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The classic comedy returns to the BBC next week. It centres on a working dad. But is it out of date or ahead of its time?
It’s lockdown. It’s half term. And it’s raining. Obviously all attempts to limit screen time have gone to pot.
For the adults as well as the children in our house.
But really in the current climate if anyone in your family develops square eyes that seems a minor complaint compared to the more significant health issues at large just now.
‘Good enough is good enough’ remains my parenting mantra. So I urge anyone not to beat themselves up for failing to curb screen time. In fact once you embrace it there’s some interesting stuff to watch.
My son and I have got into the BBC’s Amazing Hotels: life beyond the lobby. It serves as a sort of substitute for actual travel. The downside is that now he wants to go stay at the remarkable locations featured in the series. Working out the cost for a few nights stay is part of his homeschool maths. Working out whether we can afford it doesn’t count as homeschooling because the answer is always no.
And Netflix’s latest big movie release is an interesting one for working dads. News of the World, starring Tom Hanks is about a man and a child facing a series of challenges in the Wild West. Fundamentally he has to face up to his emotions and realise his value as a parent, albeit a surrogate one. (As a journalist the through line about the power of words, stories and a free press is also encouraging.) It has an awful lot in common with Star Wars spin off The Mandalorian, which I’ve written about before. That’s two straws in the wind now dealing with a different approach to men, fatherhood, heroes.
But the show I’m really looking forward to starts on BBC4 next week. They are re-running The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. Writer David Nobbs and lead Leonard Rossiter were at the height of their powers when they came together for what’s regarded as a classic comedy. And it centres on a working dad. But will it stand the test of time?
Reggie Perrin lusts after his secretary and regards his mother-in-law as a hippopotamus. Hardly an enlightened approach to gender relations at home or at work.
It was always billed as a satire but will we find the ‘sit’ in the sitcom quite so funny at this distance? What we might previously have called a mid life crisis we’d now regard as a mental health emergency. The power relations at Sunshine Desserts are toxic. His politically correct son-in-law is played for laughs. His ex-Army brother in law would now be diagnosed with PTSD – no laughing matter.
I look forward to finding out if these problems are fundamental to the humour, making it no longer actually funny, or if it’s possible to enjoy the series over again.
Is Reggie Perrin a relic, best left in the past with some of the attitudes on display in the programme? Or is he an early version of the modern working dad – looking for something more than the 9-5, bound by society’s norms and demonstrating that if you could treating working dads the same way then they will be damaged? Is he a role model?
I’ll report back here or on our social media channels. Why not watch it when it airs on Tuesday, share your thoughts and join the conversation.