The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin

This article is about the original 1970s series. For the 2009 remake, see Reggie Perrin.
The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin

Cover of the DVD release of the 1st Series
Created by David Nobbs
Starring Leonard Rossiter
Pauline Yates
John Barron
Sue Nicholls
Geoffrey Palmer
Trevor Adams
Bruce Bould
Tim Preece (series 1–2)
Leslie Schofield (series 3)
Theresa Watson (series 3)
Sally-Jane Spencer
John Horsley
Theme music composer Ronnie Hazlehurst
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 21 (list of episodes)
Producer(s) John Howard Davies (Pilot only), Gareth Gwenlan
Running time 30 minutes
Original network BBC1
Original release 8 September 1976 (1976-09-08) – 24 January 1979 (1979-01-24)
Related shows Reggie
Reggie Perrin

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin is a series of novels that developed into a British sitcom starring Leonard Rossiter in the title role. Both the books and television series were written by David Nobbs, and the screenplay for the first series was adapted by Nobbs from the novel, though subplots in the novel were considered too dark or risqué for television and toned down or omitted, an example being the relationship between Perrin's daughter and his brother-in-law.

The story concerns a middle-aged middle manager, Reginald "Reggie" Perrin, who is driven to bizarre behaviour by the pointlessness of his job at Sunshine Desserts. The sitcom proved to be a subversion of others of the era, which were often based on bland middle-class suburban family life.

The first novel in the series, The Death of Reginald Perrin, was published in 1975, with later editions retitled to match the title of the television series. Subsequent novels (The Return of Reginald Perrin [1977] and The Better World of Reginald Perrin [1978]) were written by Nobbs with the express goal of being adapted into the second and third television series, respectively; Rossiter did not want to take the series forward unless it continued to be grounded in novels.[1]

The original three television series, all of the same name, were broadcast between 1976 and 1979; a fourth, The Legacy of Reginald Perrin, also written by Nobbs, followed in 1996.

Series summaries

Series One (8 September – 20 October 1976)

The first series was based on Nobbs's novel The Death of Reginald Perrin, retitled The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin to tie in with the television series. It still retains the replacement title.

Reginald Iolanthe Perrin is suffering a mid-life crisis, and tries to escape his dreary life. He lives at 12 Coleridge Close, part of the "Poets Estate" in a south London suburb called Climthorpe, a development different from those around it only by having the streets named after famous poets. He commutes to Sunshine Desserts where he works as a sales executive. Each morning he is 11 minutes late (this increased to 17 then 22 minutes with subsequent series) yet each morning he gives a different excuse. These become increasingly bizarre ("defective junction box, New Malden" being one of the more plausible ones; "escaped puma at Chessington North" being one of the least) reflecting the decline of both British Rail and his own mental health. He enters the office building under the "Sunshine Desserts" sign which, as the series progresses, loses more and more letters.

"Reggie", as he is known, daydreams in Walter Mitty style. Part of the narrative demonstrates what voices in his head are saying. Although he appears to love his wife, he fantasises about his secretary, Joan Greengross. As his behaviour becomes more erratic, he is unable to dictate letters without uttering words like "breast". Far from being offended, Joan welcomes the attention, adjusting her posture to show her figure.

The endless marketing campaigns for bizarre products, satirised in reports from the product research department, combine with Reggie's relations with his oppressive boss "CJ" and his yes-man subordinates to drive him over the edge. Ceasing to care about the consequences, he dictates offensive and condescending replies to customers.

At home things are no better. Despite his warm relationship with his wife Elizabeth he suffers from impotence. As pressures at work build, relations with his dysfunctional relatives deteriorate, especially with his incompetent brother-in-law Jimmy and son-in-law Tom, a man whose "political correctness" emphasises his pomposity. After a few reckless acts, including getting out of his car in the lion enclosure at a safari park, Reggie fakes his suicide by leaving clothes and personal effects on a beach. Before this he sends CJ an anonymous threat containing the words "blood will flow", dumping loganberry essence into a stream while CJ is angling. CJ collapses and the company doctor, Doc Morrisey, pronounces him dead. CJ opens one eye and says, "You're fired!"

Assuming disguises, Reggie encounters more of the banal and pompous side of life. Only as a buck-toothed farm labourer does he find fulfilment working in a sewage park and looking after pigs. Missing his wife, he assumes the identity of Martin Wellbourne, returned from South America, and visits her. He realises he loves her still. Elizabeth, seeing through his disguise, is happy to have him back.

