‘I got tired of being mad all the time’: One Foot In The Grave star Richard Wilson says he urged bosses to kill Victor Meldrew after fans repeatedly shouted his catchphrase at him in public
As Victor Meldrew, he became a household name, with the curmudgeonly character’s hapless exploits being watched by a whopping 18 million viewers each week.
But Richard Wilson admits he urged BBC bosses to ax the hugely popular sitcom One Foot In The Grave because he was fed up with fans publicly shouting Meldrew’s legendary catchphrase at him.
The Scottish actor, 86, appeared in a new Channel 5 documentary about the show, which aired for a decade between 1990 and 2000.
He said, “I had been doing it for a long time as I got a little tired 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 gloomy outlook, the elderly Meldrew was loved by millions across the UK, with his oft-repeated catchphrase, “I don’t believe it!” – quickly becoming part of British TV folklore.
I do not believe it! Richard Wilson urged BBC bosses to abolish One Foot In The Grave because he was fed up with fans shouting 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 regularly came back to haunt him whenever he stepped out in public.
He recalled, “I got the slogan yelled at me everywhere. Abroad, I thought, “Oh my god, it’s here too.”‘
Co-star Angus Deayton, who played Meldrew’s neighbor Patrick Trench, admits he was stunned to discover that the script he was given for the sixth series would also be the last.
“I had no idea this was going to be the last 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 the cameras stopped rolling.
Looking back: The Scottish actor appeared in a new Channel 5 documentary about the show and revealed that he grew tired of playing the eternally miserable character
Tragic: Meldrew was eventually killed in an accident caused by one of Margaret’s close friends, a sobering twist that marked the end of the show
He added: ‘Richard’s character is clearly the serious kind and Annette’s a slightly lighter, more cheerful one.
“Annette was actually the more serious of the two and Richard was always joking and keeping things light and fun.”
Meldrew was eventually killed in an accident caused by one of Margaret’s close friends, a sobering twist that marked the end of the show.
But Wilson still has fond memories of his exploits as a 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 recalls. “Sitting in this damn garden, cold.”
One Foot in the Grave: 30 Years of Laughs airs Friday 21 April at 9pm on Channel 5.