Ever Decreasing Circles

What's not currently on the box
cdnbob
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Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by cdnbob »

I just started watching the Complete Series DVD set for "Ever Decreasing Circles" last night. First time I'd ever seen the show as I don't recall it ever airing in Canada on any networks or seen via any U.S. PBS stations. I see the show ran for four seasons/series. Was just wondering how popular this show was in general and what comments any of you on the board might have on the series?

So far I've only watched the very first episode of the series - I gather Peter Egan's character is suppose to be gay or at least that's what I've thought from the way the character is played. It's funny but the character for some odd reason reminds me of how he played Oscar Wilde in "Lillie". Richard Briers main character reminded me of Hyacynth Bucket in that they both are busybodies and slightly OTT. And OMG, Penelope Wilton - Harriet Jones MP. Wow!

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Billy Smart
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Billy Smart »

As luck would have it, I read this immediately after seeing the eleventh episode on a rewatch of the entire series!

I think that its fair to say that the series is very highly regarded, although probably not that well known among generations too young to have seen it when it was first braodcast. I think that Martin Bryce is one of the best portrayals of jealousy, pride and envy in any sitcom, and its a credit to the writing and Richard Briers that such a tiresome man can be read so empathetically. There is an interview with Ricky Gervais where he listed this as one of his favourite sitcoms, and once people read that they could really see how it works as an influence on David Brent - although I'd much rather live in the world of Mole Valley Valves than Wernham Hogg!

I think it fair to say that your initial reading of the character of Paul won't continue for much longer! But you do pick up on something quite interesting, in that he is viewed as 'other' in some way when he arrives on the Close, carrying a sophistication and inscruitbilty that Martin immediately mistrusts. Indeed, the first series is a horse of a slightly different colour to what the programme became after that - its only five episodes long, because it was decided to abandon the final part, because it would have taken a plot decision between Ann and Paul which would have been a mistake, making the characters less trustworthy and changing the potential comic dynamic. Watching the first series, I just feel that Paul and Ann have a terrible marriage, but subsequent episodes show how they tolerate and support each other, even while Martin remains insufferable - a difficult trick to pull off.

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Simon36
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Simon36 »

Its a lovely show, was never as popular as The Good Life but has some beautiful moments, especially when we see Martin's love for Ann and his loyalty to her shine through. But what spoils it at times is some dreadful writing too, when characterisation becomes so extreme and stories plain idiotic. (ie The Public Footpath episode). Martin in some episodes goes from being anally retentive to just barking mad. The Footpath episode incidentally shows a very smug and unsympathetic Paul too. Its just dreadful.

Mark Wright
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Mark Wright »

If you approach EDC in the right frame of mind, you'll hopefully agree that it's one of the finest British sitcoms of the 1980s. It might take a while for it to click, but once you've "got it", you'll find yourself re-watching it, just to enjoy the subtle nuances and attention to detail that's crammed into each episode. I came to it late, but quickly fell under its spell. It's no wonder that Gervais cites it as an influence - EDC was possibly the first British multi-layered sitcom to operate at different levels: masquerading as a twee domestic set-up complete with overplayed performances, while dripping with pathos and irony for those who could detect it.

As for how it was received by the great British public, well, EDC was enough of a mainstream hit to sustain it for four series, though I suspect a large proportion of the audience viewed it as nothing more than a slightly-odd alternative to Terry and June, but "with that bloke from The Good Life who keeps falling out with his next-door neighbour". The same thing happened with the similarly densely packed One Foot in the Grave: discerning viewers enjoyed its creative exposition and surrealism, while others merely guffawed at "that old man who says 'I don't believe it' all the time". Hurrah for the prop-up power of the lowest common denominator to keep these things going.

The above is just a personal viewpoint of course. Maybe you need to be middle-aged (AND British) to enjoy either to their full extent. As I get older, I find myself becoming ever more OCD like Martin (or 'anally retentive' as it used to be called), not quite to the point where I'm forever re-hooking the phone and straightening things, but close. And just as Victor became increasingly exasperated and unhinged at the inexplicably absurd build-up of nuisances he faced each episode, I'm starting to realise that some of those situations weren't quite as bizarre as my younger-self imagined... And there's the fact that I had a huge crush on Penelope Wilton.

"Hell's bells!" ... "I don't believe it!" ... "Too right, old man!" ..."I'll throttle the bloody lot of you!" ... Etc!

Right then. I trust you won't think me rude, but I'm off to defrag my hard drive. Gotta do that, you know? Ccleaner's the man for the job! Really hits the spot when it comes to sorting out your bits and bobs, doesn't it Howard? ... Sorry love? ... Oh, about two hours I think, isn't it? <checks screen> Actually - synchronise watches, Howard! - successful defragmentation should be achieved by 2.24am precisely - give or take the odd virus - now there's a thought, I probably ought t....... (fade to black)

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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by GarethR »

Billy Smart wrote: I think that its fair to say that the series is very highly regarded, although probably not that well known among generations too young to have seen it when it was first braodcast
It's very highly regarded among comedy buffs, but the general public old enough to have seen it at the time has pretty much forgotten it, and anybody younger has probably never even heard of it.

