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Brilliant Seventies BBC television comedy starring Leonard Rossiter (of Rising Damp fame) as the eponymous (anti-?)hero. Reggie Perrin becomes tired of his job at Sunshine Desserts and is continually bothered by thoughts of hippopotami whenever his mother-in-law is mentioned. The rat race has grown unattractive for this least rat-like of men.

But how to escape?

Reggie fakes his own death and carves out a new existence for himself, ends up doing the same kind of thing all over again, marries his own widow, then fakes his death again... and so on.

The series was most notable for the recurring jokes such as the son who habitually uses bizarre rhyming slang, the out-of-work actor whose new big break as the gumboot delivery man never materialises, the boss (CJ) and his incessant catchphrase, the chairs that make a farting sound when one sits in them, and other such gems.

I didn't get where I am today without doing a writeup about a television series called The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin...

Written by David Nobbs, adapted from his books. Starring the incomparable Leonard Rossiter as Reginald Iolanthe Perrin, Pauline Yates as Elizabeth Perrin, John Barron as C.J., Sue Nicholls as Joan Greengross, Trevor Adams as Tony Webster, Bruce Bould as David Harris-Jones, John Horsley as Doc Morrissey, and Geoffrey Palmer as Jimmy.


Legendary, fantastic, groundbreaking British television show which, I can honestly say, changed my life. Reggie Perrin is a bored office worker, depressed with the regularity of his job, daily commute, friends and family. Becoming so frustrated with the predictability and pointlessness of it all, his behaviour starts to get more and more erratic, until eventually he decides to fake his own suicide and live a new life.

Why should I watch/care?

That doesn't sound like a barrel of laughs, but it is hysterically funny. The stories, witty dialogue, and sharp scriptwriting are still relevant, silly, and hilarious. Underlying it all is a terrible, terrible sadness which can still move me to tears.

I first saw the entire show (all 3 original series) when I was living at home as a teenager. I thought it was brilliantly funny, an inspired piece of surreal television, and lapped it up. Then, a few years ago, when I was trapped in a soulless, depressing job, I watched it all again, and it had a whole new relevance for me. I saw the hidden sadness, carefully interwoven with the jokes, and began to completely identify with Reggie and his desparate struggle to do something, anything, as long as it was different, or made somebody stop and think.

I was quite down and depressed at the time, and while it didn't cheer me up (it did make me laugh, though), it made me realise that I needed to change my situation before it had a permanent effect on me. Like Reggie, I walked the same streets every day to go to work, took the same train, saw the same people, had the same dull conversations with the same workmates, was frustrated by the same mindless bureaucracy, the horrible sameness of it all. Unlike Reggie, I had other ways out - I found a new job, one with better conditions, one that challenged me and let me do different things every day. For a while, I felt like I was Reggie - my girlfriend became quite concerned at the level to which I identified with him, and helped me to find the new job.

That's the genius of this - on one level, it's a silly sitcom with great jokes. On another level, it's a serious statement about the plight of humanity, a study of a man sliding into deep depression. It can be enjoyed on either or both levels.

While I've praised the superb writing of the series, at least half of the credit must go to the fantastic Leonard Rossiter. This is easily the best thing he's done, the best thing anyone has done. It's a towering, jaw-dropping performance, Reggie is full of a nervous energy that gives him the appearance of a man who is suddenly going to snap and go berserk, but is just too polite and embarrassed to do so. Have you ever had a conversation with someone so dull or annoying, you're just screaming and howling inside, just wanting to grab them and bite their face off? Reggie's face looks like how your mind feels, his voice constantly quavering on the edge of madness. I doubt anyone else could have handled the incredibly complex dialogue as well, or as fast, as Rossiter - except maybe Ronnie Barker, who is similarly gifted (if you don't rate Barker, watch some of the Two Ronnies sketches where he lets loose with some seriously tricky wordplay). The lines come out at a hundred miles per hour, perfectly clearly, with not one slip up. Rossiter just becomes Reggie, you never feel like you're watching an actor play a part, and it makes it all the more sad (and funny) to watch him go off the rails. Why the hell shouldn't you say "earwig" instead of "question"? And the word "parsnips" is a perfectly acceptable substitute for anything else. I heartily recommend you read wertperch's glorious writeup on Len, in fact, go and do it now, open it in a new window and upvote it, I'll wait.

I must also mention the other characters. Reggie's wife Elizabeth is a model of resigned dignity, embarrassed for her husband, but loving him all the same. Reggie's brother Jimmy, ex-army, always turning up to borrow food, thanks to a "cock up on the catering front", is hilarious, as are the simpering yes men Tony and David ("Great!" "Super!"). But the second best (after Reggie) character is the astounding C.J., with his terrifying presence, and hilariously surreal lines. "I didn't get where I am today biting people in the changing room," etc. It was quite sad to see C.J. in the 4th series, looking about 400 years old, a shadow of his former self.

