Still Game is a Scottish sitcom written by and starring Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan. It focuses on two Glasgow pensioners living out their golden years in Craiglang a fictitious run down suburb of the city. Filled with brilliant characters this is a touching, hilarious look at friendship and getting old.
Series 1-5 has just arrived on Netflix so over the last month, I have been watching my way through and trying to come up with my Top 5 episodes. It was a tough task to get it down to 5 as there is just so many classic moments in there but after much deliberation, I finally decided. So here it is before I change my mind again.
Before we get started, let’s have a bit of history first. The show is about 2 life long friends; Jack Jarvis (Ford Kiernan) and Victor McDade (Greg Hemphill) they are both in their 70s (Kiernan and Hemphill, age themselves to play the roles), have lost their wives but haven’t given up on life. It started as a stage show which featured Jack, Victor and their friend Winston stuck in their high rise flat because of a broken lift. The stage show was a great success and Jack and Victor returned in Hemphill and Kiernan’s sketch show Chewin’ The Fat. Following the success of this, the characters were given their own show and Still Game was born.
The reason this show works so well for me isn’t just the that fact that it is funny (which it is), it is that it is loaded with well written characters and mixes comedy and pathos seamlessly, one minute you are over come with melancholy, the next you are on the floor laughing. Jack and Victor’s life long friendship is at the heart of things but they are surrounded by a range of wonderful characters to flesh out the show.
We have Winston, long term friend of Jack and Victor who is always coming up with schemes to make his life easier, but often they blow up in his face, Winston provides most of the laugh out loud moments of the show and is brilliantly played by Paul Riley, Isa the local gossip, who is always looking to help but really just wants to know everyone’s business, Navid, the local shop owner, Tam, the skinflint who perpetuates the national stereotype and of course Boaby, the black hearted bar man of The Clansman, the local pub. Jack and Victor take great pleasure in winding Boaby up, most interactions ending with the classic “2 pints prick” line. I have attached a compilation of the best interactions (parental advisory on the language). An interesting fact is that Gavin Mitchell who plays Boaby, originally played Winston in the stage show.
Shot in and around Glasgow, the show ran for 6 series with a few seasonal specials. The first 3 series aired exclusively in Scotland, but as the shows popularity grew, it was moved to BBC 2 and shown to the whole country. The series ended with a Hogmany Special in 2007. All sorts of rumors of fall outs and break ups followed and it looked like we had seen the last our favourite pensioners. However in 2014, the gang returned for a sell out run at Glasgow Hydro Theatre and a 7th series remains a real possibility. My fingers remain firmly crossed.
Okay, so as I mentioned it was very difficult to get this down to 5, such is my love for the show, but I have managed it. So without further ado…
5. Courtin’ (Series 1, Episode 4)
In this episode, Jack begins dating Barbra, the lady from the charity shop. As they grow closer, Victor becomes jealous of their relationship. Meanwhile Winston is barred from The Clansman and has to find other places to have drink.
This is probably the first great episode of the series, the scene when Victor realises that Jack fancies the lady from the charity shop is comedy gold. “you fancy her!” “aye ye dae, you’ve taken a beamer” lines you would expect from 12 years, are brilliant coming from a pair of pensioners. The comedy, as it often is in this show is juxtaposed with moments of sadness. Jack looking at a picture of his wedding, trying to decide if he is ready to move on (he has been widowed 10 years at this point) provides a real somber moment.
Winston, following a argument with Boaby the barman is barred from The Clansman, so reverts to a series of adventures trying to find an alternative place to have a pint. Drinking a strawberry alchopop on a street corner with some wee neds is a highlight.
The comedy again is woven together with real pathos, as Jack’s relationship with Barbara begins to isolate Victor. By the end of the episode, when inevitably the relationship ends (she is married) the two old pals silently sitting down to a meal together. Sometimes silence speaks more than words, it certainly does here. A touching moment.
4. Hoaliday (Series 3, Episode 1)
Following on from the end of series 2 Jack and Victor get on a plane and head to Canada to visit Jack’s ex pat daughter. Meanwhile, back in Craiglang, Winston is spending time with Isa but is her wonderful home cooking worth listening to constant gossiping (her “pish” as he describes it). He comes up with a plan to get the best of both worlds.
Most of the comedy in this episode comes from the Winston/Isa arc, but Jack and Victor’s trip to Canada providing the more somber moments. Jack’s conversation with his daughter is wonderfully played out. When his daughter asks him to move out to Canada permanently, Jack lamenting why he and his wife never emigrated and how he could never leave Scotland without her is bittersweet and as with many of the more somber moments you forget that is a young man in the role.
