Dear Green Place, Friday, BBC1
Da Ali G Show, Friday, Channel 4
Mr & Mrs Mackintosh, Sunday, BBC2
"I'M really struggling to follow this." In terms of audience feedback, these are not words that the creators of a new TV comedy would want to hear. Was the plot too complicated? Were the characters' motives unclear? According to my other half, it was the accents that were to blame. **Dear Green Place was a new comedy pilot set in Glasgow, that fertile breeding ground for many a successful comic creation. My English-born but fully acclimatised viewing companion has never previously had to request subtitles during a west-coast drama, but this one was causing real problems.
I'd like to have been able to take on the role of translator, but there were moments when the warp-speed Weegie banter left me trailing too. Thankfully there was enough slapstick to transcend the language difficulties. The setting was the green green grass of a Glasgow park, where the parkies struggle to fit in a day's work between bouts of skiving. Ford Kiernan starred as park keeper Mr Henderson, lovingly known by his colleagues as the "'tachey prick" on account of his striking facial hair and jobsworth personality. Circling around Kiernan were familiar faces from *Still Game and *River City.
It does make you wonder if there's a secure institution somewhere housing Scotland's comedy acting elite. They're allowed out for panto, regional theatre tours and Scottish TV, but then it's back to the unit. This isn't to criticise Andy Gray, Elaine C Smith or Ford Kiernan, but it's beginning to feel as if Scotland produces just one very specific breed of comedy. Namely the kind that's working class, set in Glasgow and contains lots of dialogue about cans of ginger, rammies, sh*ggin' and sh*te. *Dear Green Place took the model and executed it flawlessly. There were plenty of laughs, great comic timing from Kiernan and Paul Riley, the writer, in particular, and I wouldn't be surprised if it gets the go-ahead to be made into a series. But please TV high-heidjins, next time roond gonnae gie us summat brand new, eh?
Meanwhile, **Da Ali G Show was looking well past its sell-by date. Some comic characters perfectly capture the spirit of the moment - Harry Enfield's Loadsamoney springs to mind - before quickly becoming horribly dated. When Sacha Baron Cohen created the bling-adorned Ali G with the "is it cos I is black?" catchphrase, he became an instant cultural icon. Duping well-known figures into thinking they were doing serious interviews then embarrassing them by asking increasingly stupid questions, Ali G ventured where no other interviewer dared to tread. Except for Paul Kaye's Dennis Pennis of course, who did it first and funnier.
Six years after his debut, Ali G is still peddling the same format. He tried but failed to make the head of ABC News look like an idiot, then did marginally better in making a police dog trainer think he was serious about the idea of replacing the dogs with dolphins. I retreated to a darkened room to meditate on a world that contains original comedy.
**Mr and Mrs Mackintosh had promised to bring Charles Rennie's wife Margaret into the spotlight, giving her the long overdue credit for her role in the design partnership. If you've ever received a Mackintosh photo frame or tea towel as a gift, it's easy to be complacent about his talent. His style has become so familiar that is almost seems commonplace. This documentary blew that idea clean out of the water, tracing the architect's life from humble beginnings through popular acclaim to his final years spent, more or less, in exile in France.
Today Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art, Hill House and other designs are landmarks, universally acclaimed and instantly recognisable. The architects, historians and artists interviewed for this programme put flesh on the bones of the famous name, revealing his genius but also reminding us that it wasn't until after his death that his home town declared him a triumph. By the end of it I felt suitably re-educated about the man. But despite the promises, Mrs Mackintosh remained an elusive figure.