One Foot In The Grave (BBC1, 1990-2001)
This show is of course a very popular sitcom, and it’s no surprise really. Richard Wilson had been around as a TV actor for many years, appearing in such sitcoms as Only When I Laugh and Hot Metal in the 70s and 80s, but when he was cast as the curmudgeonly Victor Meldrew, he would go on to be the star of one of the best sitcoms of the 1990s.
One Foot In The Grave was written by David Renwick who had already worked on several terrifically quirky comedy shows including End Of Part One and Whoops Apocalypse. At first, the idea of the show seems fairly straightforward. Victor has very reluctantly taken early retirement as his job has been replaced by computer technology, but he believes that there is still plenty of life in him yet. We follow him as he goes about his new life and tries to keep himself busy.
Alongside him are his long-suffering wife Margaret, and her friend Mrs Warboys who he finds very irritating because she is very nosy and always around. There is also Victor’s neighbour Nick who he thinks is rather odd, plus Patrick and Pippa who always seem to catch Victor in unusual situations, making them think he is rather strange, and they spend a lot of time bickering. Victor often rallies against the world, becoming endlessly caught up in the bureaucracy and frustration of modern life, and his outbursts struck a chord with many older viewers.
Of course One Foot In The Grave is remembered for its catchphrases and very funny moments, but there is much more to the show than that. There were a lot of ambitious ideas in the show, such as having the whole of one episode set in a traffic jam, and another being a simple one-hander with Victor at home on his own trying to pass the time but having some difficulty. The show wasn’t afraid to explore darker areas either.
One Foot In The Grave was also popular enough for there to be several Christmas specials, and these always did very well in the ratings. After a gap of five years, the show returned for a sixth and final series, accompanied by an announcement that in the final episode Victor would be killed off. This was another memorable episode, once again mixing amusing moments with sad ones, and it was a shame to see him go. It wasn’t the end just yet though, and there was one more chance for Victor to give us his observations on life in a short Comic Relief special in 2001.
One Foot In The Grave was a big success, going on to win several awards, there were a few foreign versions made too, and Victor Meldrew is now considered to be one of the all-time great sitcom creations. The show is still repeated very frequently on TV and has also been released on DVD. 25 years on it is still great to watch, there isn’t much else like it.