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Ever Decreasing Circles

Started by non capisco, July 13, 2022, 10:32:56 PM

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non capisco

I hadn't previously seen any of these beyond vague memories of the title sequence and Harold and Hilda in their matching his 'n' hers clobber from back in the '80s when terrestrial telly was invariably switched on in every household. It's currently being repeated on BBC4 and I tanned all the first series in one go on iPlayer. It's fantastic, isn't it? Richard Briers as Martin Bryce is one of the best performed sitcom characters I've ever seen, simultaneously maddening and deeply relatable. Penelope Wilton and Peter Egan are similarly perfectly cast. I can't find this streaming on any platform I've got but if it was I'd happily binge the rest of the (I think) four series right now.

grainger

Edit: deleted my post, because it was wrong.

non capisco

Quote from: grainger on July 13, 2022, 10:38:30 PMEdit: deleted my post, because it was wrong.

Didn't see what you said but it prevented a 0 Replies thread so much obliged.

pigamus

My theory is it's the title. If it had a more memorable title it wouldn't be as unjustly forgotten as it is - it was hugely popular and well loved in its day.

Ignatius_S

It's a wonderful series and one that rewards rewatches. Individual episodes are brilliant and the overall arc of the show is so satisfying. Looking back, there were times that my loyalties switched between Martin and Paul - however, for me, I think Ann is the key to the show.

Esmonde and Larby were an incredible writing team - and this series evolved from a play that they wrote called Hiccups. Have read a little about it and would love to see a production.

I think the second series has two episodes - one about snooker and one about cricket - which are big favourites of mine.

I remember at least one thread here about the series here that would be worth revisiting but it contains spoilers, so leave off for now! There's also one idea the writers had for the show's ongoing story, which they rejected - very wisely in my opinion but best left until you've watched it all.

idunnosomename

I recall I watched all of it repeated on UK Gold in the early noughties. when it was old then as those repeats are now. anyway yeah it's great. sorry this isn't a content-packed post.

Glebe

Watched a late-night rerun of Gold's Britain's Greatest Comedy Character recently, Peter Egan was part of the panel, singing Gervais' praises... he's in After Life of course, alongside fellow Decreasing Circles star Penelope Wilton, nice to see her popping up in films now and again, with the likes of her role as Shaun's Mum in Shaun of the Dead and more recently the Downton Abbey movies and Operation Mincemeat.

Ignatius_S

Quote from: pigamus on July 13, 2022, 11:49:01 PMMy theory is it's the title. If it had a more memorable title it wouldn't be as unjustly forgotten as it is - it was hugely popular and well loved in its day.

In the past, it's a series that I've felt is held in high esteem but one that does deserve more recognition, but personally, wouldn't feel it's a forgotten show.

It's been repeated a fair bit, particularly on digital channels, more so than other shows of the period and one that crops up on those meaningless top 100 sitcoms or characters list shows.

It's also a show that I would say every so often gets favourable retrospective coverage in the press and is also helped by people such as Gervais name-checking it.

The series isn't always a comfortable watch and have seen a fair few comments by those who find it quite melancholic, which I feel played a big part in how it's perceived. However, I think it's fair to say that a lot of Esmonde and Larby's work doesn't seem to be in anything like the public consciousness as it deserves to be.



Ignatius_S

Quote from: Glebe on July 14, 2022, 12:21:25 AMWatched a late-night rerun of Gold's Britain's Greatest Comedy Character recently, Peter Egan was part of the panel, singing Gervais' praises... he's in After Life of course, alongside fellow Decreasing Circles star Penelope Wilton, nice to see her popping up in films now and again, with the likes of her role as Shaun's Mum in Shaun of the Dead and more recently the Downton Abbey movies and Operation Mincemeat.

Wilton was in the main cast of the DA series, in which Egan had a recurring role in. The latter was in ITV's Unforgotten, which was very good but sadly no Wilton.



Glebe

Quote from: Ignatius_S on July 14, 2022, 12:34:30 AMWilton was in the main cast of the DA series, in which Egan had a recurring role in. The latter was in ITV's Unforgotten, which was very good but sadly no Wilton.

Knew Wilton was in the series, didn't know Egan popped up though.

RE: That Gold show, Egan mentions being mates with Richard Wilson and encouraging him to do One Foot. Also expresses his dislike of Keeping Up Appearances!

Going off topic here but David Quantick was part of the panel and dismissed Blackadder as 'student comedy', the curmudgeonly git!

