on 11 March 2000
"When Reginald Iolanthe Perrin set out for work on the Thursday morning, he had no intention of calling his mother in-law a hippopotamus". Yet that's exactly what he did do - and when the book was adapted for TV by the BBC in 1976, Reggie's visions of that waddling, mud-caked hippo created one of TV's funniest images. On that level alone, the show is great comic entertainment - but there's so much more to enjoy besides. The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin is a situation comedy with a difference. The situation is that of a tired, middle-aged executive who, feeling suffocated by his repetitive commuter lifestyle, decides he wants out; the comedy comes from his attempts to actually do so. But this isn't just a series of half-baked plots - it's a continuing serial which follows every trial and tribulation of our anti-hero as he slowly descends into madness, then makes the one bid for freedom which might just save his sanity. And it's this satirical element that elevates Perrin from mere half-hour laugh-fest to poignant comedy drama; just as Reggie tries to prove there is more to life, the programme proves there is more to comedy than an endless stream of gags. We travel every step of the way with Reggie, feeling his frustration; celebrating when he breaks free; and empathising when he finally discovers that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
The late, great Leonard Rossiter stars as Reggie, a role a million miles away from his most famous character - Rising Damp's lecherous landlord Rigsby - but every bit as memorable. The rest of the characters are somewhat more caricatured, from domineering boss, sexy secretary and stammering, sycophantic colleague, through to understanding wife, hippie son-in-law and scrounging brother-in-law. Yet this is not a criticism - they're played as caricatures because that's precisely what they are, with their catchphrases and repetitive behaviour only serving to heighten Reggie's sense of suffocation.
The success of the show led to two further series, in which Reggie tried different ways to put two fingers up to the world. There was also a spin-off, Fairly Secret Army, starring Geoffrey Palmer, and a dire American version with Soap star Richard Mulligan in the title role. But perhaps most poignant was the fourth series, The Legacy of Reginald Perrin, which aired in Britain just a few years ago and reunited all the original cast with one notable exception: Reggie himself. Sadly, Leonard Rossiter died in 1984, and another actor taking over the character was unthinkable, so here his family, friends and colleagues gathered to carry out the conditions of his last will and testament. The book was a joy as, despite Reggie's absence, his spirit lived on through the others; sadly in the TV adaptation, his absence was all-too apparent - without a fully formed central character, all the others were reduced to simple caricature.
Nonetheless, the first three series stand proudly alongside other classic BBC comedies such as Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses, Dad's Army and Steptoe and Son - this video should be a welcome addition to anyone's collection.
on 24 January 2003
I didn't get where I am today without realising that this is one of the best sit-coms ever made. Superb casting (particularly Rossiter)and brilliant scripts by David Nobbs make it work on all levels. Let's hope the BBC release all the series for the Perrin completist. My favourite was the one where they set up a therapy centre and commune in Reggie's house, (was that called the Better World of Reginal Perrin?) I even think the last series, The Legacy Of Reginal Perrin, should come out on DVD as although there was sadly no Leonard Rossiter, it did have all the dysfunctional regulars barking out their catchphrases like a mad machine gun and that gave it a charm of its own. Great! Super!
on 1 August 2004
It may not be readily recognised alongside the likes of Only Fools & Horses or Blackadder, but The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin is very much a classic sitcom in its own right.
Taking 1970s middle-England as its inspiration, the first series vividly depicts Reggie's frustration with the unfulfilling nature of middle-class working (and family) life. It then proceeds to trace his (ultimately futile) search for a more meaningful existence, as he fakes his own suicide in an attempt to gain a fresh start.
If you're thinking that the subject matter sounds mundane, then you'd be right. But therein lies the strength of the show. So many people, both then and now, can identify with Reggie's feeling of being trapped by the repetitiveness of his existence - travelling to the same old job, on the same old train, and coming home to the same old people with the same irritating quirks and habits. It's the sheer timelessness of the theme, revisited by the likes of Britpop-era Blur, that really gives the show a lasting appeal way beyond that of many of its contemporaries.
Yet, for a show that takes the everyday as its start point, the Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin is surprisingly innovative. Reggie's surrealist daydreams are particularly precious, giving us glimpses of what is actually going through his mind. Sometimes they are funny (the fantasies of his secretary), whilst sometimes they veer towards the tragic, but they never fail to be captivating. Indeed, even the traditional 'mother-in-law joke' is given a unique slant in this series, with the merest mention of her name prompting Reggie to visualise a hippo. Compared to the traditional family sitcoms which preceded it, or even the modern likes of My Family, The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin remains leagues ahead in terms of observation, innovation and social commentary.
