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TV Interview

Richard Briers

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Richard Briers
With a career spanning almost fifty years, there is little doubt that Richard Briers is a true TV legend of our times. He's entertained audiences the world over with shows such as Ever Decreasing Circles, Doctor Who and kids cartoon Roobarb and Custard but is perhaps most fondly remembered for his portrayal of the cheerful yet obstinate Tom Good in The Good Life. Could a reunion with Felicity Kendal and Penelope Keith be on the cards? And what's the one show Richard Briers never misses? We caught up with the big man at the recent Memorabilia convention for a cup of tea and a chat.

What do people at these sort of conventions say when they come up to meet you?
"People really do like the work. Everyone likes a funny show and there aren't many funny shows now. Mainly they talk to me about Doctor Who, The Good Life, Ever Decreasing Circles. All of these are old shows - The Good Life was 32 years ago! Lately I've been playing homicidal maniacs. I'm quite good at those. Some of my dearest fans say 'I wish you wouldn't do that' and I say 'you know, I've got to keep working'. I'd love to go back to being an ordinary actor and doing different parts. I'm still looking for a sitcom that has a very small part as some irascible old granddad that steals every scene he's in, but only has three scenes. That hasn't happened yet because they simply don't write funny stuff any more. A lot of it now is depressing. Or violent. Or both."

What do the younger people know you for?
"I think it's still The Good Life because of the repeats. People often ask me 'why don't you bring it back?' I reply 'Well I'm 108 and Paul Eddington died. But apart from that, you know...' We should leave it how it was, as a show that people remember affectionately."

Has the possibility of a revival come up?
"I don't agree with it at all. There was a one-off with To The Manor Born, but I didn't see it. Peter Bowles looks terrific for his age and Penelope Keith is wonderful, but with me you would get a terrible shock of seeing someone who looks 30 years older. It's a bit sad, so one doesn't want to do that."

You guested in an episode of the last series of Torchwood. How was that?
"I was bed-ridden for most of it, just lying there trying to remember the next line! The trouble with that show - which is brilliantly directed, by the way - is that it's all made at night for some reason. You go in at 6pm and finish filming at 6am in the morning. It's awful, especially if you're old. Plus playing a dying man, it was pretty depressing. The boy (Burn Gorman) was brilliant. It's so real you get quite shaken by it. When one of these youngsters says 'I'm going to shoot you' I think 'well, they probably might!'"

Are you a fan of shows like that?
"I don't watch very much on TV, partly because I'm old. I want very little action. I'm one of those awfully boring people who likes David Attenborough and the news. My wife and I are both getting on now and we do fall asleep on the sofa by about 9.50pm. All the stuff we'd like to see finishes too late! It's rather sad, but that's being old, isn't it?"

What do you think of the TV industry in general now?
"I don't understand it. Apparently they've got 300 channels. I've got just ordinary television - five channels, plus Freeview. I've got no technology, no Sky. I haven't even got a mobile phone! I'm very out of date. So I don't know what TV is now. I quite like Flog It. I quite like things that air in the afternoon when I'm alive and conscious. My favourite show of all is The Simpsons. I think it is appalling and wonderful."

Why appalling?
"Because Homer is such a dreadful man. He's an absolute USA worst of slobs. They're sending themselves up, which is rare for an American show. I often get quite annoyed because The Simpsons is on at 6pm. First glass of Chardonnay on the sofa, thankyou very much, but then the phone always rings. I say 'Not in the middle of Simpsons, I'll ring you back!' That's the only time when I show any sort of irritability at home, when it buggers up The Simpsons."

Finally, what would you say to people who would describe you as an Icon?
"An icon? Well, I quite agree."

For more on the Memorabilia convention visit memorabilia.co.uk.

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