The greatest sitcom ever made and Walker Percy

I would urge Walker Percy aficionados (and indeed Confederacy of Dunces fans) to view this series (only three seasons) so there’s no “jumping the shark” moment. (Do not bother with the remake). The protagonist’s life is the most Percyean character I’ve come across outside of Percy’s own novels. Even though Simon Heffer doesn’t reference Percy, the quotes I’ve highlighted are thoroughly Percyean. Here is the salient Reggie Perrin excerpt from my article forming part of the Walker Percy symposium in Zygon. (Note 3 of the extract connotes a different scene from this one, but you get the idea: Reggie Perrin is interviewed on a program entitled “Pillock Talk,” pillock being a colloquial Briticism for an idiot or fuckwit). Despite my repeated viewing over the years, the series it has never lost it’s freshness and brutally scathing outlook.

 . . . he sets up a business selling rubbish, which makes him enormously rich. One of the many satirical points the writer, David Nobbs, makes is about the willingness in the consumer society to spend a fortune on items that are absolutely useless. But success upsets him just as failure had, and he disappears again, this time with his long-suffering wife.

Reggie finds the imprisonment by his routine so desperate because this is the only life he has, and, at 46, it is ebbing away from him. It is why he craves excitement, because neither his job, nor his domestic life, nor his boring circle of friends provide it. This sitcom is an exploration of the tragedy of human existence, in which a boring life is made additionally tragic because there appears to be no eternal life to follow it.

Theirs was not a life of deprivation or underprivilege – quite the reverse. But it was a life of formality, confinement, and of a barely suppressed outrage at the sheer ordinariness and repetitiveness of it all. It is no coincidence that, in the early programmes, the climax of the action is Reggie screaming.

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