Uncle TechTip

It's definitely one of those series with great writing, but seems to be taken to the stratosphere by the cast, and not just the main three - the minor characters are excellently played. A bit like (early) Only Fools. A real theatrical feel to the show, farcical in nature but also with strong dramatic threads running through it. They play well with the audience who you can hear are often in proper genuine stitches.

There's an Xmas special which is often skipped on the repeats and also the final episode, both of these casting a heart-rending dramatic light on the setup. Hunt these out if they don't show them.

Lovely warm 80s Radio 4 feeling to the situation too, whilst poking fun at those sorts of people.

Definitely the one sitcom you rejected as a kid as being "All Nice And Cosy in the Family Home" but it's much deeper than that.

Glebe

In the wrong hands Howard & Hilda could have come off as way too broad but the writing and performances are good enough that you accept them as 'real' people.

RE: Wilton in Shaun of the Dead, I wonder if her appearance in that inspired Briers to accept a role in the awful Cockneys vs Zombies?

shiftwork2

Hello, Martin.

One of the finest sitcoms.  Disagree about the title, it encapsulates what is so different about this dark Trojan horse and its low wattage passions.

The scene in which Martin shops for screws in an old fashioned hardware shop and is almost moved to tears by a man who will sell him a single screw almost moves me to tears.

mrClaypole

I absolutely love the show. I was under 10 when it began and dismissed it as a Terry and June style sitcom so didn't really watch it with my parents originally.
My love of the show began in the mid 90s when it was repeated early morning's on UK gold at the weekends, I used to watch it before I went to work.
Martin Bryce is such a brilliant character so well written.  The dynamics of all the inter mingling relationships between the main characters is wonderful.  The energy Richard Briers expels in his frustration at Paul's cool manner is almost brain aneurysm inducing.

I recommend the DVD boxset. It has some great extras and also the seldom repeated last episode which in itself is a monumental watch.
It's sad but I often think what kind of life Martin and Ann would be having now away from the close and with the changes we learn about in that last episode.

Des Wigwam

#14
Thanks for the heads up. It was always more of a grown up sitcom and has a bit of Sunday dread attached to it for me but I don't think I've seen an episode since it aired. Posting "Hello, Martin" took me right back though. I never liked Howard and Hilda - I thought they were too broad for some reason but am happy to re-evalute - 12 year old me wasn't right about everything.

Rule of Three podcast has an episode with Katherine Jakeways talking about it. Remember really enjoying listening to that so would recommend.

Edit - it's the Cricket episode she discusses.

Thosworth

Hope I'm not misremembering, but I'm sure in a later series there's a scene where Martin is recounting a sad event from his childhood, and Peter Egan is completely corpsing and can't get his line out without laughing.

pigamus

Think I follow Peter Egan on Twitter, big animal rights fella now

Brundle-Fly

I remember liking first time around as a late teen, but disconcertingly  finding some of Martin's tics a bit too much like my father's. eg: the ritualistic detangling of the landline phone cord and that annoying whistle.

monkfromhavana

One of my favourite sitcoms. As Ingatius_S said, the snooker and cricket episodes are fantastic, Howard in the former and Martin in the latter looking glum in the trees is fantastic stuff.

Also, it neatly wrapped up why Anne doesn't just run off with Paul in a really believable and touching way.

ah it's just a great show all round.

Catalogue Trousers

Quote from: Brundle-Fly on July 14, 2022, 12:45:38 PMI remember liking first time around as a late teen, but disconcertingly  finding some of Martin's tics a bit too much like my father's. eg: the ritualistic detangling of the landline phone cord and that annoying whistle.

This seems to be a thing with Briers characters - see also Tom Good and his constant irksome whistle of an approximation of a couple of bars of Over The Rainbow.

Definitely one of those series that makes you double take because at first glance it could so easily seem to be naff humdrum suburban sitcom going nowhere with nothing to say. However it shouldn't take the discerning (ahem, that's us) long to see it's depths. It's like watching a naff humdrum... sitcom change from 2D to 3D before your eyes. Stereotypes we're usually meant to laugh at are instead written and played with intelligence and subtlety; meaning what we are laughing at is life not individuals. It's a lovely show.


Tempted to start a 'Reason you signed up to CAB' thread as, not to hijack the thread, after reading your merry quips and thoughtful 'takes' for about 10 years I signed up on a related note.
  Someone shat on the forever shat on Next of Kin in a thread about bad sitcoms. I had recently watched it and wanted to defend it - I didn't as I was too scared to post! However, while lacking some of the depth of EDC I got a similar sense from watching it.

