‘I got wearisome with being angry all the time’: One Foot In The Grave star Richard Wilson says he urged bosses to kill Victor Meldrew off after fans repeatedly yelled his catchphrase at him in public
As Victor Meldrew he became a household name, with the curmudgeonly character’s hapless exploits watched by as many as 18 million viewers a week.
But Richard Wilson admits he urged BBC bosses to axe the hugely popular sitcom One Foot In The Grave because he was fed up with fans yelling Meldrew’s legendary catchphrase at him in public.
Appearing in a new Channel 5 documentary about the show, which aired for ten years between 1990 and 2000, the Scottish actor, 86, revealed he grew tired of playing the perpetually miserable character and approached writer David Renwick with a view to killing him off.
He said: ‘I’d been doing it for quite a long while I was getting a bit wearisome of being angry all the time. David said, “I’m thinking of killing Victor. What do you think?” I said, “Kill him. Do it”.’
Despite his bleak outlook, the elderly Meldrew was beloved by millions across the UK, with his oft repeated catchphrase – ‘I don’t believe it!’ – quickly becoming part of British TV folklore.
I don’t believe it! Richard Wilson urged BBC bosses to axe One Foot In The Grave because he was fed up with fans yelling Victor Meldrew’s legendary catchphrase at him in public
Old times: Wilson starred on the show alongside Annette Crosbie, who played Meldrew’s long suffering wife Margaret
However Wilson admits those four words would regularly come back to haunt him whenever he stepped out in public.
He recalled: ‘I got the catchphrase shouted at me everywhere. In foreign countries, I thought, “Oh my gosh, it’s got here as well”.’
Co-star Angus Deayton, who played Meldrew’s neighbour Patrick Trench, admits he was stunned after discovering the script he was given for its sixth series would also be its last.
‘I had no idea that it was going to be the final series until I saw the script for the last show and saw that Victor was going to die,’ he said.
The show also starred Annette Crosbie as Meldrew’s long suffering wife Margaret, but Deayton says she was often the more serious of the two when cameras stopped rolling.
Looking back: Appearing in a new Channel 5 documentary about the show, the Scottish actor revealed he grew tired of playing the perpetually miserable character
Tragic: Meldrew was eventually killed in a hit-and-run accident caused by one of Margaret’s close friends, a sobering twist that that signalled the end of the show
He added: ‘Richard’s character is obviously the sort of serious one and Annette is a slightly lighter, jollier one.
‘Annette was actually the more serious of the two and Richard was always playing jokes, keeping everything light and jolly.’
Meldrew was eventually killed in a hit-and-run accident caused by one of Margaret’s close friends, a sobering twist that that signalled the end of the show.
But Wilson still has fond memories of his exploits as the retiree, not least being buried up to his neck in a 4ft hole during one of the show’s more iconic moments.
‘I think I did it three times,’ he recalled. ‘Sitting in this bloody garden, cold.’
One Foot in the Grave: 30 Years of Laughs airs on Friday April 21 at 9pm on Channel 5.
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