Winston, as with most episodes steals the show from a comedy stand point. Here, he has been going to Isa’s for his tea but is sick of her constant talking He hatches a plan that will have him being telephoned for an fake emergency, just as he has finished eating and heads to The Clansman, it inevitably blows up in his face.
There are funnier episodes for sure, but this makes the list purely on Ford Kiernan’s performance. Not to mention the end of credit sting, where the The Clansman regulars are betting on who has gotten the tackiest gift from Jack and Victor. Classic Still Game
3. Oot (Series 3, Episode 5)
Here, Craiglang is a buzz as Archie, a local recluse, is being relocated. He hasn’t been seen out of his house in nearly 40 years and is being moved into the same block as Jack and Victor. Elsewhere, Winston needs a new telly and hatched a plan to build his own.
Again a perfect example of the perfect mix of comedy and pathos. Archie’s (played by Sylvester McCoy) story is a sad one, but his re-integration into the modern world is brilliantly handled. His love for McDonald’s and his historical download from Isa are highlights.
Winston turns his house into a mini movie theatre and has the lads round to watch The Towering Inferno, with hilarious results of course. “Haud on the noo, the building’s on fire” remains one of my favourite Still Game moments, as Jack doubts that Fred Astaire appears in the film.
2. Swottin’ (Series 3, Episode 2)
After returning to Craiglang from their trip to Canada, Jack and Victor fear their life has become too routine so they decide to enroll in a class at University. Boaby is feeling that is business is too quiet and enlists Tam and Winston to help him revitalise The Clansman.
Jack and Victor decide to take Medical Proficiency (First Aid) and at first are very passionate about it, however they soon have their heads turned by the student life. These scenes were filmed in and around The University of Glasgow, so brought back many memories for me, as did the sight of Jack and Victor bunking off their class to have a swift pint.
It is in the sub plot that this episode really soars. As Boaby, Tam and Winston attempt to put on a quiz at The Clansman. The X-Factor style audition for quiz master is stand out, as is actual quiz itself. The punchline being, after Jack and Victor gloriously fail their course, they lie about it and are called into action to deliver a baby, with hilarious consequences.
Some of the best comedy moments in the series comes from the Jack, Victor and Winston winding up Boaby the barman, and this episode has one of the best. When Boaby suggests that the amount of old men drinking in his pub is driving his business away, Winston retorts…
“I’ll tell ye the reason yer quiet in here Boaby….you’re a wanker”
A simple retort, but Paul Riley’s delivery is just sublime. As the conversation moves on to why all his customers are drinking in a theme pub…
“Because you’ve done nuthin tae deserve customers Boaby, ye see you’re theme in here, is the theme of shite. Welcome tae The Clansman enjoy the shite atmosphere, the shite patter, the shite pint…”
Now, I am not normally a fan of swearing in comedy, but this is testament to the writers that this adds an extra dimension to an hilarious monologue.
1. Wummin (Series 2, Episode 3)
Although narrowing the list down to just 5 was tough, my favourite episode was never in doubt.
Jack and Victor become worried about their friend Bert, who has recently lost his wife. They decide to intervene and get him back on his feet. Winston, meanwhile is faking an knee injury to get extra money in his pension and has manage to score himself a home help.
As I have mentioned before, this show is at its best when it is mixing comedy and pathos and it is never done better than in this episode. Jack and Victor visit their friend Bert, who is in a bad way after being widowed. No sooner have we left jack delivering another heart felt speech, telling Bert how he and Winston brought Victor back from the edge when his own wife died, than we are seeing the pair drawing straws (well, pencils) to see who picks up a massive pot of urine under Bert’s bed. My favourite line in the whole series comes what Victor wins and triumphantly declares…
“hahahahahah, get it right up ye!, git the pish lifted”
In the sub plot, Winston is up to his old tricks as he fakes a knee injury to get extra benefits and a home help. The home help Mrs Begg (Played by the brilliant Celia Imre), has little time for Winston and is determined to prove that he is faking. The scene where she catches him dancing in the bookies is stand out.
The episode concludes with Bert turning his life round by having an affair with Mrs Begg, which of course plays right into Winston’s hands. The end credit sting sums up every thing I love about this wonderful show. Check it out below
Well, that is all from me, I hope you enjoyed re-living some of these great moments as much as I did. If you have never seen it, then please do yourselves a favour and have a look on Netflix. Yes, it is very Scottish, but it really has a universal appeal. I live in England myself and was really surprised just how much love there is for the show down here. If anyone is a fan, I would love to get opinions on my list and let me know if I have missed your favourite.
Thanks for reading. Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.
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