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Series / The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin

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The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin is a 1970s British sitcom written (and developed from his own series of novels) by David Nobbs. The series starred Leonard Rossiter as Reginald "Reggie" Perrin, an advertising executive at Sunshine Desserts trapped in a dreary existence and pointless job who is in the throes of a full-blown midlife crisis. Three seasons of episodes were made under this title. The protagonist's strained and often bizarre behaviour, sometimes surreal flights of fancy and an always dark undertow — the first series ended with Perrin faking his own suicide — mean the show remains an enduring counterpoint to the more bland and straightforward sitcoms of its era. In 1996, a dozen years after Rossiter's death, a belated fourth series was made with the remaining cast under the title The Legacy of Reginald Perrin.

In the '80s the show was adapted as an American sitcom called Reggie! with Richard Mulligan in the title role, and more recently remade as Reggie Perrin, with Martin Clunes in the title role.

This show provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Linda is often described as plump in the original book (with Jimmy mentally admitting he falls for her because he is irrationally attracted to fat sweaty women. In the series, she is definitely none of those things.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Reginald likes to fantasize about his secretary: suggestively licking ice cream cones with her, making love to her on his desk, in the middle of a field, etc. His doctor spends his downtime looking at porn in his office.
  • All for Nothing: Reggie ends up exactly where he started off; stuck in a cruel and completely nonsensical world that he can no longer stand.
  • Allergic to Routine: Reginald Perrin, whose routine eventually drives him round the bend.
    • He's also allergic to the season-spanning routine of destroying everything he's previously created.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: A disguised Reggie does this shortly after faking his own death, and as a result starts a romance with his own widow. She realises that it's him straightaway, but doesn't let on.
  • Black Comedy: Although it's farcical and ridiculous, the first series especially is a catalogue of a man in the middle of a nervous breakdown.
  • Camp Gay: Reggie becomes this in a futile effort to shock people who have become used to his eccentricities.
  • Catchphrase: Many that have entered common usage, especially in business. See Mad Libs Catch Phrase below.
  • Couch Gag: Similarly to Fawlty Towers, the Sunshine Desserts sign was always humorously dilapidated, though losing letters rather than anagramming them.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Reggie.
    "Are you trying to tell me you're providing a valuable social service?"
    "I'm not trying to tell you, I'm succeeding. If I'd said 'I like squashy bananas' I would have been failing to say 'I am providing a valuable social service', but I didn't say 'I like squashy bananas', I said 'I am providing a valuable social service', thus succeeding brilliantly in saying 'I am providing a valuable social service'."
  • Downer Ending: The series ends with Reggie on his way back to the Dorset coast, possibly to kill himself for real.
    • He survives long enough to appear in a 1982 Boxing day special.
    • The Legacy of Reginald Perrin finally revealed that he did not kill himself — rather he died in a storm, struck by a falling billboard advertising health insurance.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name; For Reggie, 'Iolanthe'. Even worse than being embarrassing, it also makes his initials R.I.P.
(To Himself)"Why did My mother give the middle name (aloud) Iolanthe? (To himself) she was was due to appear in a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan but couldn't when she discovered she was having me; if it had been a year later I would have been (aloud) Reginald Pirates Of Penzance Perrin!"
  • Every Episode Ending: Every episode of series one (except the last) ends with a despairing scream from Reginald.
  • Faking the Dead: Spoofed in the opening credits, later played straight.
  • Giftedly Bad: Tom's wine and advertising slogans for Grot.
    Reggie: "It almost rhymes and scans properly, that's the important thing. This is exactly what I'm paying you for."
    Tom:: "Thank you. Well, I'll just give you one more, perhaps: 'Grot is the ideal place for gifts, because they're all on one floor, so there aren't any lifts.' They aren't all of that standard, of course."
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • The view Reggie comes to take of Grot. It was supposed to be a joke business, but it turned into a big success. His attempts to destroy it keep turning it into an even bigger success.
    • In Legacy, the entire cast's attempt satisfy Reggie's Silly Will and do something "completely absurd" results instead in the creation of a genuine widespread political movement.
  • Granola Girl: Reggie's son-in-law, Tom, who distills his own wine, smokes brier pipes, and insists that his children be treated not as children but as "tiny adults".
  • Hurricane of Puns: Reggie is quite fond of these.
  • Hypocritical Humour: "I'm not a petty man..." as Reggie launches into a neurotic tirade about the tea lady refusing to save him a macaroon in 1971.
    • "I didn't get where I am today by talking in cliches", from CJ
  • Imagine Spot: Reginald provides these all the time.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: After Reggie has been insulting CL, the German sales rep, since the conversation started, he finally snaps after another barb about flatulence.
  • Large Ham: CJ
  • Last-Second Word Swap: "... and with the coming of metrication *office phone begins ringing* I feel confident — no, the advent, the advent of metrication — I feel confident that the bloody phone will ring all day."
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: One episode has Reggie trying to choose a new name after running away from the rat race.
    Reggie: Okay, "Sid" and then the first thing I see when I look over this fence... "Sid Cowpat"... hmmm.
