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Good Life star Richard Briers dies at 79

Sitcom star Richard Briers has died aged 79 after a five year struggle with emphysema. The actor became a household name when he played Tom Good in the 70s sitcom The Good Life, but was also recognised for his versatility as a stage actor in everything from light comedy to Shakespearian tragedy.

On the small screen, Briers excelled as the bumptious but likeable buffoon, also enjoying success in Ever Decreasing Circles, playing a suburban busybody. Although he was adept at comedy, he admitted that he didn’t like the character of Tom in The Good Life. His on-screen chemistry with co-star Felicity Kendal was not matched off-screen.

Kenneth Branagh recognised the actor’s flair for serious drama and made him part of his repertory company for films of Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet. It was Branagh’s suggestion that Briers play King Lear in a critically-acclaimed touring production in 1990. "He was a national treasure, a great actor and a wonderful man," Branagh said. "He was greatly loved and he will be deeply missed."

Among those offering tributes were Stephen Fry, who tweeted: "I've just heard the news that Richard Briers has died. How sad. He was the most adorable and funny man imaginable." Ricky Gervais tweeted: "RIP the wonderful Richard Briers."

Penelope Keith, who performed alongside Briers in The Good Life said, "He was the most talented of actors, always self-deprecating. I learnt an awful lot from him during our time on The Good Life. It was the most enjoyable time. He is an enormous loss to our family."

BBC comedy boss Shane Allen said, "Richard Briers holds a very special place in British sitcom history, having starred in several monumentally successful and well-loved shows. He was an incredibly accomplished actor who enjoyed a long, varied and distinguished career and will be greatly missed."

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