JezR
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by JezR »

It is on Drama at the moment - they have just reached 'The Cricket Match'. Then again they have described it as a 'cult' sitcom.

cdnbob
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by cdnbob »

Thanks all for your thoughts and opinions. I watched the second episode last night and enjoyed it. While I wouldn't say I was on the floor with laughter, there were bits I did get a chuckle at - case in point when Martin takes his wife to the beauty salon - I thought there were some good bits there and some well played lines. Loved the bit where Paul kind of flirts with Ann when he says he'll go to the opera with her, but even though he flirts with her, at this point in time I'm still of the assumption the character is gay, or at least being played gay. Maybe that wasn't the writers initial intention, but the part is being played that way. Maybe I'm way off base there but... ????

I also loved the bit when they are having the neighborhood meeting and Martin ends up loosing the chairmanship of all his little committees to the neighbors at the suggestion of Paul. That was a cute and sly bit.

At this point, I think as others have suggested, the show will grow on me, but so far, while I don't think its bad, it just hasn't set my fires to light so to speak. I'm enjoying it and definitely willing to give it a fair chance. I've always preferred Britcoms to their American or Canadian counterparts so it'll be great to see where this goes.

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bent_halo
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by bent_halo »

I'm not sure the studio audience always got it either. There are marvellous, quieter lines which get no reaction at all, even in the later series where you might expect familiarity.

I watched the snooker episode on the day of Larbey's death. That's pretty much perfect. Stick with it, Bob.

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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by JWG »

I recall the early stories having gay 'markers'-an interest in coiffure,the opera,interior design aesthetics.I thought it perhaps gave Martin the audience a chance to misread the signals to humerous effect.

billo
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by billo »

Just because Paul runs a hairdressers salon, or has an interest in arts & culture etc, doesn't mean he's automatically gay does it ?

The episode where his wife turns up, the country cottage episode where Paul takes the lovely Victoria Burgoyne along (and Martin gets a shock at the end !!) and where Ann is tempted to go on holiday with Paul but doesn't trust herself not to misbehave...would suggest the character of Paul was not gay

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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by ghughesarch »

billo wrote:Just because Paul runs a hairdressers salon, or has an interest in arts & culture etc, doesn't mean he's automatically gay does it ?
In sitcom in 1984, it pretty much did. Which is one reason why Ever Decreasing Circles was quite refreshing. And in the early episodes there's at least a hint that Martin thinks so too, which makes Paul less of a threat to his marriage, in his eyes, until it's almost too late.

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bent_halo
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by bent_halo »

Fascinating new blog on the EDC stage prototype Hiccups:

http://foreverdecreasingcircles.blogspo ... ps_18.html

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Don Satchley
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Don Satchley »

Hells Bells! Thanks for that. I have been looking for information on Hiccups! for many years now. Thanks for the link!

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Richard A
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Richard A »

bent_halo, thanks! I've always found the genealogy of TV shows rather fascinating, not least for what stays in and what is dropped from an initial concept.

cdnbob
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by cdnbob »

Well watched a further two episodes yesterday and they were definitely the best of the bunch so far. Watched episode 3 (A Strange Woman) and 4 (Holiday Plans).

Really enjoyed these and loved how Paul was mercilessly teasing Martin - actually some of it if you think about it was actually kind of cruel, but cause Martin is so pedantic you don't feel sorry for him. The bit at the beginning when Paul drops Ann off home after their night out, was cute and he does flirt endlessly with her. You can sort of see that there could be a developing affair starting there and no wonder as when Martin doesn't seem to care one bit about how Ann's night out was or who she was out with.

I'm glad I've been sticking with it as now that I'm a bit further in, I'm actually rather enjoying this.

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Simon36
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Simon36 »

cdnbob wrote:You can sort of see that there could be a developing affair starting there and no wonder as when Martin doesn't seem to care one bit about how Ann's night out was or who she was out with.
Ah yes but then it throws you because Martin explains he doesnt even think about who she was with because he trusts her completely. He really is a good sort. In the Christmas episode he is (rightly) furious at Ann but defends her to everyone else, saying "it's alright for me to be angry with her but I'm not having other people angry with her).

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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Mark »

Howard's voice changes between ( I think it's series 1 and 2) Stanley Lebor raises the pitch slightly, and talks in a more affected way, the way everyone remembers it, but it seems more 'normal' for the first series.

