Still Game Series 6 Review
A spin-off from the BBC Scotland sketch show, Chewin’ the Fat, Still Game follows the misadventures of two Glasgow pensioners, Jack and Victor (Kiernan and Hemphill), as they tackle their autumn years with all the passion of men half their age, alongside pals Winston (Riley) and Tam (Cox), nosey neighbour Isa (McCarry) and shop owner Naveed (Kohli).
Set in the fictitious community of Craiglang, everyday scenarios are given a fresh and hilarious spin by Kiernan and Hemphill who also write the series, and they strike a superb balance between lovable, well drawn characters and classic one-liners. The best jokes definitely come from character, although they’re certainly not averse to a bit of toilet humour. Similarly, although always within the boundaries of a 12 certificate, the language is consistently rough and ready – it’s unlikely you’ll hear as many “pricks”, “bastards” and “wankers” in any other half hour of television as you will here.
Early seasons were good at weaving social issues (crime, poverty, loneliness) into many episodes without being preachy, but a marked dip in quality around series four or five saw a move away from this towards more outlandish plotting. Series six is certainly a step back in the right direction, even if it doesn’t come close to the peak of series three. Originally shown just in Scotland, it was only from series four that Still Game went nationwide. There were fears that this might lead to a toning down of the “Scottish-ness” but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. Granted, there’s the odd joke that requires not just a certain level of Scottish-ness, but a certain level of Glaswegian-ness, but these are very few and far between. For the most part, the humour is pretty universal.
Alongside the high standard of the writing, the other major contributing factor to the success of Still Game is the quality of the acting. Sure, you couldn’t fool someone for long that a bunch of folk in their thirties were actually in their seventies, but the immersion into character is so good that it’s easy to suspend disbelief and fully accept it, making it endlessly re-watchable.
Craiglang is in the grip of a heat-wave and the only place to get some relief is the prime spot in the local park. But Jack and Victor keep finding themselves beaten to the bench by Winston and Tam, and have to resort to all sorts of tricks to try and get there early enough. A rather inconsequential season opener with a few decent laughs.
Jack and Victor pretend to be well-to-do businessmen to impress a couple of ladies they meet at the theatre, ending up as guests at a country house. How long can they pretend that they summer in Kenya before being rumbled? Stronger than the first episode, with several laugh out loud moments.
A power cut in Craiglang sees the community living in fear of burglars and looters until Shug (Young) arms them with some not-exactly-legitimate defences. Not one of the best.
Boxing legend Jim Watt guests as Boaby the barman (Mitchell) and Stevie the bookie (Costello) vie for the attentions of a new local lovely in another solid episode.
Probably the best episode of this series sees everyone abandoning Naveed’s corner shop in favour of Hyperdales, a new discount supermarket. Meanwhile the notoriously tight-fisted Tam develops a spending habit after an accident with the toaster.
Pete the jakey (D’Arcy) contends that he invented the Beefy Bake, a bakery chain’s top selling product. When he takes the manufacturer to court, Jack and Victor represent him, thanks to their afternoons spent watching Perry Mason. One of the best of the series.
One In One Out
While the occasional very minor or one-off character has died, this episode marks the first time that the spectre of mortality visits one of the main players, and waiting for the outcome makes for uncomfortable viewing. This episode is a lasting testament to the brilliance of Still Game – its ability to place the hilarious right alongside the highly emotional is what ranks it up there with Only Fools and Horses as one of the finest comedies the BBC has ever produced.
The full frame transfer does the job adequately without standing out. Colours are fairly muted and the image is a little on the flat side, but grain is absent as are any major artefacts. The only real cause for complaint is a bit of ringing that occurs around patterned objects like Tam’s bunnet, but mostly the video is of a standard you’d expect from a British TV show on DVD. Audio is also perfectly acceptable, the stereo track delivering dialogue that’s clear and strong, albeit lacking any real depth, while the title music (different from the broadcast music incidentally) is bright and lively.
Shamefully, no extras are included.