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Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, The

SUPREME ROSSITER-ITIS. From the top: bored commuter (Len) lives in ghastly suburban bliss with wife Elizabeth (PAULINE YATES) and cat Ponsonby on Poet’s Estate. Hapless lifeskill-lacking army brother Jimmy ‘Major James Gordonstoun’ Anderson (GEOFFREY “LAMB” PALMER) constantly pops round for sugar and the like (“bit of a cock-up on the catering front”). His daughter Linda (SALLY-JANE “NEWCOMERS” SPENCER) lives in profoundly revolting wedded bliss with pipe-smoking, winemaking hippie liberal Tom Patterson (initially TIM “PORTERHOUSE BLUE” PREECE, latterly LESLIE “JOHNNY BRIGGS’ DAD” SCHOFIELD) instilling sickmaking Guardian values in their two small children, Adam (“I done biggies!”) and Jocasta. His dropout other son (DAVID “SHANG-A-LANG” WARWICK) thankfully drops by only fitfully, looking for handouts to support his eternally fledgling acting career in a “Wedgwood Benn for Pope!” t-shirt. Len commutes every morning to the dilapidated confectionery empire Sunshine Desserts, run by bullet-headed, cliche-spouting go-getter Charles ‘CJ’ Jefferson (JOHN “DOOMWATCH” BARRON), with awful, Tony Blackburn-alike colleague Tony ‘Great!’ Webster (TREVOR “PROFESSIONALS” ADAM), even more awful, drippy colleague David Harris-Jones (BRUCE “STRANGERS” BOULD), lazy, hypochondriac company medic Gerald ‘Doc’ Morrissey (JOHN “HOT METAL” HORSLEY) and vivacious temptress of a personal secretary Joan Greengross (SUE “RENTAGHOST” NICHOLLS). What to do in this repetitive hell, after a disastrous safari park excursion, an abortive affair with Joan, a dinnerless dinner party with the boss and dodgy uncle Percy Spillinger (“I say, what a lovely pair!”) and numerous disturbing hallcinations, but to fake one’s own suicide (in flute-led Brighton front titles) and, after a brief stint on a pig farm, return as bearded, long-lost relative Martin Wellbourne (having spent time in the Amazon basin), and woo Elizabeth all over again, while earning a menial wage at a sewage farm as bucktoothed Donald Potts? Plan soon uncovered by first Linda, then Elizabeth, and Reggie returns as himself once more. Sacked by CJ, he returns to the pig farm. Elizabeth gets a job at Sunshine Desserts. CJ comes onto her, clumsily. Reggie gets sacked. So does Elizabeth. Out of desperation, Grot, a shop selling 100{30e2395aaf6397fd02d2c79d91a1fe7cbb73158454674890018aee9c53a0cb96} rubbish (square hoops, Tom’s wine, his dentist’s pictures of the Algarve), is born. It’s a success. Ex-Sunshine employees are poached. In fact, everyone. Including CJ. Having built a success from nothing, Reggie is intent on destroying it again. He fails. Back to where they started, again, Reggie and Elizabeth go off to Brighton, and return as Mr and Mrs Gossamer. The novelty, again, wears off. The idea of Perrins, a commune for the disenfranchised suburban middle-classes, is born. Jimmy, Tom, David, Joan, Doc, CJ etc. are predictably employed. It, predictably, becomes a success. It angers the local community of, er, suburban middle-classes. Violent attacks force it to close. Reggie gets a job at Amalgamated Aerosols, run by suspiciously familiar FJ, alongside the suspiciously familiar Muscroft (“Marvellous!”) and Rosewall (“Teriffic!”). Back where he started, again, again, what else is there to do, but… A case of diminishing returns, to be sure, but repetitiveness was, of course, the point, and in present age of would-be “dark” sitcom bollocks, it’s worth remembering how this ace DAVID NOBBSfest created an incredibly depressing world (many of the early episodes end with Rossiter, alone, screaming in despair – hardly an audience-rousing “you have been watching” punchline) out of the archetypal cheery, harmless sitcom cliches, a feat only equalled by the similarly exceptional EVER DECREASING CIRCLES. 1996 Rossiterless revival was, naturally, appalling, ditto the bizarre 2009 MARTIN CLUNES remake-that-wasn’t-a-remake.



  1. Glenn Aylett

    August 18, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Reginald Perrin indirectly created a spin off called Fairly Secret Army, where Perrin’s brother who mentions staging a military coup in the first series of Reginald Perrin is reinvented in the eighties as a retired army officer setting up a secret army to fight the communist threat. Geoffrey Palmer was on top form in FSA as an older Harry and it’s a shame this hasn’t been repeated.

  2. richardpd

    August 18, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    A great writeup, but no mention of the often shown hippo clip that was Reggie’s avatar for his never seen mother in law.

    CJ’s farting chairs were another occurring joke, as was the sign at Sunshire Desserts losing a letter each time Reggie walked past.

    I was too young to see it first time but had the chance when the BBC showed it in the early 1990s, as a psrt of it’s “budget skimping / dummy run for UK Gold” phase of repeating old show in prime time.

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