It will come as no surprise to many that I am a huge Victor Meldrew fan, and to be honest, I regard One Foot in the Grave as being one of the greatest sitcoms ever written. Having seen a repeat of it over Christmas, I was reminded that I had the complete series on DVD, and so watched most of it over the holidays. The writing is excellent, and the ensemble cast are just plain brilliant, in particular Doreen Mantle as their loopy friend Mrs Warboys. Most importantly, the plots are engagingly surreal.
It’s not to everybody’s taste. Most people see it as just a show about a moany old man, which misses the point entirely and misses the subtlty of creator David Renwick’s writing. What other sitcom has so many murders and suicides, or makes use of ominous and creepy settings, a tone that Renwick returned to in the equally brilliant Jonathan Creek? What sitcom ends by violently killing its main star?
I remember the first time I saw it, when it was first broadcast twenty years ago, and thought it was just a Terry and June knockoff until Victor discovered a cat frozen to death in the freezer. That was the moment I realised that this was something special.
The brilliance of Victor Meldrew was that he wasn’t just a grumpy old bastard. He was a contrary old curmudgeon (Well, he voted SDP, didn’t he?) but with a deep sense of compassion, risking his life to save a neighbour he hated from being killed, righting a shocking injustice in an old folks home by extreme measures, and sneaking food out to a vagrant living in his garden shed. We could do with more Victor Meldrews.