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Reggie Perrin returns: interview with creator David Nobbs

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David Thair | 16:16 UK time, Friday, 24 April 2009

Reggie PerrinStarring Martin Clunes in the titular role, Reginald Perrin returns to our screens tonight at 9.30pm on BBC One in a new series simply called Reggie Perrin. Yes, the classic series has been revived, but this is no Hollywood-style 're-imagining'.

The show's creator David Nobbs has placed his character in the contemporary world - but the pressures of the rat race faced by the original Reggie (played by Leonard Rossiter) remain relevant today, as David explains:

Comedy Blog: What was the original premise behind Reggie Perrin?

David Nobbs: The original series of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, adapted from my novel, told the story of a man being driven mad by the pressures of the rat race and a job that he found boring and thought fatuous.

The inspiration came from a newspaper article about dark-suited men creating a new flavour of jam: there was a photo of all these earnest men with little jars and spoons sitting round a board room table. I thought two days of that would drive me mad.

Comedy Blog: How did this new incarnation of Reginald Perrin come about?

David Nobbs: The new series was suggested to me and the BBC by Objective Productions [the independent production company responsible for Peep Show]. I thought that enough of the same pressures remained for the series to be relevant today - but also that there had been enough changes in the world of commerce to enable us to make this sufficiently different to be interesting.

Comedy Blog: What did you change for this modern-day update?

David Nobbs: 'Exotic' ices were out. In the days of Heston Blumental, nothing in the world of food is exotic any more. Male grooming seemed perfect, a growth area and many of its products unnecessary.

Comedy Blog: You invented the character and wrote the first three series alone - what's it been like working with another writer, Simon Nye, for the new one?

David Nobbs: I felt that I wanted to be involved in the writing of the new series, but that it was a big ask for me to do it all on my own for a second time. It needed a new look, a fresh approach. Simon Nye was suggested, and I jumped at that.

Comedy Blog: What was the writing process?

David Nobbs: It seemed right to all of us that Simon should try a first draft, giving a modern slant, and this is how we ended up working: detailed discussions, then Simon would write a first draft, and I would come in after that. It's no problem to me that in effect he thus became the senior writer. It was a natural progression.

Comedy Blog: His line of business has changed, but has Reggie?

Chris Jackson and Reggie PerrinDavid Nobbs: One of the biggest changes is that Reggie no longer has children, and that his wife Nicola works and has her own pressures - the stay-at-home wife of 1976 would have seemed unreal in 2009.

The CJ character, now called Chris Jackson, is a more modern boss too - head hunted from the animal foodstuffs sector, knowing nothing about male grooming. Very 2009 in modern Britain, sadly.

For more on Reggie Perrin, watch a clip and read an interview with star Martin Clunes on the BBC News website, and look out on this blog next week for an interview with Simon Nye.


  • Comment number 1.

    I just watched the new Reggie Perrin on BBC HD. I have to say I'd have enjoyed it more if you had ditched the canned laughter soundtrack, which was very intrusive and quite inappropriate.

  • Comment number 2.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Paul Geaton's comment as my husband and I settled down to watch Reggie Perrin and were totally put off by the unnecessary canned laughter, especially as neither of us could see what was funny. My husband went back to his computer after only nine minutes and I switched over to I.T.V. I do not know why this false laughter is necessary as surely the T.V. audience are intelligent enough to know when to laugh. Neither of us will bother to watch this again.

  • Comment number 3.

    I also agree about the pathetic laughter track. I wasn't expecting much from a remake of such a classic, but three minutes in, it wasn't Clunes' justifiably nervous performance or some of the very cheap gags that was putting me off. If anything, despite these, there was some promise in a few of the lines and their delivery, but any possitives that might have been present were drowned out. Any time I cracked a smile, it was immediately replaced by a grimace.
    Remove the canned laughter before episode 2 goes out, and this show might actually be worth watching.

  • Comment number 4.

    Oh dear, you're not listening!

  • Comment number 5.

    Same here - signed up just to make the single comment that the canned laughter is painful. The show is looking good but will I be able to stand it?

  • Comment number 6.

    I too registered an account here specifically to make comment about this show. It's nice to see others share my opinions already. It's a good script, Clunes seems to fit the character well. Unfortunately I find the show impossible to enjoy due to the 'canned laughter'. It actually gets to the point where its the ONLY thing I can hear! A good script does not need to 'prompt' the audience to laugh and if the result of using recorded laughter actually has the effect of putting viewers off, why bother doing it?

  • Comment number 7.

    The new Regiie Perrin... why? Why did you do it, BBC? This rather like the disappointment of hearing a dance mix of a Beatles song, or scraping your gold ring, to find it's lead underneath.

    Clunes is not Leonard Rossiter and will never match up. The replacement character for Geoffrey Palmer is awful. The new CJ is appalling. Basically, you've just nicked their catchphrases and given them to substandard actors in a substandard show.

    I also concur that the canned laughter put me off straight away. I stuck it out though, as I wanted to see just how bad it would get. This is yet another example of the sheer lack of originality coming from the BBC, the way our licence fee is wasted, and the poor standard of what passes for "comedy" these days.

    If you want to give us an entertaining sitcom, then do us all a favour and just repeat the original. If anyone were to name their top comedy programmes, they would all come from the past: Reginald Perrin, Porridege, Open All Hours, Only Fools & Horses, Fawlty Towers... Nothing that has come out in the last few years has been anywhere near their standard. The only writer producing good comedy these days appears to be Graham Linehan - and guess what? His shows never make it onto the BBC, so we get this tripe instead.

  • Comment number 8.

    I too have registered just to say how the larding of laughter made the programme unwatchable for me. Why did noone realise? It needed a real audience or nothing at all.

  • Comment number 9.

    I am physically upset by how bad this show is, though in no way surprised. The arm chair nature of the show is tediously prime time. The slack acting, and total lack of attention to recreating the intrigue apparent in the subtle depths of the originals characters makes viewing meaningless.

    The only similarity that i can see between the inspirational Reginal Perrin series and this pile of steaming proverbial, is the name of the lead character. The best jokes are when Martin Clunes shows flashes of 'Gary' from men behaving badly, or when the interaction with the MD Chris is marginally reminiscent of the original which sent me spiralling off into a nostalgic escapism. An escapism that sadly didn't last as long as the episode.

    When will the BBC stop wasting money commissioning safe half arsed badly written nonsense and invest in some decent scripts backed by new talent.


  • Comment number 10.

    I try to watch Reggie Perrin every week in the hope it has improved. I really object to being told when to laugh. This monotonous canned laughter is beyond a joke. Absolutely ridiculous. I wonder what Martin Clunes seriously thinks about this series. There maybe the odd titter in the show but I have not laughed out loud once.


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