  About Grandparents (Penelope Keith and William Guant) taking responsibility for their grandchildren on the death of their son and daughter-in-law. It has a very serious premise, which is in danger at times of being undercut but adds a gravity to what might otherwise be a naff humdrum... sitcom. It starts off with an odd couple thing with the kids being into environmentalism and other left leaning ideals and the grandparents being old socialite tories ala Jerry and Margo in The Good Life.
   However, what I enjoyed over its 3 seasons was the gradual realisation from the grandparents that they were bad parents and should be better. It was very subtly handled, the last episode ending in a speech from Keith after chewing out another parent at school for neglecting their child.
  I feel that while lacking the intelligence and charm in the script, there are similarities in style between the two.


That said it's not in the same league as EDC and everything to do with the handyman (who takes about 2 years to convert a garage?!) and the cleaner IS naff humdrum... shit but I felt the family dynamics were well played and it was much better than it was talked about here.

Sorry, I think I needed to get that off my chest!

Anyway, ever decreasing circles, eh?
 

neveragain

I love the show and am happy to say it was CaB that got me onto it, at an adolescent age when I searched for any comedy with darker edges (see also: Briers in the superb If You See God, Tell Him.)

There's been a lot of re-evaluating of late and, again happily, I've seen many people praise Briers' performance to the skies.

It's a favourite of the writers of The Framley Examiner and there are references hidden throughout (Gasthaus Glockenspiel gets a mention). Also, the Alan Partridge Open Books special has Robert Popper playing a someone who's "filling in for our regular host Martin Bryce."

Quote from: Ignatius_S on July 13, 2022, 11:59:00 PMThere's also one idea the writers had for the show's ongoing story, which they rejected - very wisely in my opinion but best left until you've watched it all.

Be interested to hear what this is please, Ig.

Brundle-Fly

Quote from: Catalogue Trousers on July 14, 2022, 01:51:24 PMThis seems to be a thing with Briers characters - see also Tom Good and his constant irksome whistle of an approximation of a couple of bars of Over The Rainbow.

Actually, I've Tom and Martin mixed up then. It was Tom who was the whistler and Martin the phone cord disentangler.

gilbertharding

Quote from: Des Wigwam on July 14, 2022, 10:55:21 AMRule of Three podcast has an episode with Katherine Jakeways talking about it. Remember really enjoying listening to that so would recommend.

Edit - it's the Cricket episode she discusses.

A good episode - of the podcast, and EDC. So many twists and turns. Also one of the great fictional cricket matches (another one, of course, featuring on Dad's Army).

The BBC4 re-runs are highlighting how the early episodes are clearly supposed to have a 'story arc' (as we definitely never called it at the time) because of the way the episodes kind of just *finish* when the time's up.

Quote from: neveragain on July 14, 2022, 03:49:46 PMIt's a favourite of the writers of The Framley Examiner and there are references hidden throughout (Gasthaus Glockenspiel gets a mention).

When investigating the demise of Great Big Owl, I noticed that the Framely lot are also directors of a company called Mole Valley Valves Ltd.

I've remember Richard Briers talk about his differing opinions of Martin Bryce and Tom Good - which I must say, I never really understood. Both of them seem to have obsessions which appear damaging to those around them...

neveragain

Yes, I believe he had more sympathy for Bryce.

Glebe

Quote from: Thosworth on July 14, 2022, 11:07:33 AMHope I'm not misremembering, but I'm sure in a later series there's a scene where Martin is recounting a sad event from his childhood, and Peter Egan is completely corpsing and can't get his line out without laughing.

There is this:


Quote from: neveragain on July 14, 2022, 08:37:44 PMYes, I believe he had more sympathy for Bryce.

Remember seeing a Good Life doco or summit where he said he felt that Tom was a bit of a hippie drop-out or something like that.

Uncle TechTip

Nice clip, interesting he's dressed like Rik was dressed in the Young Ones Good Life skit. Maybe a subtle reference.. ?

Glebe

Quote from: Uncle TechTip on July 15, 2022, 01:38:35 PMNice clip, interesting he's dressed like Rik was dressed in the Young Ones Good Life skit. Maybe a subtle reference.. ?

Haha, that's an interesting one, you never know!

Uncle TechTip

Quote from: Glebe on July 15, 2022, 02:02:08 PMHaha, that's an interesting one, you never know!

It might even be the same costume from BBC Props Dept. I'm tempted to do a frame by frame comparison.

MojoJojo

The first episode of this has dropped off iplayer, so if you're planning a rewatch, you need to hurry up.