Still Game hiatus ‘saved actors from getting sick of show’

Ford Kiernan as Jack Jarvis and Greg Hemphill as Victor McDade. Picture: Contributed

Ford Kiernan as Jack Jarvis and Greg Hemphill as Victor McDade. Picture: Contributed

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Still Game star Greg Hemphill has admitted he and comedy partner Ford Kiernan could have become ‘thoroughly sick’ of the much-loved show had they not given it an extended break.

He also said the pair would have been more nervous about bringing back Jack and Victor and the rest of the Craiglang gang had they not staged a live version of the show at Glasgow’s Hydro arena in 2014.

The cast, including Isa Drennan (played by Jane McCarry) are also returning. Picture: Contributed

The cast, including Isa Drennan (played by Jane McCarry) are also returning. Picture: Contributed

Ahead of the sitcom’s eagerly-awaited return after a nine-year hiatus, Hemphill said giving the characters ‘downtime’ had allowed the show’s creators and its audience time to miss Still Game.

The two stars said they had been treated like ‘rock stars’ after bringing the characters back and had been mobbed when the show went on location around Glasgow for two weeks.

A new six-part series of Still Game will be shown on BBC One from 7 October - with Paul Riley, Jane McCarry, Mark Cox, Sanjeev Kohli and Gavin Mitchell all returning.

The show’s return comes just over two years after a live version sold out for 21 nights in a row at the Hydro.

I’m not sure what would have happened had we not had a break - we might have grown thoroughly sick of it

Greg Hemphill

Hemphill said: “That was great fun and I think possibly had we not done the live shows, we would have been more nervous coming back to TV. It felt like a big family reunion where everybody was invited.

The nine-year gap served us well in the end because it allowed us to continue the story with the live shows.

“I’m not sure what would have happened to Still Game had we not had a break - we might have grown thoroughly sick of it.

“I think that downtime, for us, the creators, and the audience allowed everyone time to miss Still Game.

“This time round it’s been quite the whirlwind, we’ve got the support of the network, it’s going to BBC One in a primetime slot and it’s all very exciting. The game has been upped.”

Hemphill said the two characters had been ‘frozen in time’ since they were last on screen.

He added: “We find them in exactly the same position as they were all the time - they’re kind of frozen in time in a sense.

“As we all get older, Jack and Victor don’t, which I think is a nice metaphor for the show.

“Jack and Victor are eternally 75 years old so in many ways it’s like a reboot rather than a continuation.”

Kiernan said: “Time has moved on but the characters’ ages haven’t. We like the idea that Oor Wullie and The Broons never got older.

“There’s a comfortability in having Still Game’s characters living in a permanent age bubble.

“Jack’s a man much like his best pal, Victor. They exist together as a unit, if one of them is not quite right, they rush to help out. There’s a real community feel about the show.

“Still Game reinforces that you shouldn’t ignore pensioners because they are completely valuable and relevant.”

Still Game ran for six series initially with the characters bowing out in the 2007 Hogmanay special. The BBC ended more than two years of speculation by confirming its return in May.

Hemphill said: “We filmed the first four weeks in the bubble in the BBC Scotland studios in Dumbarton and then we came out around Glasgow in full costume with a camera crew in tow.

“It was like we had a big sign saying ‘we’re Still Game - come over and say hello.’

“The reception we got, I’ve never experienced anything like it. This is a sitcom we’re talking about.

“We’re not film stars, it’s not Harry Potter but at times it felt like people’s enthusiasm was at an all-time high. You start to realise you’ve created something that is loved. Long may it continue.”

Hemphill added: “We got mobbed but it’s always great to get recognised and we always allow a little time to get photos taken - after all, the public make the show what it is.”

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