Reggie Perrin: Sad, Bland and Dangerous To Know

April 24, 2009 by  
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REGGIE PERRIN, Friday 24th April, BBC1, 9.30pm Alert Me

The main problem with a sitcom about the mundane existence of the middle-class commuter is that, more often than not, their lives are overtly beige, tepid and neither here nor there.

In such dismal circumstances anything vaguely amusing is generally outweighed by boredom and awkwardness, and the same is true for Reggie Perrin.

Snatching at the coat tails of Robert Lindsay’s character in My Family, Martin Clunes’ Perrin is an unfulfilled disposable razor guru with a pseudo mullet and distinct sense of ennui at the post-modern world.

A re-make of the late 1970s show The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin, this 2009 version pays lipservice to the Leonard Rossiter original, as (not so) hip twenty-first century “Reggie” swans past his former home at Sunshine Desserts and trudges into Groomtech, where razors are his life.

Reggie Perrin did strike a particular chord with me, if only because I recognised the bleak Chiltern Railways trains and obligatory disgruntled passengers from my own painful commute. Overall, the show was very much a game of two halves. Adopting the same formula as My Family, the moody Perrin’s embittered nature and never-ending internal monologue are central to most of the comedy. The other characters appear to dumb themselves down to make Martin Clunes look better. This is most aptly demonstrated by the marketing twins, Steve and Antony, who fail to capture geeky brilliance in the same way as say, Chris O’Dowd or Richard Ayoade in The IT Crowd. They only serve to make the “pummice as a cool Amy Winehouse-style self-harming tool” skit sound incredibly offensive.

Another nod to the original Perrin comes in the form of Jasmine, the lust object of our hapless hero. There must be a reason why this Jasmine is in the “balms and lubricants” division of Groomtech, but I’ll leave you to muse on that one for yourselves. As Reggie sneaks around Jasmine’s empty office, stroking his cheek on her coat and exclaiming that despite his wife’s recent bout of cystitis he is still able to resist her charms, you know Jasmine is about to walk in;  for the most part it’s stock stuff. Reggie Perrin‘s great moments come when screenwriters Simon Nye and creator David Nobbs don’t try too hard.

I did enjoy the awkward gag that came as Reggie was confronted with his wife’s Womens Social Action group. I won’t go into detail, but it involved a comment on a cycle that women are altogether too familiar with. The feminist in me balked at the inappropriateness of his pun, but Clunes’ timing and delivery had me chuckling in spite of myself. Yet, other than a few well-timed puns in the first two thirds of the show, the final ten minutes failed to enthuse. Between moany rants and razor rafts there was little to keep me amused. In the world of TV and Film, the phrase “another day, another re-make” rings pitifully true and leaves this reviewing as dismal as ditch-water.

Cheers Reg.

Sally McIlhone