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His Life & Career - Reginald Perrin - Rising Damp

Reggie Online: The Official Reginald Perrin web site

Frequently-Asked Questions

This document contains what the author assumes would be the most frequently-asked questions on the subject of the
1970s BBC situation comedy “The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin” and the 1996 sequel “The Legacy Of Reginald Perrin”.
If there are questions that can not be answered by this document please email the author, for inclusion in future versions.

What were the series/books all about?
Why  "...Fall And Rise..."?
How many series were there and when were they broadcast?
Who wrote it? Was it adapted from a novel?
Wasn't there a load of catchphrases in this series?
Wasn't there an American version of "...Reginald Perrin"?
Can I still buy the books? What about the videos?
Who were the main cast?
Didn’t someone famous "do a Reggie Perrin" ?

What were the series all about?

    Reginald Iolanthe Perrin is a 46-year-old senior sales executive with Sunshine Desserts, a company that manufactures instant puddings, jellies and ices. He lives in the London commuter-belt town of Climthorpe with his wife, Elizabeth. They have two children: Mark, a budding actor, and Linda, who is married to Tom Patterson. They have two small children, Adam and Jocasta.
    The series revolves around Reggie as he develops a mid-life crisis, and becomes more and more frustrated at living the life of a commuter in the rat-race, every day doing the same routine – catching the same train to his office, seeing the same old faces at work, doing the same things all day, every day in his poky little office, and catching the same train home again. He feels that his life is going nowhere fast, and sets out to change that. He starts to behave eccentrically – writing rude letters, embarking on an affair with his secretary Joan and giving a drunken speech at a seminar, culminating in leaving his clothes on a Dorset beach in a faked suicide attempt, and starting a new life.
    However, he soon misses his wife and eventually returns to the fold and remarries her. He opens the Grot shop chain selling useless items at inflated prices, because he feels that “so much rubbish is sold under false pretenses these days, I decided to be honest about it.” To his amazement, Grot is a huge success, but he finds himself back in the same old routine as before. After numerous attempts to destroy Grot, he fakes another suicide – this time accompanied by his wife Elizabeth.
    Having had enough of business, Reggie then decides to open a community for the middle-aged and middle class where anyone can learn to be better people. This, too, is a huge success, until thugs threaten to destroy it and all the guests leave. In the latest series, “The Legacy…”, Reggie has died and left his family and friends £1 million each, on the condition that they earn it by doing something totally absurd. They decide to form an organisation to reverse the youth culture in today’s society, proposing young-age pensions, age hostels and so on. They march on London in a bloodless revolution with the aim of taking over the government. The executor of the will decides it was a brilliant idea – and therefore not absurd at all – and refuses to release the money.
On-site Links:  Main page

Why “…Fall and Rise…” ?

    This refers to Reggie’s mid-life crisis and self-removal from society (his ‘fall’) and the various projects he sets up (Grot and Perrins community) which become a huge success (his ‘rise’). In the novels, only the first book - detailing his life up to his first faked suicide - was called “The Fall And Rise of…”, the second book – the Grot empire – was called “The Return Of…” and the Perrins community was detailed in “The Better World Of Reginald Perrin”.

How many series were there and when were they broadcast?

    There were three series originally, all of them titled “The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin”, broadcast in 1976 (from September 8th to October 20th), 1977 (from September 21st to November 2nd) and 1978/9 (from November 29th to January 24th), respectively. The latest series, “The Legacy Of Reginald Perrin”  was broadcast in 1996 (from September 22nd to October 31st), making four series in total.
On-site Links: Episode Guide in Brief

Who wrote it? Was it adapted from a novel?

    David Nobbs is the creator of all four novels and series. However, only the first series was published as a novel before being televised. It was originally titled “The Death Of Reginald Perrin” and was published in 1975 by Victor Gollancz publishers. The BBC commissioned the pilot, and then the series, and David wrote the scripts. The second and third series were novelised in tandem with the series (the novels were known as “The Return Of Reginald Perrin” and “The Better World Of Reginald Perrin” respectively). Again, the fourth book “The Legacy Of Reginald Perrin” was published to coincide with the series.
On-site Links: David Nobbs – A Biography - The genesis of Reginald Perrin

Wasn’t there a load of catchphrases in this series?

