DUST off the bunnets and put the anoraks into the dry cleaners - Jack and Victor are set for a comeback.
BBC Scotland today confirmed a new strand of its commercially and critically acclaimed comedy show, Still Game, is to go into production this summer.
Nearly a decade after Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill’s irascible pensioners, Jack and Victor, graced their sixth - and many feared, last - series, filming will begin on six new episodes this July.
Over the course of its nine year hiatus, the programme has amassed a loyal audience across the UK thanks to repeat broadcasts and the inclusion of old series on the streaming service, Netflix.
The audience appetite for the sitcom was confirmed 18 months ago when Kiernan and Hemphill rekindled their partnership for a sold-out 21-night run of live shows Glasgow’s Hydro venue.
That demand is reflected in the BBC’s plans for the seventh series, which will air on the BBC One network as well as BBC One Scotland later this year.
It comes nearly two decades after the characters were debuted by Kiernan and Hemphill at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Although the writers and performers have grown closer in age to their creations over that time (“we need less make up now, reasons Kiernan) they insist audiences can expect Still Game to pick up where it left off back in 2007.
Speaking at a press conference at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay, Kiernan explained: “Time has moved on, but Jack and Victor’s age hasn’t. It’s an Oor Wullie or Broons thing. We’re hoping the audience will be as comfortable as where we left them, we want it to feel as if they haven’t been away. It feels like we’re pulling on an old pair of slippers, or taking a warm bath.”
Hemphill agreed: “We were always concerned about outstaying our welcome and looking back, it does feel a little bit like the show ended prematurely, so we really feel this is an amazing opportunity to bring it back.”
Although the new series will aim for continuity, both men said viewers could expect a roster of new characters, while the plot lines will touch upon “contemporary issues” such as demolition in Glasgow’s housing schemes and the “changing face of communities.”
But they stressed that the prospect of a major network audience had not blunted their distinctly Scottish sensibilities.
“We’re not going to start talking like Downton Abbey,” Hemphill stressed. “The show is what it is and we’ve been at great pains to make sure we look after that core audience.”
The new series will see the return of long-standing co-stars including Jane McCarry as Isa, Sanjeev Kohli as Navid, Gavin Mitchell as Bobby, Paul Riley as Winston and Mark Cox as Tam.
Ewan Angus, BBC Scotland’s commissioning editor, said the corporation was bringing Still Game back “absolutely to the highest standard,” while Shane Allen, the BBC’s controller of comedy commissioning, described the programme as a “comedy phenomenon.”
Kiernan and Hemphill said it will be for audiences to dictate whether Still Game has a future beyond the six new episodes, but both insist they are not planning on mothballing the characters again.
“The show is unique in the sense that if we want to park it for a couple of years, we can revisit it,” said Hemphill. “We don’t ever want to not be doing these characters for nine years again, we don’t want Jack and Victor to disappear for that length of time again.