84. "In Luton Airport, No One Can Hear You Scream," One Foot in the Grave (1990)
Welcome to the “100 Best Sitcom Episodes of All Time,” a countdown for winter 2012. Each episode will get a separate blog post, counting backward toward No. 1. A list of the programs revealed so far is here and an introduction to the project is here.
One Foot in the Grave is like the Book of Job, except that its hero curses God over a stubbed toe. And it doesn't have such a happy ending.
Over the course of the series, senior citizen Victor Meldrew is mugged, attacked by pit bulls and bees, buried alive, and thrown from an upstairs window. (I'm avoiding the mishaps that give too much plot away.) Victor's exasperation at his incredibly bad fortune is a main source of comedy, but his stubborn refusal to lay down and die is what keeps the audience from feeling too sadistic.
(This is the kind of sitcom that seems to work only in Britain. When One Foot in the Grave was adapted for Bill Cosby in the US, the dark humor was pretty much thrown away, leaving a generic show about a mildly irritated retiree.)
I won't give away the main plot, but the rest of the episode includes Victor accidentally exposing himself to a neighbor, becoming too frightened to go into his own bathroom, and ruining a party because of his bad penmanship. You've been warned.
Tactless family friend Mrs. Warboys mistakenly thinks she's in the Meldrews' house: "I really love what Margaret has done with the curtains in here. It's a real change of style for both of you, isn't it? When you used to always go in for those rather drab grays and browns. Really freshens the place up!"
Victor is in a nostalgic mood: " Twenty-five years it took to grow that apple tree. I planted it in the spring of 1965. Feeding it, spraying it, mulching the soil, watering it through the droughts, giving it an annual dressing of potash and hydrogen every January.... Not one sodding apple!"