One Foot in the Grave: Season 1, Episode 2

The Big Sleep (11 Jan. 1990)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy
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A misunderstanding whereby a female window cleaner accuses Victor of flashing does not help his depression at the number of his contemporaries - and Margaret's fitness instructor - dropping... See full summary »

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Title: The Big Sleep (11 Jan 1990)

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Cast

Episode complete credited cast:
...
...
Faye Maguire ...
Window Cleaner
Christopher Saul ...
1st Jehovah's Witness
David Peart ...
2nd Jehovah's Witness
Kay Adshead ...
Keep Fit Instructress
Len Lowe ...
Len (as Leonard Lowe)
Danny O'Dea ...
Michael
Hilary Mason ...
Elspeth
Pamela Lane ...
the Nurse
Lisa Bluthal ...
Make-Up Girl
Helen Fraser ...
Dr. Snellgrove
Colin Ward-Lewis ...
Radio DJ (voice)
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Storyline

A misunderstanding whereby a female window cleaner accuses Victor of flashing does not help his depression at the number of his contemporaries - and Margaret's fitness instructor - dropping down dead. After attending his cousin's atheist funeral he falls asleep in the garden, wakes up in a fog,knocks himself unconscious with a rake and comes to in hospital,where he thinks he has died and the doctor is God. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Comedy

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11 January 1990 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

[first lines]
Margaret Meldrew: Are you sure you don't want to have...
Window Cleaner: I don't want anything. I want me four pound fifty, then I'm going straight back and reporting this to the police.
Margaret Meldrew: Yes, well, look, I'm sure it's just a misunderstanding.
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User Reviews

 
Not a Snooze--a Landmark One Foot in the Grave
25 February 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is episode two of the first series of One Foot in The Grave, and is a major episode that signaled the themes and storytelling tone of those to come. Some site the third episode, which involves a dead cat in the Meldrews' freezer as a landmark (first time dealing with animal cruelty, which recurred in the series), but I think this one does just as much if not more to set the show up and establish its unique and even challenging qualities.

As the episode title may suggest, it takes on the theme of the specter of death already implied in the series' premise. And does so in a darkly comedic way that shows that Renwick is serious about and good at his craft. The main plot starts with Victor learning that a cousin who was at his same time of life has died suddenly, which of course means a funeral to attend. His cousin turns out to have been an atheist and it doesn't make anyone more comfortable when one of the funeral speakers says there's no after life and the everyone will end up as the "contents of a vacuum cleaner".Victor tends to imagine that he has horrible diseases all the time and is understandably becoming stressed and having difficulty coping, both with the transition to retirement (seen in the first episode) and with thoughts of his own mortality as he ages. It's one of the sad and challenging facts of life that death is all around us, its specter always there and Renwick does something of a social service presenting an opportunity to cope through comedy. Trying to give Victor something to do and reassure him as to his good health, Margaret enrolls both of them in a fitness course. During the class, Victor is forced to listen to older people discussing their major health and mobility problems. To make matters worse, the health and fitness instructor, of all people, drops dead in the middle of a yoga exercise. This is completely typical of the bizarre twists and turns these stories take.

Even Victor himself has a death-related experience, in a way that is totally typical of this series and lives up to the word "unbelievable", the adjective most closely associated with it due to Victor's catchphrase. After contracting a disturbing skin rash, he falls asleep in the garden and wakes up after it's turned foggy out. His paranoia runs away with him and he thinks he's died. After stepping on a rake, he wakes up in hospital, thinking he's in Heaven and is meeting God, although he's actually just looking at another patient. I'll not spoil Victor's interesting words for the deity, although suffice it to say that in dealing with death, the writer does not exclude thoughts about the afterlife and the possibility of the almighty in some pretty daring and striking ways.

In a thematic coda, a cat kills a bird in Victor's garden. The garden was where Victor went to get away from it all. It was his place of peace and happiness. But death encroaches even here in the end, with the cat playing the Grim Reaper: a bigger animal overpowering a smaller, more vulnerable creature. And we know it's the way of nature that cats go after birds, and that even in beautiful things--like a garden--difficult, ugly, or negative things like death intrude. So Victor buries the bird and moves on as best he can.

Apart from the melancholy, tender scenes in the garden, the darkness is offset by a farcical subplot in which a window cleaner mistakenly accuses Victor of indecently exposing himself to her. Later on he is visited by two men he at first believes to be police officers but then realizes are Jehova's Witnesses. As he throws them, he fires off one of the best lines in the entirety of One Foot: "I know my rights: you can't search my soul without a warrant!" Of course even the ridiculous Jehova's Witness incident thus provides a loop back into the main plot by beginning to imply issues of religion and the afterlife. There are too many great lines and situations to discuss in full but I did have to point that one out, as its apt cleverness strikes me every time. This was a landmark episode that showed what OFITG was about. There would be many more than built upon the foundation of these early episodes, taking Victor's travels and travails through life to epic and hilarious extremes.


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