Ever Decreasing Circles

1984 | United Kingdom

Although very popular in its day this BBC sitcom now seems to be curiously overlooked. It was written by the same pair responsible for The Good Life; John Esmonde and Bob Larbey, and shared a star with that series in Richard Briers. 

Briers' character is Martin Bryce, employee in middle management at Mole Valley Valves, driver of a Dormobile and all-round interfering know-it-all. Martin is essentially a good man who has the welfare of his little community at heart. Unfortunately his mission in life seems to be to organise everything and everyone around him down to the last nit-picking detail, which involves setting up committees, drawing up rotas and chairing endless meetings. He also drives his long-suffering but ever-loyal wife Ann (Penelope Wilton) to distraction in the process. They live a typical suburban life at Brooksmead in The Close but when handsome, successful businessman Paul Ryman moves in next door Martin's kingdom is threatened. His new neighbour, played by Peter Egan, is everything he is not - suave, witty, charming; he seems to sail through life without any effort at all. 

Paul upstages Martin constantly, usually without meaning to and quickly becomes popular in the neighbourhood. However, Paul's efforts to get involved with community matters lead to friction as Martin sees him as a rival while his relaxed attitude to life is a source of constant irritation. Such seemingly trivial things as sitting at a different table in the pub are unthinkable to Martin. There is an obvious attraction between Ann and Paul which never goes beyond mild flirtation. 

Despite her frequent exasperation with her husband, Ann does love him very much and although Paul can't resist sending Martin up occasionally he is far too nice to try and steal his wife. Martin is regarded as a bit of a joke by some residents but can usually count on the staunch support of friends Howard and Hilda Hughes, a couple with a fondness for wearing matching outfits. Martin could have easily been a very unsympathetic character but Richard Briers made him human despite his obsessiveness and audiences warmed to him.

Published on December 10th, 2018. Review: Denise Lovell.