One Foot In The Grave – Sampling British Comedy

To be honest, I have never been a fan of British comedy. I used to like watching Keeping up Appearances (1990–1995) on TV, but that’s as far as it went. A couple of years ago, I discovered Black Adder (1983–1989) and I liked that too.

People who know me always act surprised and shocked when I profess not to like British comedy, they somehow expect me to like it since I like to read and use sarcasm a lot. I’m sorry if I’m stepping on anyone’s feet here, however personally, I think most British comedy is outdated.

Sure, racial jokes or double entendres about the cold war were all the rage back in the 1970s, but seriously GROW UP, not only is this kind of word-play stale now, but at present, certain situations and references are no longer plausible, and therefore, no longer funny.

Many things have already been said and done ad infinitum, so much so, that they have become, as I call them, ‘cheesy’ now. Before I start looking over my shoulder for all the British comedy fans to come out to lynch me however, let me reiterate again by saying that this is my personal opinion, and that, obviously, since everyone is different, I don’t expect everyone else in the world to share it.

Not all British Comedy is obsolete. Lately, I have begun watching the 90’s sitcom One Foot in the Grave (1990–2000). Basically, this series focuses on the life of a newly-retired grumpy old man and his wife, their everyday tribulations, not to mention his inordinate bad luck, and the misadventures and strange circumstances they find themselves in, because of it.

Victor’s catch-phrase ‘I don’t believe it!’ resounds throughout every episode, his sarcasm is always spot-on and the fact that he has nothing to lose at this point in his life, lends to his actions a certain kind of endearing and hilarious mischievousness, at times bordering on the criminal. Much like a British version of the Italian 90’s sitcom Casa Vianello, in fact. That is, when one subtracts all the sexual innuendos and attempts by the old man to try and impress young and attractive women, but that’s Italian T.V for you.

Anyways, Victor Meldrew (played by Richard Wilson) grumbles, mutters and mumbles about life – criticising today’s volatile society, the single mothers dressed like prostitutes who litter on his front lawn, annoying drivers, pestering family members, stupid neighbours, the lackadaisical health system, unhelpful shop owners, slow mechanics, etc. etc. You get the gist.

The show, however, is not just your run-of-the-mill British comedy, since, in my opinion, it is actually a BLACK COMEDY. By definition, black comedy (or dark comedy) is a comic work that juxtaposes morbid humour with comic occurrences; it makes light of subjects which are usually considered serious or taboo and is often controversial, due to its subject matter.

This show in fact was criticised for ‘killing’ off a large number of animals in various cruel ways, for example in a particular episode, a cat is found frozen in a freezer, a tortoise is burnt alive on a BBQ in another, and a rat is cooked in Chinese rice in a third.

Another thing is the sadness and deep emotions felt in certain parts of the show, when amidst sarcastic punch lines and funny moments we get to face real-life issues, such as miscarriage, the loss of one’s home, abandoned senior citizens, as well as a number of monologues on the evanescence of time.

The series is made up of six seasons and a number of Christmas specials, and though the voice of Victor grumbling and grumbling and grumbling all the bloody time DOES grate on my nerves, I’m enjoying every minute of it all the same.