Series Two (21 September – 2 November 1977)

In the second series (novelised as The Return of Reginald Perrin), Reggie is tired of being Martin Wellbourne and wants to be Reggie again. He reveals his true identity to his family (though his wife and daughter already knew). When CJ learns from Doc Morrisey that he is Reggie, he sacks them both.

Elizabeth goes out to work at Sunshine Desserts and Reggie returns to the pig farm; but they are both sacked after Reggie’s employer learns of his faked suicide and Elizabeth sends a rude letter telling the truth about Sunshine's products.

Reggie then opens a shop called Grot, where he sells useless products like square hoops, round dice and Tom's wine (made from sprouts, nettles and the like), hoping it will be an interesting failure. However, the products are snapped up as novelties, and Grot becomes a huge success. Reggie relapses into alienation and tries to destroy Grot from within by hiring incompetents, but this backfires as they all display unsuspected talents. Reggie finally resolves to disappear again, this time accompanied by Elizabeth.

Series Three (29 November 1978 – 24 January 1979)

In the third series (novelised as The Better World of Reginald Perrin), after seeing two men arguing pointlessly in a queue at the bank, Reggie and his wife open a community called Perrins for the middle-aged middle class, designed to help them become "better, happier people". The project is a success until a group of people who have fallen afoul of the "Perrins Peace Keeping Force" trash the place.

Reggie is then hired by CJ’s brother FJ at Amalgamated Aerosols, working directly under CJ. Reggie instantly returns to his eccentric ways, however, and the final scene shows him contemplating another trip to the Dorset coast.

In the third series, the role of Reggie's son-in-law Tom is played by Leslie Schofield, replacing Tim Preece who had played the role in the first two series. Preece returned to the role for The Legacy of Reginald Perrin (see below). Theresa Watson also became a regular cast member, playing David Harris-Jones (Bruce Bould)'s wife Prue, who was mentioned but not seen in previous series.

Christmas Sketch (26 December 1982)

In 1982, as part of a BBC1 sitcom anthology The Funny Side of Christmas, a short sketch featured the regular cast visiting Reggie's house on Christmas Day. Despite being annoyed at the continual interruption of his colleagues' arrival, he dispenses presents from beneath his own Christmas tree. In a final scene, we see that Reggie's living room is empty, even of furniture. The sketch is unrelated to the regular series, which had finished three years earlier in 1979.[2]

The Legacy of Reginald Perrin (22 September – 31 October 1996)

The Legacy of Reginald Perrin

Title card
Created by David Nobbs
Starring Pauline Yates
John Barron
Sue Nicholls
Geoffrey Palmer
Bruce Bould
Tim Preece
Sally-Jane Spencer
John Horsley
Theresa Watson
Patricia Hodge
Michael Fenton Stevens
Theme music composer Ronnie Hazlehurst
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 7 (list of episodes)
Producer(s) Gareth Gwenlan
Running time 30 minutes
Original network BBC
Original release 1996

This follow-up series, made more than a decade after Leonard Rossiter's death, shows Reggie's legacy: a fortune left to friends and family but with strange conditions. This was seen as a failure by viewers, because the loss of Leonard Rossiter removed some affection for the series and despite a leading man in Geoffrey Palmer, there was no central character. Both book and series were titled The Legacy of Reginald Perrin.

In the series, Reggie's circle of family and friends are told by lawyer Geraldine Hackstraw that each will inherit one million pounds, on the one condition that they do something totally absurd. The nature of their absurd task is left to the individuals, but it is to be judged by Ms Hackstraw. Most of them have fallen on hard times to some extent, having in the main been forced to retire or been made redundant due to their age. After several pathetic solo attempts at being absurd (including both C.J. and Doc asking out Geraldine), the potential legatees decide to pool forces and, with Jimmy as leader, decide to mount a bloodless coup the aim of which is to reverse age roles, with such policies as pensions for the young. The policies are a success – but with the unexpected outcome of losing the money for those involved because, as Geraldine points out, the idea has turned out not to be absurd after all.

The series' characters and actors comprised all of the central characters of the earlier series except Reginald Perrin and Tony Webster (Trevor Adams), and also included Patricia Hodge as Geraldine Hackstraw and Michael Fenton Stevens as Hank.

Other versions

A short-lived U.S. version was produced and broadcast on ABC in 1983 as Reggie, with Richard Mulligan in the title role.