    Oh yes! To emphasise the mundaneness of Reggie’s daily life, David Nobbs decided the characters in Reggie’s environs should have phrases that were uttered on a regular basis, sometimes ad nauseum. With the laugh-a-line scripts and fast pace of the action, the phrases tripped out until even the viewer became almost unaware of them.
    C.J. had probably the most famous catchphrase (and was recently voted one of the Top 60 catchphrases of all time): “I didn’t get where I am today…” by whatever the topic of the conversation was. In Series Three and Four he also used malonyms and malapropisms (mixed proverbs, such as “there’s no smoke without the worm turning”).
    Reggie himself used to tell Joan how late he was and why, always because of train delays (For example, “Eleven minutes late, defective bogey at Earlsfield”).
    Jimmy always had “a bit of a cock-up on the catering front” when he’d got no food to feed his army cadets or family, followed by numerous other cock-ups as the series progressed.
    Tom was always telling people how he was or wasn’t “a <whatever> person”, such as “I’m a coffee person” or “I’m not a cricket person”.
    And finally there were C.J.'s two ‘yes’ men: Tony Webster, who’s catchword was “Great!” and David Harris-Jones who was very fond of saying “Super!”
On-site Links: C.J.-isms - Reggie’s train excuses - Minutiae
Off-site Links: BBC News all-time catchphrases

Wasn’t there an American version of “...Reginald Perrin”?

    Yes.  “Reggie” starred the late Richard Mulligan as Reggie Potter in a series which was broadcast by ABC in 1983. Essentially similar to the first British series except that C.J. was a young whizzkid, Reggie worked at the Funtime Ice Cream Co. and he lusted after his son’s girlfriend.
On-site Links: Related Productions

Can I still buy the books? What about the videos?

    Yes, all four books are still available. The first three have recently been published in a single-volume omnibus by Mandarin. Most Internet bookshops have both the hardback and softback editions of “The Legacy Of Reginald Perrin”.
    At present, the first three series are available on PAL video, unedited, each in double video packages. Edited versions of the series were released on videos in the mid-1980s. These have long-since been deleted, but turn up occasionally on Internet auctions.
On-site Links: Merchandise

Who were the main cast?

Reginald Perrin was played by Leonard Rossiter.
Leonard Rossiter spent most of his professional life on stage in theatres around the UK, but he is most fondly remembered for two of his roles on television. One was Reginald Perrin, and the other was seedy landlord Rigsby in ‘Rising Damp’. British viewers will also remember his Cinzano commercials with Joan Collins. A brilliant character actor – never a comedy actor – he was highly respected for his professionalism, perfectionism, rate of delivery, and attention to detail. He starred in numerous TV plays, as well as 'Z Cars’, ‘The Avengers’ and two episodes of ‘Steptoe and Son’. His films included Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Barry Lyndon’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, plus ‘Le Petomane’, ‘Oliver!’, ‘King Rat’, ‘Luther’ and ‘Water’. He died of a heart attack in 1984, aged 57.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors
Off-site Links: Leonard Rossiter – His Life And Career

Elizabeth Perrin was played by Pauline Yates.
Pauline Yates was born in St. Helens, Merseyside. She started her acting career at Oldham Repertory Theatre at the age of seventeen. She has appeared in many television series including ‘Crown Court’ and ‘Armchair Theatre’, and recently partnered Richard ‘Victor Meldrew’ Wilson in a commercial for Abbey National Building Society.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors

Jimmy Anderson was played by Geoffrey Palmer.
Geoffrey Palmer was born in London. After completing his national service he worked in an exports office and an accountancy before joining an amateur dramatics society. He became assistant stage manager at the Q Theatre in London, before moving to Croydon Theatre and touring. He then moved into TV with bit parts in the comedy shows of Arthur Askey, Harry Worth and Jimmy James among others. He is fondly remembered for ‘Butterflies’ with Wendy Craig and ‘As Time Goes By’ with Dame Judi Dench.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors

C.J. (Charles Jefferson) was played by John Barron.
John Barron was born in 1920 and first went into acting after training with RADA from 1938. He spent many years in repertory theatre before his first television performance for the BBC in 1948. He appeared regularly in 'Emergency Ward 10', ‘Softly, Softly’, ‘Whoops Apocalypse’ and occasional roles in ‘To The Manor Born’ and ‘Don’t Wait Up’. He considers C.J. as the highlight of his career.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors

