Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dramatic Happenings In Jelly City!

Speaking of things that are unnecessary, last week Broadcast put out more information about the BBC’s remake of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin that has just gone into production. It’s pretty obvious that we’re not exactly basking in a new golden age of British television comedy, which is perhaps the politest way of saying it’s all pretty much shit right now, but is this really the remedy for our laughter-vacuum ills?

There is the odd decent situation comedy like Not Going Out and Peep Show, which certainly have a high hit rate of jokes, but everything else seems to be a morass of mainly-miss sketch shows or moronic dog shit like Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, which unbelievably has been running for eight years now, and Coming of Age, which, according to the trailers, is even more witless. (If anyone feels like putting their hand up and saying, “What about Gavin & Stacey?” I found that about as entertaining as watching a cottage roof being re-thatched, on a drizzly day).

Since the consistently funny sitcoms on television for probably the best part of this year have been the repeats of Porridge and Dad’s Army and The Good Life, why doesn’t the BBC just repeat The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin instead? Adapted by David Nobbs from his novel The Death of Reginald Perrin, the show was, at that time, incredibly dark for a mainstream sitcom. Comedy has always been derived from individuals in adverse situations, but here was the titular character, a sales executive for a dessert company, going through a midlife crisis that veered toward a full-blown nervous breakdown.

Taking off the rose-tinted glasses for a moment, it may be that the decision to start afresh comes from the fact that after the first series in which Perrin ultimately fakes his own death the subsequent years didn’t quite match up, becoming more contrived as they went along. Worst was the belated fourth series, 1996’s The Legacy of Reginald Perrin, simply because it was made long after the untimely death of the great comedic actor Leonard Rossiter and lacked his vital presence in the titular role.

Why a remake? Well, obviously this is for a new generation that more and more doesn’t give a shit about anything that happened before they were born. What makes it even worse is that this new version, co-written by Nobbs and Simon Nye, is dispensing with the ongoing story thread that led the character to fake his own death and stick to single episode storylines. That aside, they’re ditching the bulk of the original characters, most of whom made Perrin, for all his anxiety, the sanest of the bunch.

According to Phil Clarke, the executive producer of the new show, called simply Perrin:

“Reggie’s still a man in crisis with the modern world, but what’s interesting is to look at where the world has changed since the 1970s and where it hasn't. It’s an opportunity to comment on the modern world without being heavy-handed.”

Okay. Well, that doesn’t really make much sense to me, but what do I know? Unless I’m missing something here, why do they specifically need to resurrect Reginald Perrin for that? David Croft and Jimmy Perry might as well get back behind the typewriter and come up with Pike, in which the lead comments on how different it is today compared to life during the war years.

Apparently Lucy Lumsden, the BBC Controller of Comedy has repeatedly called for producers to pitch more traditional sitcoms. Is this what she meant?


At 3:08 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Oh dear fucking god.

At 3:32 pm, Blogger qrter said...

Why would they cut out the narrative thread? That's exactly what made it such an interesting show (besides being funny).

One recent sitcom I enjoyed a lot was Saxondale. I really, really liked that. It was kind of gentle and character-based. Super! Great!

At 6:04 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Oh, and Martin Clunes has been signed on to play Reggie Perrin.

I never got into Saxondale. Maybe when it first appeared I was busy or distracted from watching it. The only bit I remember seeing is when Coogan sweated through his pink shirt on Top Gear.

At 5:58 pm, Blogger David said...

At least this time they got permission from the writer who came with the idea before commissioning Simon Nye to re-write it...


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