Martin Clunes starred in a BBC revival of the series, titled simply Reggie Perrin. The supporting cast were Fay Ripley, Wendy Craig, Geoffrey Whitehead, Neil Stuke and Lucy Liemann. The series was written by Simon Nye and original series creator David Nobbs.[3] It ran for two series from April 2009 to November 2010.

Background and influence

A pub in Harrogate, North Yorkshire dressed as Sunshine Desserts following writer David Nobbs' death.

At the end of the first series Reggie fakes suicide by leaving his clothes on a beach in Dorset and running into the sea. Coincidentally, John Stonehouse MP faked his own death in this manner shortly before the book was published, although neither was inspired by the other: the novel was written before Stonehouse's faked suicide in November 1974 but not published until 1975. The phrase "do a Reggie Perrin" did enter the vernacular, however, assisted by the Stonehouse affair.

The series introduced catchphrases that entered popular culture in the UK, including Perrin's reflexive apology for a late arrival at the office, his boss C.J.'s "I didn't get where I am today ..."; the fawning junior executives Tony Webster and David Harris-Jones with their alternating "great/super"; and Perrin's brother-in-law Major Jimmy Anderson, an army officer with no grasp of organisation or leadership, coming to eat because of a "bit of a cock-up on the catering front" (caused in the original novel by his wife's alcoholism).

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.[4]

Although mainly produced on video and shot on studio sets, the series also incorporated innovative surreal escapism through film inserts, notably during scenes in which, whenever his mother-in-law is mentioned, Reggie visualises a hippopotamus trotting along.

Writer David Nobbs went on to create the Channel 4 comedy series Fairly Secret Army, whose lead character, Harry, was inspired by, if not directly related to, the Perrin character of Jimmy, and also played by Geoffrey Palmer.


DVD releases

DVD title Country of release Region Date of Release DVD company Catalog number Notes
The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin – The Complete 1st Series UK 0 (PAL) 21 October 2002 Second Sight Films 2NDVD 3042 Now out of print
The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin – The Complete 2nd Series UK 0 (PAL) 21 October 2002 Second Sight Films 2NDVD 3048 Now out of print
The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin – The Complete 3rd Series UK 0 (PAL) 19 May 2003 Second Sight Films 2NDVD 3049 Now out of print
The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin – The Complete Collection UK 0 (PAL) 6 October 2003 Second Sight Films 2NDVD 3062 3-disc box set of all 3 series. Now out of print
The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin – The Complete Collection UK 2 27 April 2009 2 Entertain 5 Disc set of all 3 series, Legacy and The Funny Side of Christmas
The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin – The Complete Series USA 1 12 May 2009 E1 Entertainment 4 Disc set of all 3 series, and The Funny Side of Christmas


Exterior views of the Perrin residence – 12 Coleridge Close, in the fictional suburb Climthorpe – were shot at 6 Beaufort Close, Ealing, W5. Reggie's walk to work was shot on the corner of Audley Road and The Ridings and on the corner of Ashbourne Close. All three roads are within about 100 yards of one another.

Many exterior scenes were filmed at sites in Cheltenham including Eldorado Road and the Beehive public house.[6]

The Sunshine Desserts office building is at 32–36 Telford Way, Acton. 51°31′14″N 0°15′12″W / 51.52056°N 0.25333°W / 51.52056; -0.25333 (now demolished)

Reggie's faked suicide, which formed part of the title sequence, occurred at West Bay, Dorset, with the East Cliff visible in the very opening shot.[7]

The first episode begins with commuters making their way to Norbiton railway station in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. The morning train's constant lateness in the earlier series is usually blamed on incidents at actual stations along the railway from Norbiton and Kingston to Waterloo.


  1. David Nobbs, I Didn't Get Where I Am Today, Heinemann, 2003, pp. 219-222.
  2. Paul Fisher (1982-12-27). "Reggie Online – Reginald Perrin Christmas Special". Retrieved 2013-05-31.
  3. "Press Office – Martin Clunes to star in BBC One's revival of Reggie Perrin". BBC. Retrieved 2013-05-31.
  4. Paul Fisher. "Reggie Online – Biographies of Supporting Cast". Retrieved 2013-05-31.
  5. Comedy Connections, BBC, 2004
  6. Reginald Perrin TV Locations at Gloucestershire On Screen
  7. The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin at Comedy England. Retrieved January 2009
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