'One Foot in the Grave' - the TV Series Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'One Foot in the Grave' - the TV Series

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A classic 1990s BBC sitcom1 based around the unfortunate life of Victor Meldrew, a recently (and prematurely)-retired man who the world at large seems to wish to aggravate. Or at least that is how he sees the unpleasant, humiliating, and occasionally bizarre events that occur in his life.

It is an unusual sitcom, not just because it can boast more deaths than any other, or because it focuses on members of the older generation (although these are major points). It is unusual because its storylines seem totally unbelievable if described outside the context of the show, but within Victor's life it somehow makes total sense and so it is hilarious.

The Characters

Victor Meldrew (Richard Wilson)

37 Wingate Crescent/19 Riverbank

Having been forced to take early retirement after 26 years, when his job as front desk security at Watson-Mycroft2 was taken over by a small box3, Victor considers himself cast onto the scrap heap of life.

He is definitely not thrilled by his retirement, despite what people keep telling him about how great it is to have all that spare time and how lucky he must feel. This could be because Victor has never felt lucky and his spare time seems to fill itself with a wide variety of hideous disasters and mortifying embarrassments.

Some of these problems however are somewhat self-inflicted as he is unable to leave things be. If something goes wrong, or he feels people are causing problems he will complain, loudly and with dangerous disregard for other people's reactions. He is also a terror for looking up diseases in his medical dictionary then suddenly developing the symptoms to fit it, for letting little inconsequential things annoy him, and cultivating hobbies that drive himself and his wife Margaret batty.

An outside observer might consider him to be a morose moaner or an irritable complainer, whereas he sees himself reacting to the insanity of the world around him, hence his well known battle cry I don't believe it!.

Margaret Meldrew (Annette Crosbie)

37 Wingate Crescent/19 Riverbank

The long-suffering wife of Victor, who unfortunately seems to be caught up in the insanity he generates. She is constantly frustrated by Victor's overreactions and unwillingness to be reasonable if he feels he has a grievance with people, which unfortunately he usually does.

She always tries to meet every crisis that surrounds Victor with patient exasperation, followed by exasperated annoyance, even though deep down she is sure Victor is causing it all somehow.

Mrs Warboys (Doreen Mantle)

A friend of Margaret's who keeps her abreast of all the gossip about everybody and keeps the rest of the world up to date on the gossip with the Meldrews. However, aside from that she can be very tedious company, especially when she is going on about her latest holiday or some other nonsense.

Patrick Trench (Angus Deayton)

17 Riverbank (Until they escaped)

Patrick considers himself particularly unlucky to be stuck next door to a person he considers to be either a certified loon or some sort of life-destroying missile that has been targeted at him. This is an opinion initially formed after a misunderstanding when they first called on the Meldrews. Over the years, due to many subsequent misunderstandings, oddities, and humiliations Patrick has seen or experienced, his opinion of Mr Meldrew has descended to a point bordering on paranoid mania. This, in later stages of their association, leads to a childish feud and the senseless slaughter of 200 garden gnomes, before finally culminating in Patrick's desperate bids to sell his house (which in turn is unintentionally hindered by Victor-generated problems, which included a naked man dangling outside the Trench's window while they were showing around potential buyers).

Pippa Trench (Janine Duvitski)

17 Riverbank (Until they escaped)

Pippa is the tolerant and forgiving wife of Patrick, who watches his childish little feud against Victor with weariness and a bit of sarcasm. However, every now and again she can see Patrick's point. After all, who, living next to Victor Meldrew, could fail to miss all of the insanity?

Nick Swainey (Owen Brenman)

21 Riverbank

Local charity organiser and carer to his invalid mother, Nick Swainey is the nice, cheery (to a slightly worrying degree), and slightly batty person who is possibly the one person in the world Victor doesn't annoy. However he does tend to annoy Victor. He is often seen as an overgrown boy scout who never seems to win with anything in his personal life.

The Writer, David Renwick

Having worked as a contributing writer and co-writer (mainly with Andrew Marshall, writer of 2 point 4 children), on many well-known comedy programs for both radio and television, One Foot in the Grave was David Renwick's first entirely solo effort.

After a cautious reception to the first series, One Foot in the Grave became the major success it is today, even prompting David Renwick to write a book version. His later work includes the highly successful series Jonathan Creek.

The Theme Tune

Written and composed by Eric Idle4, an extended version was actually released as a single as well as being used for the end of the TV film One Foot in the Algarve.

Start Tune

They say I might as well face the truth
That I am just too long in the tooth
So I'm an OAP5 and weak- kneed
But I have not yet quite gone to seed
I may be over the hill now that I have retired
Fading away but I've not yet expired
Clapped out, run down, too old to save
One Foot in the Grave

End Tune

They say I might as well face the truth
That I am just too long in the tooth
I've started to deteriorate
And now I've passed my own sell by date.

Oh I am no spring chicken it's true
I have to pop my teeth in to chew
And my old knees have started to knock
I've just got too many miles on the clock.

So I'm a wrinkly, crinkly, set in my ways
It's true that my body has seen better days
But give me half a chance and I can still misbehave
One Foot in the Grave, One Foot in the Grave, One Foot in the Grave

Episode Guide

Series One

The darkly comic humour that One Foot... started with was initially rather controversial. At this stage there is no Patrick and Pippa, and Nick Swainey sees and irritates Victor only through his charity work.

