The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, The Complete Series (2009, E1)
purchase from Amazon: DVD
What I love about the digital age is the opportunity for older series, obscure to most modern audiences, to be discovered and enjoyed by a new generation. One such series is The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, a BBC sitcom that aired for three seasons between 1976 and 1979. Based on a series of novels and developed into a sitcom by the booksâ€™ author, David Nobbs, the farcical, poignant, hilarious show has been released on a lovely four-DVD box set that contains all three seasons, as well as a bonus DVD that contains a Christmas Special and a loving, hourlong tribute to the series’ star, the late Leonard Rossiter.
Rossiter stars as the title character, Reginald Perrin. The first season chronicles the mid life crisis/nervous breakdown of Perrin, a middle management employee at a struggling dessert food company. Perrin loses touch with reality at crucial moments in his day, becomes disenchanted with the corporate world and his mundane existence, fakes his death, leaving behind his loving wife, Elizabeth (Pauline Yates), and adult children, then realizes that is life is empty without Elizabeth and returns to her in a new identity.
The series begins slowly, unfolding like a good book, or play. It takes its time to show Reggie losing his grasp. Words lose their meaning to him, and he begins seeing images of hippopotamus whenever his mother in law comes up in conversation. By episode five, after Reggieâ€™s failed attempt at a fling with his secretary and after a convention speech he delivers fails miserably, Reggie kisses Elizabeth goodbye, fakes his death and sets off to become someone new. But his new life is incomplete without Joan. After attending his own funeral, he introduces himself to Elizabeth, his children, and his old boss, CJ (John Barron) as Martin Wellborn. Elizabeth sees through the guise and agrees to marry this â€œstranger,â€ Martin Wellborn. If taking on this new personality is what will make her husband happy, Elizabeth is willing to go along with the ruse.
Season 2 finds Martin Wellborn employed by Reggieâ€™s old boss, CJ (known for making statements that begin with â€œI didnâ€™t make it to where I am byâ€¦”) at Sunshine Desserts. However, when Reggie finally reveals his true identity, he is promptly fired by CJ. On a whim, he decides to open a store called Grot, which sells useless products (like his son-in-lawâ€™s radish wine), hoping that Grot will be an interesting failure. The store, instead, becomes quite a success. Suddenly, Reggie is a wheeling and dealing executive and he winds up hiring most of the staff of his old company. Reggie and Elizabeth quickly get bored with their success, do their best to drive the company into the ground and plan their own deaths by the end of the second season.
In the third and final season, Reggie and Elizabeth open a commune for bored, middle-aged adults. When it fails, Reggie gets hired by CJâ€™s brother, FJ, and when the series ends, Reggie is once again contemplating disappearing from the world and his mundane life.
The writing throughout all three seasons is sharp and funny; an excellent commentary on modern society that holds up 30 years after it originally aired. In fact, besides some of the clothing and the limited technology at the time, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin could hold its own against any contemporary show. The dilemma of Reggie and the characters who inhabit his life are no different than most of what you see on contemporary sitcoms. If you are of a certain age and you are watching the show for the first time, you may see a little of yourself in Reggie; I know I did. Besides the intelligent, witty writing and the fine characters that surround Reggie, first and foremost you should watch The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin for the masterful acting by Leonard Rossiter. The way he prepares and digs into this character is marvelous. Furthermore, his impeccable comic timing and his intuition is not to be missed.
With so many options and so many TV shows on DVD for you to choose from, perhaps checking out The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin may not be at the top of your viewing list. But if you are a fan of The Office or Scrubs I think this is a series that is worth your time. And for a couple of you readers, now youâ€™ll have the chance to see what I mean. I have two copies of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin available to give away. If youâ€™d like to be entered into a giveaway to receive a free copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, June 24. I will draw two names and notify the winners by email. Good luck!