Paul is obviously a likeable character, a decent sort, but his 'interest' in Ann game him a bit of a darker edge, which could have turned viewers against him, as sympathies are obviously with Martin, for all his irritating ways.
"A cup of Tea....Tea...Tea"

Clive
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Clive »

Mark wrote: Paul is obviously a likeable character, a decent sort, but his 'interest' in Ann game him a bit of a darker edge, which could have turned viewers against him, as sympathies are obviously with Martin, for all his irritating ways.
I watched the first couple of series in quick succession a while back and Paul does start to come across as a bit of a bully where each episode seems to be pushing Martin down and down, episode after episode. I felt especially sorry for Martin after "The Cricket Match" where it just seems that Paul has acquired and taken over all the things that were important to Martin and he is left with nothing. I actually felt a bit uncomfortable after "The Cricket Match" where it just seemed that the premise had been pushed too far.

I did wonder if at this point there had been a writing decision taken on if Paul should also take Ann away from Martin ? But thankfully not, that would have been awful.

Thankfully the series seems to change direction after this and Paul does not alway win and often capitulates in an attempt to give Martin some of his status back.

It is such a good series and works on so many levels and I am sure different viewers will interpret the same story lines in different ways.

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Billy Smart
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Billy Smart »

I'm up to Series 4, and I've been surprised by how often I've taken Martin's side against Paul this time round. This is probably because tempramentally I'm more of a Martin than a Paul myself (and more so as I get older!), but also because I've noticed that he never seems to tease Howard and Hilda, and that on occasions everyone would probably have a more civilised time if he just gave a straight answer to whatever tiresome and petty matter Martin is bringing up.

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Ross
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Ross »

cdnbob wrote:... I don't recall it ever airing in Canada on any networks or seen via any U.S. PBS stations.
I saw the episode "The Cricket Match" on a PBS station in Orlando, Florida in late July 1988. It stuck in my mind as afterwards the continuity announcer asked viewers to write in and let them know if they'd enjoyed the episode. I remember wondering if many Americans had understood all the cricket references, but I imagine they'd be able to follow the story even if they didn't know the rules.

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Don Satchley
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Don Satchley »

There is an anecdote on the commentary track I think, where Peter Egan says he is not gifted at Cricket in any way. They slowed down the footage to make it look better if I recall correctly. In the US, I imagine the gist would be gotten if they had seen Baseball. At least as far as this episode goes.
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andrew baker
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by andrew baker »

It's by far my favourite sitcom. Martin is awful but you can't help being sympathetic. My favourite line (often quoted in my family) is "What's your second favourite jam?" It's sublime.

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Post by Mike S »

andrew baker wrote:My favourite line (often quoted in my family) is "What's your second favourite jam?"
'I'm a straight up and down damson.'

Jason Hazeley's blog on Hiccups is terrific. It really makes me yearn for a revival. 'If you want the Z in your alphabet to stand for 'mayhem', then yes.'

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Don Satchley
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Don Satchley »

"Do you know about the Javanese ear flute?"

Also on the blog is info about an interview with Bob Larbey. Definitely worth a read. Also on youtube there is some nice footage of Bob Larbey talking about EDC and shows like Mulberry.

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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Mike S »

'I don't normally use the word 'forbid' in this house, Ann, but...' [Gets hit in the face with cushion]

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Don Satchley
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Don Satchley »

Martin talking about Paul's Hillview house sign: "Taking her back to the wood and varnishing her are you?"
Paul "No. Taking her back to the garden and burning her."

Always makes me laugh.

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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Gary C »

I first got into EDC with the 84 (?) Christmas Special, then taped a load of them in a more or less repeat of series 1, I think. As I was working in VT at TVC at the time I used to get tickets for the studio records, which was good fun. One thing I can remember is that early on in the recordings of the first series the recording reports were labelled 'Hell's Bells' (for at least a couple of episodes, I think), then it changed to EDC.

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Post by Mike S »

I'm so glad they didn't go with any of the alternate titles. He Does Try? Awful. The Proper Trousers? Funny, but doesn't quite fit. Pillar of the Comunity? Too first draft. Hell's Bells = alright, but still not right. Close Encounters? Cute, but a bit rubbish.

'Close' or 'Martin' would have been my choice. 'Ever Decreasing Circles' is a bit Ayckbournish, but it sort of fits.

So many great lines, but I'm terrible at remembering them. 'Nothing French has happened to you has it?' and 'I'd hate to live in a Latin country, Martin' are two of my favourites. (Bent Halo: didn't we once agree that Howard's lines are at least 50% funnier when they end with the word 'Martin'?)

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Simon36
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Simon36 »

The episode that got me into it was Manure, even though it runs out of steam (no pun intended). It contains my favourite line in the series. "There are 27 different sized bits in this box: MEN HAVE MADE THESE!"

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Ian Wegg
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Re: Ever Decreasing Circles

Post by Ian Wegg »

Something that always puzzled me was Martin's pedantry over his vehicle, insisting on it being called a "Dormobile". Yet when we get to see it, it clearly isn't a Dormobile but an standard minibus.

~iw

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