Did we like it?
We tried to pretend this didn’t exist before and wasn’t a 1970s TV great mixing misery and mundanity in a cynical sitcom. Pretend it’s brand new. Come to it fresh. The verdict: this is quite a funny sitcom with a few good characters and a few good lines, possibly even worth watching throughout its run. Without such pretence: this is a horribly weak, unnecessary remake with all the lovely unique touches ironed out by the BBC comedy department’s blandness steamroller, no doubt inflicted by Simon Nye, who can churn out humdrum sitcoms in his sleep and has been paired up with Perrin’s brilliant creator David Nobbs.
What was good about it?
• Though nowhere near as good as Leonard Rossiter, Martin Clunes conveys Reggie Perrin’s world weariness quite well – but he’s not especially quirky or appealing or different to any other put-upon sitcom character populating BBC’s sitcom conveyor belt. His best line came when he encountered his wife’s gathering of her Women’s Social Action Committee: “Anyone who can bleed for five days in a row deserves a bunch of flowers.”
• The best scene came when Reggie consulted Sue, the company’s new wellness person, a replacement for Janet. (“She’s had to retire. Illness.”) who thought she could make things better with new age music, an array of leaflets and kind words such as “you sad sausage”.
• Neil Stuke as Chris Jackson is no CJ (John Barron’s terrifying original) but he carved out his own pumice-obsessed niche and came up trumps with the “I didn’t get where I am today…” gag, revived from the original (“by dressing like a bride at a lesbian wedding” was the punchline – a reference to Reggie’s white suit).
• It’s nowhere near as horrible as 1996’s The Legacy of Reginald Perrin, which failed abysmally in its attempt to continue the story after Reginald Iolanthe Perrin was laid to rest.
What was bad about it?
• Apart from the wellness clinic, the satire of office life was never better than adequate, suffocated by the old-fashioned setting. Nothing was open plan although there was a watercooler instead of the tea trolley. Nothing was a patch on The Office as the writers encompassed modern jargon (“preliminary feedback downlines”), lacklustre secretary Vicky (a pale imitation of David Walliams’ computer-says-no receptionist in Little Britain), incompetent double act Ste and Ant (a paler imitation of Moss and Roy in The IT Crowd, despite their idea of targeting the self harm market with pumice stones), and the hassles of email spam (including TV’s 1079th attempt to derive humour from penis enlargement enticements, which was typical of the dead horse flogging nature of this remake).
• There’s nothing remotely funny or engaging about Faye Ripley’s role as Reggie’s wife Nicola.
• The commuter hell scenes were overused and underwritten. And we were only amused by one of Reggie’s excuses for lateness (“27 minutes late: suspiciously bulging holdall at Coulsdon South”).
• The surreal flights of fantasy, whether verbalised or visualised, were dull or old fashioned or both.
• The pointless addition of drinking partner Monty.
• The sight “gags” featuring drunken topiary and Reggie’s foot falling into a wastebin during an awkward encounter with Jasmine (Lucy Liemann), the new Groomtech recruit who has captured his heart.
• The theme tune has been jazzed up badly and the title sequence is nowhere near as memorable as the original featuring Reggie’s seaside striptease.