Reggie Perrin: Episode 6
And here we are, at episode six, the last in the series. After coasting along somewhat between episodes one and four, episode five started to hot up a bit, and episode six is the crunch, kicking off with Reggie attacking his work things, clearly setting us up for an interesting time.
For this episode, Nye and Nobbs refer back to a lot of the original series, perhaps as a symbolic tool to signify the true spirit of Reggie breaking through, or maybe a tacit acceptance that the original dialogue can't really be bettered. Whatever it is, it really kicks the series into gear a bit more, with everyone coming out looking a lot better than at the start. After Reggie's opener, we see Chris with an enormous coffee cup, with the next shot showing him reading 'Boss' magazine, with no other than John Barron on the cover as CJ, which is a truly great moment. Chris rides this wave of recognition by repeating "One, two, three, four, always make them wait outside the door: five, six, seven, eight, always pays to make them wait" whilst Jasmine is outside. Chris responds to both her and Steve and Anthony's concern about Reggie's mental health by announcing that he's going to 'fight fire with fire' by giving Reggie 24 hours to write the keynote speech for the British Skin Health Foundation Delegation: 'Men Can Be Beautiful Too'. He is totally confident that this is an appropiate response.
Insert standard "I didn't get where I am today" joke here.
When Reggie comes into work, Vicky, hitherto a rather forgettable character, gets another side to her when she asks Reggie excitedly whether he's excited about the office party that night, and shows her friendly nature by stating that she looks forward to meeting colleagues' other halves at the parties. Reggie's statement of "I'm coming as Existential Crisis Man" is met with her confused response:"It's not a fancy dress party". Amazingly for Reggie, Chris agrees to see him at Reggie's nominated time of 'straightaway', but is alarmed when Reggie quotes his 'fighting fire with fire' phrase back at him when he reveals his plan. Chris is shown pretending to play golf with a giant promotional razor in his office, which is a nice silly joke, and Chris is later shown to be using the razor as a tool to try and seduce Jasmine at the office party.
We then cut to Reggie and Nicola getting ready to go to the party, with Nicola asking Reggie: "Are you going to introduce me to people properly this time, or leave me trailing behind you like an old turd hanging off the back of a sheep?". Both Nicola's dad and Reggie's mum turn up at the house, both with their own requests, but Reggie and Nicola tell them that they'll be alone together in the house. Reggie rather splendidly 'introduces' them with the phrase "Godzilla, have you met The Artful Dodger?" As the dad is ex-army (with a curious reference to him still having arms, which seems to hint at him having the same ambition as the old Jimmy to set up a Secret Army), and the mum is a pacifist who supported the Greenham Common protests, it seems that they'll have enough arguing to keep them entertained. As long as the house doesn't run out of objects for her to throw at him.
Reggie gets his pleasantries at the party over and done with quickly by asking a guest: "Who's your partner, where do you live, how many kids have you got and what do you do for a living?" The guest takes it in good spirit. However, another of the major surprises of the episode turns up here, with Steve and Anthony, believe or not, actually being FUNNY. Seeing Anthony with an attractive girl on his arm, Nicola is curious, and soon gets Anthony to confess that he's paid for his companion, as he can't turn up without a girlfriend. We then find out that Steve gets her between 10pm and midnight, making his catchphrase "I'm almost physically excited" an actual JOKE. And a rather good one, well delivered. Thank fuck for that! There's an interesting homoerotic buzz between Steve and Anthony in this episode, which is hinted at before, but Anthony's remark about having to hire a girlfriend rings true with Chris' character, as Chris doesn't seem like a man who would approve of homosexuality. The horseplay between Anthony, who's wearing a water cooler bottle on his head, and Steve, who's advancing with the giant razor, is amusing, but it's the meaningful dancing between the pair of them, holding the bottle between their torsos, that really makes the true nature of their relationship obvious to the viewer. Which makes them rather sweet, and a lot more likable than they've been previously.
Anthony, being funny. Wow.
