Daily Record article Jul 13 2005 

Daily Record article Jul 13 2005



The Craiglang gang are going national - and they won't change a single thing for their new viewers south of the border, finds Brian McIver

THE most successful Scots comedy in years is going national next week . . . but the stars of Still Game promise they won't change a thing for English audiences. Scots comic giants Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan are bringing their smash hit old-age sitcom to the BBC network for the first time.

And the stars who portray badly behaved pensioners Jack and Victor have promised that Scotland's favourite grumpy old men will be as funny and down-to-earth as normal, despite their promotion to the major league of British TV.

As well as the two main stars of the show, all the old Craiglang favourites such as Winston, Isa, Navid and Tam are back, and Harry Potter star Robbie Coltrane will be making a special guest appearance after the huge fan begged the boys for a part.

But the biggest change for the new series is the coveted prime time network slot - on BBC2 at 10pm on a Friday - and the simultaneous broadcast of the new episodes across the whole of the UK at once.

The lads are delighted to get the chance to introduce millions more viewers to the OAP antics of Craiglang, but insisted they are going to remain true to their core audience in Scotland.

Greg said: 'Whenever you move into a new arena, like going on to the network, there's always a wee bit of trepidation and you have to just think to yourself that nothing's changing - it's just a different set of people who are going to be exposed to it.

'You have to try to do your best to continue what you've been doing up to that point rather than trying to second guess how it'll play in Cornwall.

'You don't want to turn around and slap the audience in the face. They're the kind of people who have made the show the success that it is in Scotland for the first three years.'

Ford added that, although they both have ambitions to reach as wide an audience as possible, they would never do so at the expense of their home fanbase.

'It will be a new lease of life because we're now into our fourth series. The feedback we've had for this year is that this is among the best we've ever done, but we've certainly not made any concessions for the English market. 'If you're looking at it as a career arc, you want to make it onto the network because there are five million people in Scotland, but 10 times that over by.'

He added: 'The more people see you, the more likely the phone is to ring for other projects.

'But it'd be a shame to go along and write something specifically to get on with your career.

'The Scottish audience have been along with us every step of the way and have brought us to this point and that's why we're not going to make changes because there's a loyalty to them.'

The new series will see Jack, Victor and Isa turn all Murder She Wrote to investigate the black widow of Craiglang. They will also take over a hospital radio station, get 'outed' and help their old pal Winston to deal with his interesting looking prosthetic foot. But the most talked about episode is that with a guest appearance by Harry Potter star Robbie Coltrane. The actor and comedian has a turn as a grumpy bus driver who befriends Jack and Victor while they are out on a mischief mission. Greg revealed the Glasgow-born Coltrane got involved after they approached him about helping out with a book of scripts, and he said he was a huge fan of the sitcom. Greg recalled: 'We'd produced a book of scripts and wanted someone to do the foreword, so we just took a stab in the dark and wondered if he would like to do it.

'He called back within an hour and said: 'I'd love to do it. Can you write me a part?' 'We were only too happy to do that. He's one of the biggest stars in Scotland and can play on any stage in the world. He's been everywhere, so it was a real honour to have him.

Ford added: 'It turned out to be an absolute riot. He walked on to the set just like another member of the cast and he knew large pieces of dialogue from previous series, and had watched them all with his boy.

'He knew the individual character traits, and is a very relaxed character and was a pleasure to work with.

'You think if you're working with someone who's got a big movie career like that, they might be a bit starry, but not in the slightest - he was brilliant. 'It's quite scary when he's a big fan, because you forget about the kind of people who might be watching it.' Greg and Ford have now been playing Victor and Jack for almost a decade after creating them as characters in sketch show Chewin' The Fat. They said they have been most delighted with the feedback they have received from older viewers. Because, while they enjoy huge ratings across Scotland, and hopefully across the whole of the UK from next week, they are very pleased with their elderly fanbase who approve of the gentle ribbing their age group takes.

As Greg said: 'We get a lot of pensioners who say it's really nice for them to be portrayed as real people. 'While we do have jokes with Jack and Victor, they're very rarely the butt of the jokes, with people laughing at them, because we will always try to get the audience to sympathise with their plight.

'The response from old folk has been really heartening, I was always worried that people will think we're just going the easy route and making jokes about them peeing themselves and having them half deaf, but we try to avoid the easy targets in Still Game.'

With the new series starting next week the boys are already looking ahead. Ford said they have got four good story ideas for the next series already and they have just finished their first ever Christmas special, which will be shown at the end of this year.

Ford said the secret of their success was based on a mixture of the strong supporting cast and hard work at the writing.

While Ford and Greg's old pals Jack and Victor are the main stars, the support of Winston (Paul Riley), Isa (Jane McCarry), Navid, (Sanjeev Kohli) and Tam (Mark Cox) have become more and more central as the years have gone on.

Ford revealed: 'The thing with the cast is that what you see on screen isn't a facade - we're all pals in real life and have known each other for about a decade of being in this game.

'We work religiously when it comes to the writing, but when we get to the filming we're all comfortable with each other's company and it's very easy. We always look forward to getting in there for a real laugh.

'The only downside is being in the make-up chair at six in the morning and spending so long with them, but the girls that do it are great, as are the costume staff who help make it all work.

'We had the option to do more Chewin' The Fat, but wanted to do something different.

'And when we started to write this, it came really easy and we've been amazed by the broad demographic that watch it - the ratings for the last series were by far and away bigger than Chewin' The Fat.'

Greg also revealed they've a contract for more series of the hit show, and said they both hoped to continue with the beloved old codgers as long as they felt wanted by the public.

He said: 'If myself or Ford ever thought the stories weren't as strong, we'd have no problem pulling the plug and I think the BBC would respect that decision.'

He added: 'The main thing is to keep that standard up, but we've got a lot of stories to tell yet and we love the characters


#THE boys meet Billy Boyd. The lads have to spend all day waiting for Victor's forgetful son to turn up for a visit at Central Station, and end up talking to a young man (Boyd) about families

# THE anniversary dinner . Celebrating their friendship, Jack and Victor go to a posh restaurant for a cup of tea. When a sympathetic waiter offers them a free lunch, they indulge, until the waiter gets fired and they get the bill

# The Canadian affair . After Victor surprises Jack by joining him on his trip to visit family in Canada, the boys see the new world and marvel at huge portions of scrambled eggs

# EVER resourceful shopkeeper Navid, pictured left, suspects something is afoot at the back of his shop and uses his night vision goggles to try to find the suspect

# VICTOR becomes the most popular man in Craiglang when he buys a car by outbidding Tam, and enjoys the freedom of the road until a neighbour throws a fridge through the roof

Return to Main Page


Add Comment

Search This Site

Syndicate this blog site

Powered by BlogEasy

Free Blog Hosting