Burnistoun Series 1 Review

Burnistoun is one of several successful comedy shows currently being produced by the Comedy Unit in Glasgow for BBC Scotland. It was first aired in Scotland in 2010 and a second series is due in April 2011. This sketch show is the brainchild of Robert Florence and Iain Connell who had previously written the sitcoms Empty and Legit for the Unit and had also contributed toward Chewin the Fat in the early 2000s. In this series however, not only do they write but they play most of the principal characters and, free of the constraints of domestic sitcoms, they explore a darker more absurd side of their imagination.

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The format is a sketch show with recurring characters played mostly by Florence and Connell interspersed with many one-off scenes and spoof adverts for furniture warehouses of the kind that used to infest STV. Imagine a darker, hipper version of Chewin the Fat crossed with The Fast Show aimed at a younger audience. The action takes place in the fictional Glasgow suburb of Burnistoun and the two guys play a variety of stereotypes familiar to anyone who has lived in Glasgow. The shell-suited neds, the hard men, the media types etc etc. Unusually there is very little drag involved, most of the female characters being played instead by the very capable Kirsty Strain. But having said that, the burly shaven-headed Florence can't resist piling on the slap to play Beyonce-wannabe and 'wee hairy' Kelly McGlade.

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The series looks at the absurdities of modern life through a particularly Scottish, not to say Glaswegian, filter. Amongst the recurring characters, there are Scott and Peter, the typical pals who find it difficult to articulate their friendship, the squabbling camp brothers who run an ice-cream van and the aforementioned Kelly McGlade and her singers The Sloppy Seconds (formerly known as The Snide Rides). Perhaps the darkest character is the serial killer who calls himself The Burnistoun Butcher who seems to have walked out of a League of Gentlemen episode. However his self-importance is taken down a notch or two when he attempts a face-off with the real Burnistoun Butcher i.e. the cheery chappie who purveys quality meat products who refuses to take him seriously in any way.

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Of the one-off sketches, I particularly liked Sarcasmaholics Anonymous (self-explanatory), Burnistoun's Got Talent (Wee Frankie and his 'vocal tics'...), the man who can read cats' minds and the voice-recognition lift which, the cover trumpets, has had over 2 million hits on youtube already which proves the show has legs beyond the Scottish market. Both Robert Florence and Iain Connell are talented performers with excellent voice skills which makes their characters well-differentiated, believable and, above all, entertaining. Anyone who has lived in Glasgow will recognise just about everybody they depict but there is also a universal streak in most of the characters and situations which gives the show a broader appeal. They are very ably helped by Richard Rankin and Kirsty Strain (I admire the woman just for doing the "Man who can read cats' minds" sketch).

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The DVD

Disc One has all six episodes lasting approx 28 minutes each. Disc Two contains the pilot episode and a few extras.

Transfer and Sound

The transfer is fine. The show is filmed mostly on location and the image quality is acceptable if slightly soft for a brand-new production. The sound and dialogue are very clear but there is a laugh-track added in post-production which isn't really necessary and grates a little after a while. I hope they ditch it for the second series.

Extras

Full English subtitles are provided and are fairly accurate. As with Gary Tank Commander they tread a middle ground between Standard English and full-blown Scots.

Pilot Episode
The opening credits are about the only significant difference between this and the series proper. The best sketch is probably the spoof on Taggart where a plain-talking Weegie detective castigates everyone for talking like 'shitey Scottish actors' instead of real people.

Barry Stokes' Wee Gold Pumps (Extended Version)
A longer version of a quickfire sketch.

Burnistoun's Got Talent Uncensored
The sketch as transmitted but with all the fokkin sweary bits unbleeped. It's a bit like sitting on a Glasgow bus...

Connell & Florence – Portrait of the Writer (Silent Film) 1h 40m
Quite pointless fly-on-the-wall piece taken from a single wall-mounted camera – see below. There is no dialogue at all and it really is a single take lasting one hour and forty minutes.

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Summary

The show gathers momentum as it goes along and episodes five and six are easily the most consistent and best throughout. It does seem like all the best comedies are being made north of the border these days what with this and Gary Tank Commander and Limmy's Show. Considering that the BBC in England is still wasting money on tired old shite like My Family (to be cancelled after the next series is made – hurrah) and well-known comedians' vanity projects, we up here in Scotland could show them a thing or two. If you fancy a wee taster of Burnistoun, there are plenty of extracts on youtube to sample and the second series is due on air in April 2011.

Film
8 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
6 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

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