But perhaps best of all is the virtuoso performance of Leonard Rossiter as Reggie. For sure, the supporting cast are great (in particular John Barron as CJ ), but Rossiter truly is in a league of his own. From the timing and delivery of his lines, to those facial expressions he pulls and holds for what seems like an eternity, Rossiter is captivating throughout. Testimony to his performance is the bond you establish with his character by the end of the series.
The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin is simply too alternative for a mainstream sitcom - and probably too unfashionable - to attain its rightful place amongst the critics all-time great sitcoms. But that scarcely matters. What counts is that here we have a near-universal sitcom, gently pushing the boundaries of its time, and boasting some tremendous casting. Oh, and it delivers plenty of laughs. Frankly, what more could you want?
This is a marvellous series, which matches the many other highpoints of 1970's comedy (Fawlty Towers, Dads Army etc). Whilst the 2nd and 3rd series both have their merits this is the essential purchase of the 3.
Reginald Perrin is a middle-class 40ish business man working for a very average company. As the series starts we see his 'normal' working day; the walk to the station, the same people on the train every day, the irritating people at work. As for most of us his life runs like a clock... round and round. Then Reggie starts to change and his behaviour gets stranger and stranger as the series progresses.
Leonard Rossiter plays Perrin and was clearly born to play the role. This is a comic performance that matches anything else you can think of from the 1970's. The rest of the cast are good as well. Its all very very funny, with all the major characters having little catchphrases or quirks that make them memorable. This of course has become quite normal in comedy now (think of The Fast Show and Little Britain).
I started work a few years after this series was first shown and for while used to get the train like Reggie did. Whilst I never did any of the stranger things that occur in this series the thought did cross my mind a few times!
on 4 December 2002
Watching the DVD reissue of this series 25 years on, I was struck by how ahead of its time it must have been in the '70s. Reginald Perrin is ground down by the 9-5 routine of his job in a desserts company, and decides that he's had enough. In the early episodes, he has some fun subverting what his colleagues expect from him, but eventually even this becomes boring and depressing and he opts for more drastic action. The difference between then and now is that in the '70s he would probably have been a rogue, a bit of a crank. Today, there can be few people who can have avoided the sort of disillusion with the world of work that Perrin experiences. This makes the show just as - if not more - relevant and funny today than it was then. Of course, it was the 1970s, so the odd mother-in-law joke must be excused, as must some near-homophobic references in one of the episodes (just put it down to the ignorance of the age). But these things do not impede an absorbing, fascinating and very funny story of a man dealing with his mid-life crisis.
on 1 December 2007
Many sitcoms from the 1970s have aged very badly due to the fact that are no longer relevant to the modern audience. Nobody could make the same claim about Reginald Perrin. The character of Reginald Perrin speaks to anybody who has ever felt trapped in their job or hs wondered whether their life has meaning.
David Nobbs's scripts throughout the series are superb and they are expertly performed. Leonard Rossiter is, of course, the star and he gives a tour de force performance but he is wonderfully supported by John Barron, Geoffrey Palmer, John Horsley and the rest of the cast.
The first series of this show made a huge impact when it was first broadcast and its influence is rightly still felt today.
on 5 May 2003
My review of this will be short and to the point. Nobbs is a beautiful writer, Rossiter was a comedic hreo, much missed, a 70s classic which, in most, hasn't aged....Great, super!
on 16 February 2002
Having enjoyed the original first series of Reggie, I was delighted to be able to purchase it on VHS video. Generally, the content represents faithfully the humour of the original presentation, but it does suffer from editorial cramming of one episode into another, and even some wholesale cutting in parts. This was always going to be necessary, but does detract from the overall impression of enjoyment level at the end. A must, though, if you appreciate the work of Leonard Rossiter...
on 20 July 2013
I first saw this on the BBC as a 16 year old. An original post-Python series that hit the mark for those who love their comedy and social comment delivered by a superb cast and scripted in a familiar yet surreal format. The strength of this series is that I recently showed Series One to my teenage kids who immediately 'got it'.
Highly recommended. The clothes and haircuts may change, but the message doesnt.....
As CJ would say, "I didnt get where I am today without having teenage kids who immediately 'got it' - 'GOODBYE REGGIE!'
on 3 June 2009
Having watched the series of Reggie Perrin many years ago we were delighted to find that we could get the whole series on DVD and it has been a total joy to watch it again. The quality of the product was excellent - and we intend to enjoy it for many years to come.