Arts & Culture

VIDEO: ‘Still Game brings people together just like the classic TV shows used to do’

By Ian Marland at

It is Scotland’s most-watched television show. Not even Andy Murray winning Wimbledon could beat its viewing figures.

When the last series of Still Game aired on network BBC1 for the first time in 2016, a third of the population in Scotland tuned in to watch – and many millions south of the border.

When the eighth series screens (BBC1 Thursday March 8, 9.30pm), the sense of occasion on its home turf of Glasgow will be palpable.

Still Game

Towering: fictional Craiglang and Osprey Heights is the spiritual home of main characters Jack and Victor

Michael Hines has been the show’s director from its very first episode in 2002.

He says one of the delights about the new series coming out is the fact that it is a shared experienced – the way TV used to be.

“In an era of ‘watch what you want when you want on what platform you want’ it’s really nice to see groups gathering together, be it families, be it a golf club, and pubs or whatever – getting together and watching it go out live.

“And that’s absolutely lovely for us to know.”

He adds: “I remember as a kid running round the playground quoting Monty Python and Not the Nine O’Clock News.

“And I remember one of the old series (of Still Game) when I heard kids shouting in a playground ‘back off you spooky bitch!’

“And I thought that was probably one of the proudest moments of my filming life – obviously I hadn’t written the line – but filming that kind of stuff, knowing that was being quoted by kids running round…”

Still Game

Skyline: the view from Craiglang looks over the real-life city

Glasgow comedian Sanjeev Kohli plays shopkeeper Navid Harrid in the show.

He says: “I have very fond memories as a kid – we all sat and watched Dallas together.

“I would sit on the floor because I was the youngest, and I just like the image of families getting together and watching Still Game – and they do.

“There’s swearing in Still Game – and I genuinely maintain it’s the only show where I’ve seen a pensioner with a proper erection. I can’t think of any other example.

“And yet families sit and watch it because – I think – the show has a heart.”

For those who don’t know, Still Game is about a group of Glaswegian pensioners who struggle to get to grips with modern living.

Creators Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill play the lead characters Jack Jarvis and Victor McDade, who inhabit a fictional district of the city called Craiglang.

It’s a Scottish Last of The Summer Wine, but with sharper gags and a Glasgow bite.

It could be argued, however, it’s unique selling point is its actors who are younger than the parts they play.

Sanjeev Kohli:

“There’s swearing in Still Game – and I genuinely maintain it’s the only show where I’ve seen a pensioner with a proper erection. I can’t think of any other example.

“And yet families sit and watch it because – I think – the show has a heart.”

Sanjeev says: “When we started back in 2002, if you’d said we’d be still going in 2018 I would have been very pleasantly surprised.

“Not because I thought the show wouldn’t have longevity, what show does have that longevity? Last of the Summer Wine, yes.

“Because of the way the show is constructed – we are younger actors playing older people – I could keep going until I reach Navid’s age.”

Sanjeev says anticipation about the new series of Still Game has been growing for months.

“People were tweeting me after we filmed the series back in August last year saying ‘come on, play the game when’s it out?’

“And I didn’t know myself. And it was getting quite close to anger – like homicidal rage,” he said.

“I think people were getting quite pent up about it – but that’s just a compliment to the show really, that they are that excited about it.”

Its irreverent script full of quotable one-liners is what makes the show funny.

But its locations and attention to detail are what also make it real – and much more than just a funny show.

Michael, an Englishman who also worked on the show’s precursor Chewin’ The Fat, says: “There is a reality to it. We try that in the locations, we try that in the design.

Watch: Actor Sanjeev Kohli, who plays shopkeeper Navid, and the show’s director Michael Hines talk about the comedy

“People talk about the accuracy of designing Mad Men, and we’re trying to find really tacky little things from Spain to put in the background of Jack’s house to make him look real.

“I love it when people say ‘I know a shopkeeper just like Navid’ ‘I’ve got a Jack or a Victor, my granddad’s just like that’ ‘I know an Isa’. And also, my grandma’s got that bathroom.

“We take great pride it getting it just right.”

* The full version of this article appeared in the i newspaper on Saturday March 4 and can be viewed here