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Reggie Perrin

April 24th, 2009 (10:57 pm)

Reggie Perrin, BBC 1's reinvention of the fondly-remembered 1970s sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, seems sadly on the basis of tonight's premiere largely a misfire. It needn't have been, because the seeds of something sufficiently distinct from the original were present. 'Kisses to the past' grated because they were unnecessary and invited comparison with the old series when the new Reggie Perrin needed to stand on its own two feet - being Reggie passing Sunshine Desserts on his way to Groomtech, and the nostalgic applause-seeking, and winning, "I didn't get where I am today..." from Chris.

I found it difficult to believe that Reggie's workplace adequately represents the modern office. The boss who ignores his underlings' carefully planned schedule is probably universal, but I suspect that the practices of different sectors of the economy have diverged more since the 1970s, making it more difficult for Groomtech to be representative of the middle-managerial workplace. There was indeed something oddly retro about the whole thing, when utter contemporaneity - agitational, even, in the best Sydney Newman tradition - was needed. I'd have put the Perrins in a more modern house; and I'd not have mentioned Carshalton Beeches in the script when Reggie clearly rides a Chiltern train... A Radio 4 preview in the last few days pointed to the Women's Social Action Committee as thirty years out of date, and I'd agree.

This is a second signature project commissoned by Jay Hunt which has not quite captured the spirit she was presumably seeking, as the revival of Minder was initiated by her at Five, and Reggie Perrin was her first public commission at BBC 1 (though it may have been on the books before). Martin Clunes is good enough to be about watchable, but too often comes across merely as a needlessly cruel manager rather than someone suffering in despair at the world in the manner of Leonard Rossiter. If Jay Hunt hoped to use Reggie Perrin to revive the British sitcom in the way that Doctor Who has revived family drama, I fear that she has instead only pointed to its weaknesses, revering a golden age of the 1970s without understanding why the hits of that era worked.

Comments

Posted by: buckbeakbabie (buckbeakbabie)
Posted at: April 24th, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)

*nodsnods*

I agree. It just didn't work - and there are a lot of things about Reggie that could be interesting when updated and given a modern spin ... but it just didn't work.

I agree, Clunes doesn't bring the same desperation as the original Reggie had. It mostly just made me want to watch the original again.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 24th, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)

Interestingly, philmophlegm, who knows more about corporate Britain than me, was more positive about it. I thought, principally, that the settings and characters were insufficiently transformed from their origins.

Perhaps Reggie should have undergone similar treatment to Survivors, and adapted the book rather than the series?

Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: April 24th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC)
ICAEW

I reviewed part of the audit of the group that includes 'King of Shaves' last month. Groomtech sounded like a similar type of company, but I can't say I know enough of how King of Shaves operates to comment with in-depth knowledge.

Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: April 24th, 2009 10:58 pm (UTC)
Reginald Iolanthe Perrin

As you've seen on my journal, I liked it. It's too early for a conclusive view. In fact, if you watch the first episode of the original series, there are few hints (except for things like the hippo) of the darker themes that emerge later on.

I take your point about Groomtech being somehow retro. This is a modern consumer products firm where everyone wears ties and even middlish managers like Reggie and Jasmine have their own offices, but are still deferential to their boss. That just doesn't feel right. The feminist wife seemed a bit old-fashioned too, as you say. I'll have to take your word for it on the subject of commuter trains of south-east England though.

I think it's worth sticking with - it may be that the "things about Reggie that could be interesting when updated and given a modern spin" (see above) willonly develop later in the series.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 25th, 2009 12:42 am (UTC)

It's difficult for me to assess the original series' first episode because I'd read the (first) book by the time I came to see the first series, and the darkness is apparent there from the beginning.

I accept that things could get better; but I think that the basis upon which the series has to build is flawed.

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: April 25th, 2009 12:32 am (UTC)

Hippo? Am I vaguely remembering a mother-in-law here?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 25th, 2009 12:33 am (UTC)

Your memory is correct! BBC 1 used their 'Hippos' ident to introduce the programme, though the motif is, as far as I know, not appearing in this series.

Posted by: segh (segh)
Posted at: April 25th, 2009 06:57 am (UTC)

Sometimes I think TV today is entirely run by fanboys and girls.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 25th, 2009 07:58 am (UTC)

I think you are on to something there...

Posted by: Al (misteral)
Posted at: April 25th, 2009 10:52 am (UTC)

As a random geezer with nothing better to do than search other people's blogs to see what they thought of this new incarnation, I think you've made some good points. In fact, I too wasn't a huge fan of the slightly ham-fisted callbacks to the original series (as I wrote in my own blog last night).

However, I do think that it worked well enough as a stand-alone half-hour of light entertainment, but I'd say that the jury is still out as to whether the series as a whole will work well as a satire, railing against the tedium of 9-to-5 office drudgery. I'm definitely looking forward to tuning in again next week though.