When it comes to the question of which British television show is the most iconic, the list is long is almost never-ending. However, true television junkies will be well aware that there are probably only three series that are worth being in the conversation of the all-time greatest; Only Fools and Horses, EastEnders and Fawlty Towers.
Whilst many famous actors and actresses made their name on these shows, there are four in particular who almost ended up making their name as another famous character in the classic BBC sitcom, One Foot in the Grave.
Played by the legendary actor Richard Wilson, Victor Meldrew struck an chord with viewers with his dry sense of humour and grumpy demeanour and became an instant favourite. One Foot in the Grave first debuted on BBC in 1990. There were six series (each consisting of six half-hour shows) and seven Christmas specials over a period of ten years from early 1990 to late 2000.
However, Richard Wilson wasn’t the only name in the running to play Victor Meldrew. As it happens, there were also four other well-known actors who were considered for the role. Jim Broadbent (Only Fools and Horses), Timothy West (EastEnders), Andrew Sachs (Fawlty Towers) and John Thaw (Inspector Morse) were all in the running for the role but lost out for various reasons.
Richard Wilson originally thought he was too young. After reading the script he initially decided against accepting the job.
“I didn’t feel ready to play older men,” he says. “I also didn’t take to the idea – the character seemed too angry all the time,” he said. The second choice for the role was none other than Les Dawson, unfortunately he also turned down the role due to filming commitments on the game show Blankety Blank, reports The Sunday Post.
Fortunately, a surprise turn of events led to them landing their first choice. The director of the series, Susan Belbin, recalled the moment when Richard Wilson changed his mind about the role of Victor Meldrew. The experienced director couldn’t believe her luck when the phone rang one morning in the director’s office at Television Centre.
After reading a few more scripts, Richard’s doubts about the role had all but disappeared and he decided that the role was for him.