Favourite scenes: the speech Reggie gives at the dessert seminar just before his departure, a masterpiece of sadness, hilarity, earwigs, and drunkenness. The varied excuses Reggie trots out to Joan the secretary for his lateness ("Eleven minutes late, Joan - defective junction box, New Malden." - "...somebody had stolen the lines at Surbiton." - "...escaped puma, Chessington North.") The increasingly bizarre letters Reggie dictates ("You are, in effect, a pompous illiterate baboon.") The hippopotamus. The farting chairs, which I will continue to find funny, again and again, until the day I die. I also like the fact that no matter how hard Reggie tries to distance himself from his normal life, he keeps getting dragged back into the same old routines. It's sad, but true.

This isn't just a TV show. It's a beautiful, wonderful, hilarious, tragic work of art, and deserves to be remembered for all time.

Series details:

Series 1 - 1976, based on the book "The Death of Reginald Perrin" (later reprinted as "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin"): Reggie becomes disillusioned with the rat race, fakes his own death, and creates a new identity.

Series 2 - 1977, novelised as "The Return of Reginald Perrin": Reggie creates Grot, a company selling useless rubbish for ridiculously inflated prices, in order to amuse himself watching a business fail. To his chagrin, it becomes an enormous success.

Series 3 - 1978-1979, novelised as "The Better World of Reginald Perrin": Reggie starts a commune, which becomes too successful for its own good.

A five minute episode was shown during "The Funny Side of Christmas" in 1982, which involved everyone turning up at Reggie's house on Christmas Day.

Series 4 - 1996, novelised as "The Legacy of Reginald Perrin": Reggie is dead, and his friends and relatives reunite for the reading of the will. They will inherit a million pounds, but on one condition - they must commit an absurd act. They try to take over the country on behalf of the elderly, but this is deemed to be a great idea, and not absurd enough.

The first series is obviously the best, but the second two have plenty to say as well, and are just as funny. I'm in two minds about the 4th series: Part of me approves of the great sadness mixed with the humour, genuine sadness at the loss of not only Reggie, but also the great Leonard Rossiter. I also like the absurd act idea, and the fact that they don't win the money. But the other part of me is screaming in horror that they would dare to sully the memory of one of the greatest actors of our time by making such a lame, substandard copy of his finest hour. It's just not Reggie without Reggie.

The first book is excellent too, and it's particularly interesting to compare it to the first series - it was written beforehand, as opposed to the others which are more novelisations of the series. I haven't read the others, but they are apparently very good, and all are written by David Nobbs. The first book goes into more depth, and is even darker than the TV version. I have an ancient copy of it, and you will take it from me when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers, having first waded knee-deep through the blood of my family and friends.

Most excellent trivia:

The constantly repeated catchphrases were deliberately overused to emphasise the repetitiveness of Reggie's life.

When Reggie goes to work, he walks down the same streets which have similarly themed names - Tennyson Avenue, Wordsworth Drive, etc. This adds to the dull repetition of his life, and is a sly reference to the sameness of suburban estates. When they move house, the streets always have themes like this (capital cities, philosophers, etc.)

Reginald Iolanthe Perrin - RIP - get it?

Sue Nicholls, who plays the secretary Reggie lusts after, plays one of the major characters on Coronation Street.

The constantly repeated catchphrases were deliberately overused to emphasise the repetitiveness of Reggie's life.

Ronnie Barker was David Nobbs' first choice to play Reggie, but he was too busy with Porridge, The Two Ronnies, and Open All Hours. Nobbs was the main co-writer of The Two Ronnies, which explains some of the more wordy, clever sketches.

Ronnie Barker, on the first book: "I laughed two hundred and eighty-seven times and cried twice. What a beautiful book."

This was the first sitcom that had a continuing storyline, rather than self contained episodes that could be shown in any order.

The constantly repeated catchphrases were deliberately overused to emphasise the repetitiveness of Reggie's life.

Leonard Rossiter got the difficult lines of dialogue right first time, every time. "He always knew all his words, all his cues, and in filming all his bits of clothing for continuity; he often caught lazy costume or props people out, and he was always right." - Pauline Yates, who played Elizabeth.

"They" made an American version, just called "Reggie", starring Richard Mulligan. And I think the less said about that, the better. Has anyone seen Matt Lucas' pisstake of how he imagines the US version of Only Fools and Horses would be? Nice jubbly, Roderney!

The constantly repeated catchphrases were deliberately overused to emphasise the repetitiveness of Reggie's life. I didn't get where I am today by constantly repeating catchprases to emphasise the repetitiveness of someone's life.

Transmission dates and quotes from the official site at www.reggieonline.co.uk - many more quotes, snippets, scripts, links, sounds, pictures and details can be found there.

The first 3 series and books are available on VHS and, er, paper from most good online shops, and some of the bad ones. I didn't get where I am today by shopping from high street shops. Sadly, the videos now seem to have been deleted. I've heard talk of a possible DVD, but nothing concrete. Try eBay for second hand copies, or wait for the next BBC repeat. If you hurry, as of today (19th August) a seller on www.ebay.co.uk has the first 2 series on VHS available, for 3 more days, with no current bids...

fondue says You may read any amount of irony into this, but you've mis-spelt 'bureaucracy' in your reggie perrin WU. I didn't get where I am today, etc.

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