Joan Greengross was played by Sue Nicholls.
Born in Walsall, West Midlands, the daughter of Lord Harmar Nicholls, she trained in RADA for two years as an assistant stage manager. Her TV debut came in the soap opera ‘Crossroads’ in 1964. She had a Top 20 hit single in 1968 called ‘Where Will You Be?’ Her other TV roles include ‘The Professionals’, ‘Rentaghost’, and ‘Dixon of Dock Green’. She is now a central character, Councillor Audrey Roberts, in the long-running soap ‘Coronation Street’.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors

Linda Patterson was played by Sally-Jane Spencer.
Sally-Jane was born in Buckinghamshire. After training at drama school she took the unusual step of making her debut performance on the West End stage in ‘The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie’. She then continued in theatre roles before leving the industry to raise a family. She has a son and a daughter, both teenagers.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors

Tom Patterson was played by Tim Preece (Series 1,2 & 4) and Leslie Schofield (Series 3).
Tim Preece was born in Shropshire. After treading the boards in school plays, he entered theatre professionally playing Whitby, Bristol, Salisbury and Farnham repertory theatres, before bit-parts in comedy shows. More regularly he has appeared in ‘Waiting For God’, ‘Just William’ and ‘Porterhouse Blue’.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors
Leslie Schofield was born in Oldham. His first taste of acting came during ten years service in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. He continued acting in civvy street, and has appeared in ‘The Gentle Touch’ and ‘Spoils Of War’. He currently plays Jeff Healy in the BBC soap Eastenders.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors

Gerald ‘Doc’ Morrissey was played by John Horsley.
John was born in Essex in 1920 and made his acting debut at the Theatre Royal, Bournemouth. He served in Italy during the war, then appeared in numerous films including ‘Ben Hur’, ‘Sink The Bismarck!’, and ‘Dunkirk’. His TV appearances included ‘Dempsey & Makepeace’, ‘Z Cars’, ‘Softly, Softly’ and ‘You Rang M’Lord’ for several series.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors

Tony Webster was played by Trevor Adams.
Trevor trained with RADA and was a member of the National Youth Theatre before turning to television. He has appeared in programmes including ‘Fawlty Towers’, 'Dixon Of Dock Green' and 'The Professionals'. In 1982 he quit acting for a career in law, which lasted twelve years. He has now returned to acting.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors

David Harris-Jones was played by Bruce Bould.
Born in Bradford to actor parents, Bruce began his own acting career aged seventeen at the Birmingham Repertory, before joining RADA. His first television role was in the BBC sitcom 'The Good Life', and has also appeared in 'To The Manor Born', 'Shelley', and 'Drop The Dead Donkey'. He is married to Theresa Watson who played his wife Prue in Series Three and Four.
On-site Links: Biographies of main actors

Didn't someone famous "do a Reggie Perrin" ?

    Sort of, although he was not influenced by the novel or TV series. John Stonehouse was a British Member of Parliament in Harold Wilson's cabinet in 1970, serving in the position of Postmaster General. The Labour Party lost the 1970 General Election, and Stonehouse was sacked. He aspired to make himself a millionaire and set up numerous companies. One by one they failed and, together with fraudulent business deals and trying to keep his affair with his secretary a secret, his problems piled up until, in mid-1974, he faked his suicide by leaving his clothes on a Miami beach, and fled to Australia in disguise and on a false passport. The Australian police eventually caught up with him in Denmark, and after the longest fraud trial in UK legal history he was found guilty on 18 charges of fraud and theft, and served five years of a seven year sentence. He died of a heart attack in 1988.
    Note: Contrary to popular belief, John Stonehouse did not  "do a Reggie Perrin". David Nobbs had written the novel before  Stonehouse faked his suicide in the summer of 1974, but the novel was not published until 1975. So David did not use details of the incident in his book, and Stonehouse did not - could  not - have copied Reginald Perrin. It was all simply - yet staggeringly - a complete coincidence. (However, other people since the novels' publication have "done a Reggie Perrin", for whatever reason they feel their lives dictate). See the link below for details.
On-site Links:  - John Stonehouse story

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