  • 'Alive and Buried' (4 January, 1990)
  • 'The Big Sleep' (11 January, 1990)
  • 'The Valley of Fear' (18 January, 1990)
  • 'I'll Retire to Bedlam' (25 January, 1990)
  • 'The Eternal Quadrangle' (1 February, 1990)
  • 'The Return of the Speckled Band' (8 February, 1990)

Series Two

After an unsuccessful holiday in Athens, the Meldrews return to find a disaster has befallen them, requiring them to move to their new permanent address of 19 Riverbank. Nick Swainey is now their neighbour, as is Patrick and Pippa (Although they don't meet the Meldrews straight away).

  • 'In Luton Airport, No-one Can Hear You Scream' (4 October, 1990)
  • 'We Have Put Her Living in the Tomb' (11 October, 1990)
  • 'Dramatic Fever' (18 October, 1990)
  • 'Who Will Buy' (25 October, 1990)
  • 'Love and Death' (1 November, 1990)
  • 'Timeless Time' (8 November, 1990)

Christmas Specials 1990 - 1991

  • 'Who's Listening' (27 December, 1990)
  • 'The Man in the Long Black Coat' (30 December, 1991) (featuring Eric Idle)

Series Three

  • 'Monday Morning Will Be Fine' (2 February, 1992)
  • 'Dreamland' (9 February, 1992)
  • 'The Broken Reflection' (16 February, 1992)
  • 'The Beast in the Cage' (23 February, 1992) (featuring the voice of Eric Idle)
  • 'Beware the Trickster on the Roof' (1 March, 1992)
  • 'The Worst Horror of All' (8 March, 1992)

Series Four

  • 'The Pit and the Pendulum' (31 January, 1993)
  • 'Descent into the Maelstrom' (7 February, 1993)
  • 'Hearts of Darkness' (14 February, 1993)
  • 'Warm Champagne' (21 February, 1993)
  • 'The Trial' (28 February, 1993)
  • 'Secrets of the Seven Sorcerers' (7 March, 1993)

Christmas Specials 1993 - 1994

  • 'One Foot in the Algarve' (26 December 1993) (featuring Peter Cook6)
  • 'The Man who Blew Away' (25 December, 1994)(featuring Brian Murphy7)

Series Five

  • 'Only a Story' (1 January, 1995)
  • 'The Affair of the Hollow Lady' (8 January, 1995) (featuring Barbara Windsor8)
  • 'Rearranging the Dust' (15 January, 1995)
  • 'Hole in the Sky' (22 January, 1995)
  • 'The Exterminating Angel' (29 January, 1995)(featuring John Bird9)

Christmas Specials 1995 - 2000

  • 'The Wisdom of the Witch' (25 December, 1995)
  • 'Starbound' (26 December, 1996)(featuring Rula Lenska10)
  • 'Endgame'11 (25 December, 1997)(featuring Tim Brooke-Taylor12)

Series Six

This is definitely the last series as this is where Victor's other foot goes in the grave at the end.

  • 'The Executioner's Song' (16 October, 2000)
  • 'Tales of Terror' (23 October, 2000)
  • 'The Futility of the Fly' (30 October, 2000)
  • 'Threatening Weather' (6 November, 2000)
  • 'The Dawn of Man' (13 November, 2000)
  • 'Things Aren't Simple Anymore' (20 November, 2000) (featuring Paul Merton13)

The final episode, 'Things Aren't Simple Anymore' was at the centre of a minor scandal when it was alleged by Richard Wilson that rival network ITV deliberately leaked the result of their gameshow Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which was scheduled opposite Victor's last shout. The gameshow had been recorded the day before and featured Britain's first ever millionaire winner. ITV denied the claim, and pointed to the fact that the ratings for the One Foot... episode had increased by one million viewers compared to the previous week.

Comic Relief Specials

  • A short monologue with Victor in the bath.
  • A conversation between Victor and Margaret in a hospital room while they are visiting someone.

The Book

Written by David Renwick, Published in 1992 by Penguin Books for the BBC.

The book takes us deeper into some of the strange events that happen to Victor (both original and expanded from the series), and even into the mind of the man himself as he fights his uphill battle against the world in general.


One Foot in the Grave is regularly repeated on UK Gold on UK satellite and cable TV, and is currently available on both VHS and DVD home video formats in the UK.

1Situation comedy, the standard character-based form of comedy TV show.2This probably links to Sherlock Holmes (Dr Watson, and Holmes's brother Mycroft), who, along with Columbo, was a major influence on the writer David Renwick's later work Jonathan Creek.3'It does all the things you used to do apart from complain about the air conditioning.' - quote from 'Alive and Buried').4Member of the legendary comedy team Monty Python's Flying Circus.5Old Age Pensioner.6One half, with Dudley Moore, of the comedy duo 'Pete 'n' Dud'.7Murphy played the hapless George in the 1970s ITV sitcoms Man About The House and George and Mildred.8One-time member of the long-running Carry On... series of comedy films, she later joined the cast of BBC soap opera EastEnders.9Character actor who appears in the BBC sitcom Chambers.10Glamorous actress who shot to fame in the TV series Rock Follies.11This show has the appearance of the McVities as the Meldrew's neighbours, before problems lead to their rather rapid emigration.12One third of the comedy TV partnership The Goodies.13Paul Merton works with Angus Deayton (who plays Patrick) on the long running BBC satirical news quiz Have I Got News For You. Richard Wilson has also been a guest on the show.

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