One of the things that's missing from our Television screens today is a good old fashioned situation comedy. Any glint of a funny series is missing amongst the sea of low budget formulaic reality, house, cooking, sewing and baking shows. What comedies there are tend to be crass and slapstick ("Mrs Brown's Boys") or re-commissioned well past their short sell-by date ("My Family").
Fortunately good old BBC4 is there to ride to our rescue with re-runs of classics from the Good Old Days. Having recently enjoyed the complete, sublime series of "Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads" they have followed through with the wonderful 1980's "Ever Decreasing Circles" which is just as funny and sharply observed as it ever was. Written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey ("Please Sir", "The Good Life", "Brush Strokes") it follows the adventures of tedious OCD control freak Martin (Richard Briers) and his long suffering wife Ann (Penelope Wilton ) who hankers after suave and laid back new neighbour Paul (Peter Egan). Martin is a genius invention of the writers and evokes just the right balance of dread and sympathy as he obsesses over trivia and twiddles the curly phone cord to straighten it (what's a curly phone cord, enquires my under 35 reader). It's a "Close Close" and neighbours Howard and Hilda Hughes add colour with their matching knitted sweaters.
But here's the thing.
In the original showing, I closely identified with the Paul character and was once actually mistaken for him. Now with the lapse of 30 years, I relate much more closely to (and have been directly compared with by certain parties!) the Briers character Martin.
Now I'm dreading the next re-run of "One Foot in the Grave".