1 9 9 0 – 1 9 9 7 (UK)
2 0 0 0 (UK)
42 x 30/60 minute episodes
“I don’t believe it!”
Richard Wilson starred as the accident-prone pensioner Victor Meldrew – perpetually frustrated with bad service from every business he encountered and forever creating havoc for his pillar-of-patience wife Margaret (Annette Crosby) and neighbours Pippa (Janine Duvitski) and Patrick (Angus Deayton).
Victor became a consumer vigilante whose explosive, vivid vocabulary let customer service departments know exactly what he thought of them. Inevitably, events conspired against him.
As his wife Margaret took pains to tell one of his critics, Victor was surprisingly compassionate and sensitive. His exasperation came from a belief that things really should be better, easier, and more reliable, not perplexing, overcomplicated, and bafflingly inept.
One Foot In The Grave transcended the usual boundaries of situation comedy, introducing themes of pathos and even surrealism.
Creator David Renwick’s exceptional scripts were packed with detail. The most minor elements would have a bearing on the conclusion – and not always in a comedic way.
A deep vein of tragedy runs through much British comedy, and One Foot in the Grave mined a lot of it. The suggestion that Victor and Margaret lost a child was revealed in a brief aside, but it was one of many cues that they were real people, no matter how farcical their lives were.
Even Victor’s most ludicrous plights – whether it was finding a flat cap inside a loaf of bread, a dead cat in his freezer, a Citroen 2CV (replete with old mattress) in his skip, or a lawn covered in garden gnomes – remained the right side of plausible.
Renwick’s choice to kill off both the series and Victor (he was killed in a road accident – ironically by a new friend of his wife) was a brave one, but going out on a high ensured that neither outstayed their welcome.
Arguably the best, and certainly the most popular, BBC sitcom of the early 90s (with 18 million viewers), it sold to America where its sharp-edged humour was left on the sanitised cutting-room floor of The Cosby Show.