It's a programme that can't see a fine line without walking towards it and treading catlike along it until it vanishes over the horizon. It moves from light to dark between scenes and within scenes. Benton is a naïf, a compulsive truth-teller living within an absurdly strict moral code and pathologically polite and literal mindset without ever being idiotic or unconvincing. He has impossible skills (tracking people through the mean city streets as he used to track caribou through the northwest territories as a boy) in a determinedly realistic setting. Ray is a hardbitten, cynical motormouth with an idealistic soul struggling wearily to shine through.
This article goes a long way to capturing what I loved about that series.
I watched last year's remake of The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin with some trepidation. I loved the original and, while it hasn't aged well, it was a pretty seminal piece of sitcom work. Updating it as Reggie Perrin seemed doomed, frankly.
And yet, by the end of the season, I had come to enjoy it. Underneath the traditional sitcom production values, there was something far bleaker and darker than you see in conventional comedy, and more so than there was in the original. The main arc was quicker back then, with the original fall and rise played out in a single series, with the later ones having to explore further from the core to keep it going. in the 2009 version, we were left with an angry, despairing Reggie quite possibly on the brink of committing suicide for real, rather than just staging it.
News that a second series of Reggie Perrin is coming leaves me with equally mixed feelings. The final episode left it quivering with potential, with the chance to explore the frustrations and fallacies of modern life in more detail as Reggie shed the trappings of the ordinary. Yet the press release suggest that something of a reset. That would be a shame. Here's hoping it's better than that.
From the series that was cancelled too soon…
It's not cutting-edge, it's not fashionable and it's certainly not innovative, but I'm not afraid to admit that I love Last of the Summer Wine. In a bizarre mix of modern and old, I recently used our BTVision PVR to record the whole of the most recent series of the gentle comedy – its 30th.
Yes, for over 30 years, the misadventures of a bunch of elderly folks who seem to have reverted to childhood in the Yorkshire dales have been entertaining people. And I've been enjoying it ever since, as a child, I watched it with my father. He dreamed of a retirement in the Last of the Summer Wine mold. He never got that chance – cancer took him in his mid-60s – but the programme endures, and I still enjoy it.
Most of the original cast are gone now – an inevitable consequence of a show featuring the elderly. Clegg and Ivy are still around, but there's a new trio of Entwistle, Alvin and Hobbo, roughly taking the roles of Compo, Clegg and Foggy from the classic trio of old. But, on the whole, the show hasn't changed that much. It's still an ensemble piece around a central trio, and the humour is just an exaggerated version of the mishaps of ordinary life. There was a period about 20 years ago when the stunts got more and more extravagant, but then the original cast got older and older, and the jokes slowly returned to the more conversational, situational humour in which it excels.
Yes, it's slow, childish and fundamentally unimportant. But that's the point. It's tried and tested humour, performed by actors with more comedy experience each than many TV comedies have amongst the whole cast. It's cosy, predictable and familiar. And that's why I love it. There's a place in life for both trendy urban design and an old blanket.
There have been two scifi series that have really redefined the genre in TV terms over the past couple of years. Doctor Who has proved that it can be a mass-market, mainstream hit, topping the viewing figure charts on main national TV stations.
And Battlestar Galactica has proved that it can be serious, adult drama with as much emotional weight and political focus as any drama produced on either side of the pond. It's a shame that we're only half a season from the final end of the show, but I'd rather it finished well than drifted into cancellation.