The first outing of controversial BBC remake Reggie Perrin failed to prove the naysayers right with an episode that, though not as spotless as Reggie’s white suit, still shone out as something worth watching.
The difficult job of updating this comedy fable of railing against monotony and inauthentic living while still remaining true to the spirit of the original ’70s sitcom was carried off in a far more satisfactory way than anyone could have expected.
But with the hard part of establishing itself completed, can the series maintain its level, or will it start cracking apart just like its main character?
From viewing episode two, I think it’s still got potential to be a memorable comedy in its own right – if it can only find its feet and starting moving forward.
And for a lugubrious chap like Reggie, with his shoulders constantly slumping and his head sinking under the increasing pressures of life, love and men’s grooming products, you’d think locating his feet would be the easiest thing in the world.
But then again, maybe not, as for part two, scriptwriters Simon Nye and David Nobbs seemed content having Reggie treading water, deepening the gloomy atmosphere surrounding his burgeoning meltdown but paying little attention to moving on the narrative.
It’s reaction, not action, we were presented with, and though that’s needed for character development, it did leave the episode seeming more a collection of minor incidents than a coherent whole.
Characters popped in and popped out, punctuating the storyline and preventing any real momentum, like a sentence with more full stops then letters.
Though it was nice to see veteran actors Wendy Craig as Reggie’s mother Marion and Geoffrey Whitehead as William, his cadging ex-military father-in-law (replacing the character of Jimmy from the original), they had very little time on screen.
Still, at least William got time to utter that immortal line: “Cock up on the catering front.”
The rest of the cast, with few exceptions, were just there to try Reggie’s patience in an episode aptly centred on small talk.
The subject matter certainly fitted the feel of the episode, as it had little to say for itself, though Reggie’s protest “I am not a sheep; and there are thousands of people out there who feel exactly the same way!” stuck in my mind as satisfyingly quotable.
Funniest were the moments without speech: the fantasies. The scene where Reggie imagines himself shooting an unwanted guest was great, as was the wrecking ball hitting Marion when she’d outstayed her welcome.
These outlandish daydreams are certainly the show’s main selling point for the present, but I doubt they will be able to carry the series on their own for the rest of its run.
There needs to be more impact on the people around Reggie. While watching Martin Clunes pull one sad expression after another I kept humming a well-known song by The Beautiful South, ‘You know your problem, Reggie, you keep it all in.’
The dimmer-than-a-one-watt-light-bulb ‘wellness nurse’ is the only one really baring the brunt of his woes at the moment and it’s no coincidence that these are also the most effective scenes.
Even Reggie retrieving her wind chimes from within his pants couldn’t dent the smile on her witless face. She’s a perfect counterpoint to her patient – happy with everything because she hasn’t the intelligence to be otherwise – and also comes with a nice catchphrase, “Oh, you sad sausage.”
Sausages, however, did start to sizzle at the end of the episode when Reggie confused make-belief and reality and kissed colleague Jasmine, to the horror of both.
After almost 30 minutes of plodding, the show instantly got back on course and had me wondering again what will happen next in the disintegrating world of Reggie Perrin?
As long as the answer is something, then I will continue to have faith in the BBC’s decision to re-do a Reggie.
Check out our review of episode 1 here.