows I’ve seen, but it is a capable comedic production.

As Paul Pennyfeather is at the center of almost every scene in Decline and Fall, the lead role was a crucial casting element and we have Jack Whitehall in the role. Whitehall is an experienced comedian and it shows here, as he is able to make the most of the material and really nail the performance. His droll presence really carries the show well and he never falters when carrying the load in this one. The rest of the cast boasts some talented names too, such as David Suchet, Douglas Hodge, Eva Longoria, and Stephen Graham, among others. If your main interest in Decline and Fall is because of Eva Longoria however, you might be a little disappointed, as she isn’t a crucial part of the mini-series. In terms of the supporting cast, I’d say her role was given the least depth and importance, though others might disagree, of course. In the end, this proves to be a fun, smart mini-series that hits all the right notes. A little silly perhaps, but good fun and well recommended.

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