After the teaching theme of last week’s episode of Reggie Perrin I expected an increasingly unsatisfied Reggie to leave the classroom and bring chaos into the big, bad world.
And in episode four he does, kind of, with a business trip to Helsinki designed to thrust Groomtech into the global marketplace.
However, with Reggie being Reggie there’s an ulterior motive: Wanting to make a personal thrust at his colleague and sexual fantasy, Jasmine.
It’s understandable why he should be attracted to her. She’s smart, beautiful and, more importantly, an escape route from the banality of life.
Of course Reggie should be able to unwind with wife Nicola. He’s got so much steam to let off he could turn the living room into a sauna.
“That’s it,” he declares, returning home after enduring commuter hell squashed up against someone’s armpit. “We’re moving to Cornwall. I’ll teach surfing, you can open a tin mine.”
But it’s just another dream. Reggie’s increasing isolation from society is impacting on the marriage, as is Nicola’s endless series of social engagements. They both sense the distance growing between them.
Explaining why he’s so moody these days, Reggie complains to his wife, “Every time I come home these days the house is full of the walking wounded or a troop of line-dancers or the Action On Nits committee.”
Even then, they have to discuss the matter in the hallway as Reggie’s depressive best friend Monty has gone foetal on the sofa. For poor old Reggie, already having to suffer father-in-law William treating the Perrin residence as a walk-in fridge, it’s the final straw.
A row ensues, leading Nicola to storm off to the pub with Monty. The rift deepens when she goes to stay at her dad’s and he packs for Helsinki.
Before flying out, a scheming Reggie tells Jasmine that his marriage is over. They might be travelling to colder climes but things are definitely hotting up between them.
In Jasmine’s presence, Reggie can’t keep his mind focussed on the job and accidently refers to her as his lover during a business presentation with two robot-like Finns.
Later that evening, after far too much wine, the heavily-flirting colleagues end up back in Reggie’s room and it seems like fantasy is finally going to become reality.
They start unbuttoning each other’s clothing when Reggie gets a pang of conscience, visualising Nicola watching him from the bed. Unable to continue, he mumbles to a disappointed Jasmine that he still loves his wife.
An awkward moment is avoided by a sudden knock at the door. It’s Chris, who has come over to lead the second round of presentations.
Aware their boss neither approves of personal fraternisations or alcohol, the caught-out couple hastily try to put things in order before he enters.
Chris starts to run-through his business strategy while Reggie goes into the bathroom and calls Nicola, who’s been fighting another challenge to their wedding vows in the not-so-irresistible form of Monty.
Upon Reggie’s return, he finds Jasmine unconscious on the floor. ‘Concussion’ says Chris, hilariously oblivious to anything outside of the world of male grooming products.
Despite his enthusiasm for the subject, or perhaps because of, Chris finds the Finns unmoved by his witless presentation. Things are only saved by a last-minute appearance from Reggie, who has come up with the winning concept of flags of the nations razors.
Returning to the UK, an emotional Reggie embraces Nicola as she promises to put aside all her appointments for the next week to rescue their marriage. Luckily, there won’t be any problems from Jasmine as she is amazingly understanding of the whole situation.
I say ‘amazingly’, but ‘unbelievably’ would do as well. That word pretty much sums up my reaction to the episode as a whole.
There was so much promise for mayhem; so many opportunities for casting Reggie’s jaundiced eye on the ill-effects of globalisation – for this is supposed to be a sitcom with big ideas behind it. But somehow, and I’m not exactly sure how they managed it, writers Simon Nye and David Nobbs managed to write smaller than ever before.
I’ve said before that Reggie needs to bring chaos into the lives of those around them. To be a hurricane of spiralling discontentment that will shake others from their complacency and re-arrange the order of things.
That’s how Leonard Rossiter played the role and even if Martin Clunes is going for a softer approach it’s still a central tenet of the character and one that made for so much mirth.
Four episodes in, I imagined the Reggie storm would be blowing full-force, but instead see nothing but a slight breeze now and again. Even the plotline concerning the potential affair had little charge to it.
I really love the show and want it to succeed in its own way, but how can such a tame approach be anything but a let-down? There were precious few funny lines in a script where most of the ‘humour’ was sourced from that all-too-common curse of stand-up comedy – blatant observationalism.
It’s the sort of comedy where you try to get laughs simply by stating how things are, without expanding. Twice in the episode laughs are squeezed from an all-too-tolerant audience by the use of other languages or accents.
“Listen to this,” the writers seem to say, “Don’t different tongues sound daft!”
Did Al Murray have a hand in the writing in the guise of the Pub Landlord? It certainly seems so.
It’s so basic, so crude and so not funny. The characterisations, with the exception of the love triangle of Reggie, Nicola and Jasmine, are lazily and discreditably done (especially the monosyllabic Finns), but it doesn’t matter too much, I suppose, when the set-pieces are so poor for them anyway.
I was really let down by this episode and can only, once again, hope that some of the shining wit and bizarre situations devised by Perrin creator Nobbs emerge in the last two instalments. At the moment it feels like 99% Simon Nye on a bad day and 1% stupid.
“You know what I like about you, Reggie?” says Jasmine at one point. “It’s that I never know what you are gong to do or say next.”
Is it too much to ask to feel the same way?
Check out our review of episode 3 here.