Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Immature Double Act's Ramblings Tell Us Nothing of Life; TV WATCH

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Immature Double Act's Ramblings Tell Us Nothing of Life; TV WATCH

Article excerpt

Byline: VICTOR LEWIS-SMITH

Still Game BBC2

THE Edinburgh Festival is now only weeks away, so prepare yourself for a fresh onslaught of baked-bean-face Oxbridge adolescents with Lilliputian talents and Brobdingnagian egos, eager to share with us their sideways look at life.

Immature double acts with two straight men have already booked every available theatre and Scout hut in the city (fearlessly refusing to let their lack of comedic ability thwart their overweening ambition), and one can only hope that many of them will be crushed like bugs by laconic putdowns from seasoned hecklers in the audience.

The best ego-squashing one-liner I ever heard came at the end of a truly dire oneman review, when the performer was foolhardy enough to say "thanks for coming, and do join me again next time, because laughter is the best medicine". Whereupon a voice instantly shouted back to him "in that case, your entire family must have been wiped out by tuberculosis", followed by the first genuine communal laughter of the entire wretched evening.

Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill were an immature double act a decade ago, when they first began impersonating pensioners in the theatres and Scout huts of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Their septuagenarian characters then became regulars on a weekly Scottish TV sketch show, until finally "Jack and Victor" were given their own sitcom, Still Game, the fifth series of which began last night.

The glorious Rab C Nesbitt followed a similar career path some 10 years earlier, but sadly, all comparisons between the elderly residents of Craiglang and the string-vested street philosopher from Govan must cease at this point. Where Rab was a hilariously foulmouthed inebriate, whose incoherent ramblings spoke volumes about the grimness of Scottish urban life and the bleakness of the human condition, Victor and Jack are witlessly foulmouthed inebriates, whose incoherent ramblings tell us nothing whatsoever about what it's like to be old, Scottish or deadbeat, or even just what it's like to be alive.

Admittedly, it's always difficult for young men to play their own grandfathers plausibly, and only Clive Dunn (as Corporal Jones in Dad's Army) has ever succeeded so completely that viewers thought he really was 85 (which he now is, by the way).

But Kiernan and Hemphill's portrayals wouldn't even have passed muster in the Sixties on 405 lines in flickering monochrome, and God help them when high-definition sets are in every household, because their unconvincing makeup will look even more slapdash than it does now; and as for the ludicrous coconut matting perched on their bonces, they'll find the rug being pulled from over them.

Where the casting in Last of the Summer Wine at least allows viewers to believe in the characters (if not their actions), it's impossible to take Victor or Jack seriously, which was doubly unfortunate for me, because I didn't find them remotely funny either - and the use of a few genuinely old actors in some minor roles simply made the contrast worse. …

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