17 September 2005 | mblake052005
Martin Bryce is a man going in ever decreasing circles. His long suffering wife Ann loves Martin, but he drives her mad most of the time, particularly when he takes his obsessive behaviour to extremes (such as oiling the bed in the middle of the night because it squeaks!) Martin runs all the clubs and activities in the local area (of which there are many). Then Paul Ryeman moves in next door to Ann and Martin and is instantly popular. He is likable and easy going, everything Martin is not, except that he, like Martin, is a leader rather than a follower. Many of the residents (most of which are rather pathetic) now see Paul as their guiding light. This drives Martin mad and he soon develops a strong dislike to Paul which, though mellows, never entirely goes away.
Paul does become quite fond of Martin and gets on very well with Ann. They have a similar outlook and sense of humour and Paul helps Ann cope with life amongst the narrow minded bores of the Close. If Martin had the courage to step outside his comfort zone he would see these people for what they are, but he loves being the leader and feeling that he's important. He also loves organising. His day job (he works in valves) doesn't motivate him, but he devotes most of his spare time to organising the activities of his societies. He has a box room with lots of cubby holes packed with paperwork. He is never happier then when in this room busily at work. Although he loves Ann he often puts organising committees above spending time with her in his list of priorities.
Although there is an attraction between Ann and Paul, they never get together because Ann loves Martin. In the final episode Martin discovers Ann is pregnant, and with his valve company moving to Shropshire, he makes the painful decision to move away from his beloved Close. As they are saying goodbye Ann suggests to Paul (who was married before) that he should get married again. Paul says he would if he could find someone like her. His true feelings are revealed.
The standard of acting in the show is very high. Richard Briers is in top form and produces a great comic and tragic performance as Martin. Penelope Wilton is brilliant as Ann. On paper it would appear that there would be nothing keeping Martin and Ann together, but the way Richard and Penelope play the parts the love between their two characters is clear to see. Peter Egan is perfectly cast as Paul and Stanley Lebor and Geraldine Newman are very amusing as Martin's reliable but rather pathetic neighbours Howard and Hilda. This sitcom ran for four series, plus a feature length finale, and the standard remained high throughout.