New article for Horrified Magazine!
Horrified is a new kid on the block but is producing some fine work in the realm of British horror, both in terms of analysis and original fiction, so I was delighted when the editor, Freddy, was keen on my pitch for a recurring series called ‘Horror in the Britcom’, unpicking the intersection between horror and comedy in British sitcoms…
I decided to start with a show I’ve already analysed the first season of for this blog, One Foot in the Grave, which is festooned with references and inversions of horror tropes from British and American properties. I intend to delve deeper into the dark world of Victor Meldrew on here in time but this was a great way of contextualising thoughts about One Foot and horror, and it has been received well so far from those who have read it.
The plan is to produce one of these a month for Horrified, and my next one will look at Only Fools and Horses and how it plays with the original Friday the 13th and The Omen…
You can find the article below, but here’s a short snippet:
Debuting thirty years ago in 1990, the spectre of misanthropic pensioner Victor Meldrew (as played with spectacular bite yet vulnerability by Richard Wilson) looms large over the British sitcom. He stands among the comic characters who transcend their series – Basil Fawlty, Del-Boy Trotter, David Brent – and achieve household recognition. Victor has gone down in history as television’s most infamous moaner, grumbling in every episode of David Renwick’s series about the state of the world to his long-suffering wife Margaret (the magisterial Annette Crosbie). From crisp packets and lager cans on the lawn to boisterous, rude teenagers and cowboy businessmen, Victor would rage in frustration at the eternal bad luck that engulfs his life, often spouting his immortal catchphrase “I don’t believe it!”.
It is easy to forget, however, that Victor’s misanthropy is driven by a maelstrom of not just misfortune or selfishness, greed and ignorance from his fellow man, but an almost cosmic sense of weirdness and injustice that lurks at the edge of One Foot in the Grave, particularly as the series wears on. Whenever a comedy character who breaks out from their series carries a memorable recurring phrase, they are almost always tethered to their personality. Only Fools and Horses Del-Boy promises that “this time next year we will be millionaires!” as his own personal, reaffirming mantra of prosperity against the odds. “I have a cunning plan,” Baldrick regularly promises in Blackadder, affirming almost always the exact opposite. Victor’s turn of phrase organically developed as a note of disbelief at the frequently bizarre, unexpected and just downright strange events that would intrude on his enforced retirement.
Said catchphrase is, in some sense, meta-textual on the part of series writer and veritable auteur David Renwick. Victor Meldrew’s waking nightmares are infused with a recognition of horror and weird fiction tropes and references that go far beyond One Foot in the Grave.