Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Favorites from Scotland

With no intention of even approximating an exhaustive listing, I'll mention just four of my favorite comedies originating in Scotland. The first two shows I'll note both feature that wonderful comedic actor: Gregor Fisher. 

First, there's the classic series Rab C Nesbitt, based on the books by Ian Pattison. Rab is a layabout alcoholic, who survives, along with his wife and sons, on the dole. He avoids work like the plague. Yet, it's hard not to love him. He's something of a philosopher and oftens pauses during the show to talk to the viewing audience, to register his frustration with society. There were eight series and a handful of 'specials' produced. 

A more recent outing by Gregor Fisher is Empty, which just finished its first-series airing of six episodes. The show is written by Iain Connell and Robert Florence and co-stars the extremely talented Billy Boyd. The two men work for a company which clears and/or repairs empty or damaged flats (or, as in the final episode, commercial properties). Though there are a few other actors in the episodes, the stories essentially revolve around the interactions of Fisher and Boyd (Jacky and Tony). This is a gentle comedy with no laugh track. It's intelligent, endearing, and I certainly hope that another series is commissioned!

Third is the sketch show Chewin' The Fat. You'll notice a number of the cast are familiar, as they went on to greater fame in subsequent shows. The format is unremarkable, similar to most sketch shows. However, the writing is very clever, and the characters well-drawn. The bottom line is that it's very funny.

Finally, I recommend Still Game. Starring Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill, this show features them (with a wonderful make-up job) as a couple of widowed pensioners who have been lifelong friends and live in the same council estate. You'll recognize a number of the recurrent (and incidental) characters from Chewing' The Fat. There have been six series, several Christmas and Hogmanay Specials and a recording of a live performance at Glasgow's Cottiers Theatre. The words I would use to describe this series are: intelligently written, beautifully acted, very very funny, warm. Kiernan and Hemphill are thoroughly believable as the aged duo Jack and Victor. This is another modern classic to be.

My website may be viewed here.