Retro Heaven

On the Buses with Bob Grant

Remembering Bob Grant…

bobThere can be few who grew up in the 60s and 70s who will not remember the television series, On the Buses and its two principal actors, Reg Varney and Bob Grant.

A sitcom slated by the critics but adored by the public, it drew in audience figures in the millions with its hanky panky scripts and often dubious acting. In 1970s Britain the quality of acting played second best to the light-comic relief television audiences yearned for as a means of escaping the drudgery of every day life and Bob Grant’s portrayal of Jack, the predatory bus conductor appealed to both men and women for very different reasons. For all of its derision by the press its format struck a chord with the British working class who saw their own real life concerns and work situations addressed with good humour and perspective and whilst few sitcoms successfully transferred to the big screen the 1971 film version was the second biggest grossing of the year.

But the huge success which Grant enjoyed would ultimately lead to his tragic downfall. An actor who found himself forever linked to this one character drove him to severe depression and two suicide attempts before finally killing himself in 2003. Grant’s career post On the Buses was akin to so many similar actors who saw one particular piece of their work shown repeatedly until finding work in other genres would prove almost impossible.

What must have been particularly frustrating for Grant was his body of work pre 1970, here was a classically trained actor who had worked hard at his craft, establishing himself as a theatre actor of some renown as well as writing several stage scripts and appearances in political plays which would earn him critical acclaim and respect. Once the series had finished Grant found himself touring Australia with a theatre production of the comedy farce No Sex Please, We’re British before attempting to resurrect his television career with a comedy based on a milkman forever fending off amorous housewives. Unsurprisingly the pilot never made it to a series and by the 1980s Grant was faced with considerable debts, unemployment and illness.

He made the headlines once more in 1987 for going missing and being found in Ireland where he had intended to kill himself. By the late nineties he had become a virtual recluse and in 2003 was found dead in his car with a hose attached to the exhaust pipe.

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