Back in the Seventies TV Comedy was a mixture of standard sitcoms – spread over a wide spectrum of quality and funniness – and genuinely cutting edge ‘experimental’ work. Even there, the quality was variable. Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which, although it emerged from other mould-breaking programmes, was the flagship of the new way of doing things. Although much of the Python canon has stood the test of time, there is much of it that seems ill-judged and a little tedious today. Other programmes still shine as masterclasses in half-hour comedy. ‘The Good Life’ is still shown regularly and seems as fresh today as in yesteryear, as does ‘Steptoe and Son’, ‘Dad’s Army’ and of course, ‘The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin,’ a truly groundbreaking and somewhat philosophical series about an intelligent man’s fight against the banality of existence. Many would argue that the series owed its success to Leonard Rossiter, cast as the legendary Reggie, and this view has its merits as this was undoubtedly Rossiter’s finest hour. The show was simply different, though, in terms of writing, acting, directing, the surreal shots of Reggie’s inner thoughts as when a hippo appears every time his mother-in-law is mentioned. There was also the clever use of the catch-phrase which in this series was not only used in its traditional way, but as a metaphor for the tedious repetition of daily life. Every day, Reggie set off for work through the Poet’s Estate to arrive at Sunshine Desserts, where the forces of entropy were represented by the letters falling from the name of the company above the door, day by day.
It was a truly classic and brilliant series, and therefore one can surely understand my concern when the BBC planned to remake it.
If there are Comedy Gods, (if there are any Gods at all, I would imagine the best ones to have would be comedy ones) I hope that they have their thunderbolts and lethal sarcastic barbs aimed squarely at Clunes and the BBC. Despite the lukewarm to hostile response to the first series, the BBC have made a second series. Ironically, this Reggie – complete with overloud and hysterical laughter track - is more closely related to the worst of Nineteen Seventies comedy than to its original incarnation. It’s a crude clunking abomination of a show, and I am at a loss to understand why the BBC didn’t just make a completely new series since this seems to be only popular with those who don’t know the original, or don’t know any better.
It’s a shame. I used to like Martin Clunes. Oddly enough, my mother hates him, but then she always did have a bit of psychic foresight. She must have seen all this coming.