Reggie almost drops himself in it by telling Jasmine how beautiful she looks in Nicola's earshot, and Nicola reveals to Jasmine in Reggie's presence that she tells people she's married to a dentist because it sounds less boring. Reggie looks genuinely upset by this, as presumably it confirms his feelings that his job is worthless. He doesn't feel any better after his chat with the Wellness Person, who, funnily enough, DOES put on her 'Wellness Hat' when giving him such gems of advice like "I always think of happiness as a cow in a field; if you stare at it too hard, it goes away". Chris is his usual charming self, calling Nicola 'Sarah', and being confused by Reggie's assertion that "I didn't get where I am today without showcasing our male grooming range", but he really shows his dark side by what looks like a forced snog with Jasmine, who is trying to push him away. As Jasmine has already mentioned her lack of a partner, it does look like a situation where she doesn't really want to kiss Chris, but has decided that she's run out of options. Reggie sees them, but he doesn't quite see Jasmine's reluctance, and is shocked and disappointed. The large number of people all in one scene does rather remind me of the sketches in Harry Enfield and Chums, but unfortunately, it's not quite as funny. Still, it's full of nice jokes and little character moments, with Colin finally getting his own back on Reggie by producing an attractive wife and quoting a statistic which justifies this apparent oddity. His opening salvo to Reggie "So, what are you driving these days?" is also similar to the Harry Enfield and Chums sketch The Bores: "So, what are we driving at the moment?" Is Nye or Nobbs a fan?
When Reggie and Nicola get home, they find that their respective parents have reached the logical conclusion to their arguing and have slept together. Naturally, Nicola and Reggie are both horrified, with Reggie exclaiming "Why are the wrong people always together?" which, unsurprisingly, leaves Nicola looking upset. At last, Geoffery Whitehead and Wendy Craig get the chance to shine a bit, both unashamed of their dalliance, and a great line from Nicola's dad to Reggie: "Cock-up on the cock-up front the third time, but I'm no spring chicken". This conversation with Reggie as he tries to write his speech in the early hours gives us the essential key to Reggie's malaise: "My job is now a mystery to me, I live in a suburban negative equity compound, I think I still love my wife; she'd rather be with a dentist, and I caught the other woman I think I love sucking the face of the Antichrist. The worst thing is, I don't really know what's wrong."
This sets us up nicely for Reggie's delay in going to work the next morning, where he grabs Nicola and tells her that he loves her, which alarms her, but he assures her that all is well. After depositing a suitcase with Left Luggage, he goes into work, which gives us another nice moment with Vicky when Reggie tells her that he'll miss her, and she assumes that he's sacking her because he didn't like her party dress. She replies "Well, you try looking like a princess on my salary!" and runs off crying. Reggie's deletion of his Jasmine screensaver results in one of Chris popping up with some malevolence, and Reggie's attempt to tell Anthony and Steve that he admires their enthusiam and innocence results in them accusing him of taking the piss, which would be a nice set-up for the scene that the audience now know is coming, but they run after him apologising, which does spoil it a little. The 'Shaving for self-harmers' idea on their whiteboard is a nice joke, though.
WANT AS WALLPAPER KTHXBYE
All fans of the original series will recognise the similarities between the speech in the original series and this one, and similar topics are touched upon. Reggie talks of the absurdity of the title 'Men Can Be Beautiful Too', as he talks about how his industry relies on telling people they are ugly when they were already beautiful. He also touches on about consumerism, car culture, and waste. He practically paraphrases the original Reggie by exclaiming "What have I done with my life? I've sold people razors so that they can shave their faces, and guess what happens the next day? IT ALL GROWS BACK AGAIN! What's it going to say on my gravestone? Here lies Reggie Perrin; he didn't know the names of the flowers, or the trees, but he did know the eye-brow pencil figures for Schleswig-Holstein!" Reggie is dragged out by security, past Jasmine looking upset and concerned. As we wait for the inevitable scene, Reggie arrives at the station with his suitcase, and says "No, no more commuting", which is a nice reference to Reggie taking a train to the Dorset coast in the old series and hitchhikes to the beach, where he strips off. The closing line is a direct quotation from the original: "Goodbye old Reggie, hello new Reggie. Well, why not just end it all? Prove once and for all that I'm not a fraud? Just walk out to sea with my hands raised above my head, until finally, only two fingers are visible, a last defiant gesture to a hostile world." Which is fair enough, as the original dialogue couldn't have been improved upon.
And there we are left, staring at Clunes' naked arse and wondering just where the second series will take us, as the end seems to have been written in confident expectation of one. Although this episode was a great deal of fun, again, as with all the episodes, it does give the impression of a mediocre sitcom with a better one just peeping through the cracks. So, although it's probably the best of the series, it's still...