  • Listing the Forms of Degenerates: When Jimmy reveals he is involved with a Far-Right group looking to Make Britain Great Again, his list of all the malcontents who are destroying this once-great nation runs on and on and on. Re-runs of the series in 2022 are prefaced with a content advisory about "this series reflects the values of its times and some viewers may find this content offensive", whilst at least two categories of degenerates loathed by Jimmy are bleeped out.
  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Lots, which have invokedentered everyday use.
    CJ: "I didn't get where I am today by [action/behavior]"
    CJ: "Neither I, nor Mrs CJ, have ever [action]"
    Jimmy: "Bit of a cock-up on the ____ front"
    Tom: "I'm not really an ____ person"
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: The premise of the show: Reggie one day decides he has had enough of being polite and trapped in his meaningless world, and starts cultivating an antisocial persona.
  • Malaproper: One of the symptoms of Reggie's rapidly declining mental state.
  • Metaphorgotten: CJ is quite prone to these.
    "There's no smoke without the worm turning."
  • National Stereotypes: Intentionally invoked and later subverted with Seamus Finnegan, the Irish labourer who Reggie hires as his admin officer in a pub (quaffing Guinness, naturally). A self-confessed hard-drinking lazy gambler, he soon turns out to be hyper-competent, much to Reggie's annoyance.
    • Also, Kenny Mc Blane's incomprehensible Scottish accent.
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: One of the boss' toadies is Mistaken for Gay after overindulging at a party and does a desperate Not That There's Anything Wrong With That speech, going overboard with panic when he thinks his boss might be reading more into his use of the stock phrase "Some of my best friends are ..." than he intends.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Elizabeth, who pretends not to realise that Martin is in fact Reginald.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The TV series dropped some of the darker subplots from the books, such as Mark's disappearance, Linda and Jimmy's incestuous affair and the whole "Climthorpe Strangler" strand from the second book.
  • Put on a Bus: The first series included the character of Mark Perrin, Reggie's son, played by David Warwick. However, David Nobbs felt he diverted the comedy from Reggie, so he was written out by going on tour with a theatre group in Africa.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: Joan, in the book. When she and Reggie were trying to have an affair, the first thing she would do on visiting his house for a rendezvous was undress completely, whereupon Reggie's wife would inevitably turn up and Joan would be forced to spend the rest of the chapter hiding naked in whatever location was available. Toned down in the series, for obvious reasons.
    • In recent (2022) re-runs, an element of Fan Disservice intrudes when it dawns that Joan the sexy secretary is, nearly fifty years later, the octagenarian great-grandmother Audrey in Coronation Street.
  • Rule of Three: The very first episode features three days in the life of Perrin; each repeating almost exactly the same incidents with only minor variations.
  • Running Gag: Plenty, often Once an Episode at least. One example is Reggie drifting into an Imagine Spot of a hippo wallowing in mud every time his mother-in-law is mentioned.
    • 18 minutes late, correcting TV Tropes entry, missed 7:15 train, had to wait for 7:30 train.
    • I didn't get where I am today by modifying TV Tropes pages for 40-year-old shows during my lunch hour!
  • Serious Business: The employees of Sunshine Desserts treat the most ludicrous news on various idiotic puddings with complete professionalism.
    "Well we're beginning to make headway. Some of our mousses are holding their own in the Rhennish Palatinate, and flans are heating up in Schleswig-Holstein."
  • Sexy Secretary: Perrin's secretary, Joan. Reginald thinks so, anyway, and often fantasizes about her with her hair (and more) down.
  • Shrinking Violet: David
  • Silly Will: Perrin leaves a fortune to be shared among his friends, on the condition that they each do something sufficiently absurd.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Grot, conceived as a Take That! to capitalism, ends up being a massive success.
  • Suicide by Sea: Reggie fakes his death by leaving his clothes on the beach, making it look like he has committed suicide by walking out into the sea.
  • Those Two Guys: Tony and David.
    • Great!
    • Super!
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: VERY briefly adapted into an American sitcom called Reggie! starring Richard Mulligan, in The '80s at some point between his playing Burt on Soap and Dr Westin on Empty Nest.
  • Tuckerization: The streets in Reggie Perrin's neighborhood, the signs for which he is regularly seen walking by to and from work ("Wordsworth Drive," "Tennyson Avenue" and "Coleridge Close") are named after the famous British 19th century poets, William Wordsworth, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the last episode of the series, when Reginald Perrin has taken another executive job in a large corporation, like the one he had at the beginning of the series, the street signs when he walks to work now read Liebnitz Drive, Bertrand Russell Rise and Schopenhauer Grove. These streets are named after the philosophers Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Bertrand Arthur William Russell and Arthur Schopenhauer.
  • The Unintelligible: Sunshine Desserts' vans are these in the book. The back double doors contain the slogan "Bring a little Sunshine into your life" — but several of the vans had the doors put on the wrong sides, with the result that they read little Bring a hine suns ur life into yo.
  • Unintelligible Accent: McBlane, the Scottish chef hired by Reginald when he tries to open a hotel, speaks in what could be described as "a dialect", possibly Glaswegian, and nothing else.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside: A prime example.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Kenny McBlane, the cook from Series 3 who is always muttering indeciperable gibberish and almost always wielding something very sharp in his time on-camera.
  • Yes-Man: Whenever Reggie or CJ suggests something, Tony and David respectively say "Great!" and "Super!"