You won’t need to be eagle-eyed when my summary for May gets posted to notice that this month I watched all nine series -59 episodes, missing just 3 specials not currently available on Netflix- of Still Game, a Scottish sitcom created by Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill, who also play lead characters Jack Jarvis and Victor McDade. Recommended by friends some time ago, we finally got around to watching this and, well, once it took it quickly became an irresistible binge, filling quite a few evenings. I may not be able to go to Scotland this month (my holiday cancelled thanks to Covid19, like many other people’s holidays this year, alas) but thanks to this show, a part of Scotland came to us instead.
Its inevitable, I suppose, with most of us self-isolating and staying at home, and sitting in-front of the tv looking for something to hopefully both cheer us up and momentarily allow us some respite from the current state of affairs, that we turn to ‘light’ material like this. Still Game certainly ticked all the boxes for us, an absolutely hilarious and surprisingly touching series. It concerns a bunch of pensioners living in the fictional area of Craiglang, Glasgow, focusing mostly on the two OAPs Jack and Victor and their acquaintances/neighbours. As the series unfolds over the nine seasons (shot from 2002 to 2019, originally ending with season six in 2007 the show eventually returned with seasons seven to nine between 2016 and 2019) we see more of their backstory and lives and the community of this blighted urban landscape. There’s a truth and honesty to it, a gentle warmth that’s similar to that of other popular British sitcoms like Only Fools and Horses. Okay, it may not be High Art, but at times such as this, its absolutely perfect.
As far as sitcoms go, for me Frasier always stands tall, but Still Game is pretty high up there. I suppose sitcoms are like comfort food; short bursts of funny, comforting, familiar material, whether it be shows like Steptoe and Son, Fawlty Towers, Bottom, Black Books, The IT Crowd, The Middle, Count Arthur Strong… The most popular one here in the UK is likely Only Fools and Horses, which is a genuine national institution and never off-air, it seems. Indeed part of a sitcom’s appeal is the re-watch, soaking it up again, the jokes becoming familiar but seldom tired (see Only Fools and Horses always being on, and the endless popularity of shows like Friends (no, never watched it), The Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons on streaming services etc.) the safety and comfort of experiencing their situations and jokes all part of their charm and appeal. I’m sure during all this Covid19 nightmare many are retreating to their favourite sitcoms for escape. The last episode of Still Game ended on a bittersweet note- a vignette of the various characters literally fading away onscreen, old age finally getting the better of each of them, until only an ageing Boabby remains, still tending the bar, the old crowd all gone. All things fade, I guess. As endings go, it was surprisingly sad, but maybe perfect, too. Having only ‘known’ these characters for the last few weeks, I cannot imagine how it must have felt for longtime fans from all the years the series was on the air.
For my part, never one to be permanently reliant on streaming etc I’ll be investing in a DVD boxset of Still Game soon enough (added bonus: the complete box also includes the three specials) to place alongside my Steptoe and Son, Frasier etc sets. Yeah, there’s me going on about too many discs on the shelves and I’m adding another set. Go figure.