When Reginald Perrin leaves his house each morning his wife says, "Have a good day at the office," and Reginald says, "I won't." When he comes home at night, she asks him if he had a good day at the office and Reginald says, "No."
Reginald Perrin plods in the footsteps of a long line of dreamers who have yearned for escape from middleclass normalcy, be they Walter Mitty, Billy Liar, or Alexander, the hero of a French film called "Very Happy Alexander." Reginaid is the hero of a 14-part, 1976 BBC comedy series. "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin," and it premieres locally tonight at 8 o'clock on Channel 26. The show is a pleasing and intriguing trifle, even if its theme is anything but unprecedented.
"Fall and Rise" also serves to remind us that not everything on British television is haute culture; David Hobb's script, adapted from his novel, earns laughs at the expense of open flies, double-entendre, and three chairs in the boss's office that make rude noises when people sit on them. Oddly, though while the humor leans toward the incontrovertibly silly, there is a wistful, poignant core to it take makes this far more than just a parade of abrasive jokes in the slicko style of the American sit-com.
Part of the strength is due to Leonard Rossiter's portrayal of Reginald, the trapped executive whose initial effort at stepping out consists of ordering three servings of ravioli for lunch. Rossiter's face is familiar from innumerable British movies, but he gives the character of Reginald a spontaneous credibility from the very first scenes, especially when his eye lock into a glaze when about to be overcome by a daydream.
Reginald's liberating breakdown begins in the first episode when during another long dull day at the woebegone Sunshine Dessert Company, he realizes how little he is truly concerned with "the concept of a 'ripple' in the ice cream sense of the word."
Though the milieu is inescapably British, Reginald will suffice as an everyman figure for many viewers (though the lack of a respectable everywoman figure is one of the script's central flaws). He is closely related, after all, to all the bored businessmen who regularly try to escape the confining borders of New Yorker cartoons. Reginald , we are all rooting for you.