The last thing we wanted, especially after the Scotland football team were declared all but potted heid in Kazakhstan, was for Jack and Victor to expire before our glass eyes. The charming title sequence had them going from boys to Teddy Boys, from lanky hair to droopy mousers, and from guys battling middle-age spread in tight blousons to the grumpy gits we’ve known and loved for seven series. We didn’t need to see them in a double coffin in last night’s farewell.
Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill didn’t want this either, having recalled their dismay at how One Foot in the Grave ended with TV’s last great crabbit Scottish pensioner to rage against the dying of the light perishing in a hit-and-run.
What did we want? For many telly fans there’s a general dissatisfaction with the way closure happens now. All those inconclusive endings, ironic endings, post-modern endings, penultimate-episode endings leaving a flaccid finale, not to mention The Sopranos’ notorious fade-to-black so we still don’t know if Tony S. was shot or got to finish his onion rings in peace.
The beginning of the end for Still Game was further reminder of one of the BBC Scotland comedy’s central tenets: that old folk aren’t all the same, capable of being herded into a handy governmental socio-economic category (then promptly forgotten about).
Victor likes surprises; Jack doesn’t. Jack ruined Victor’s “rippy-ooty day” – the first of every month when he gets to tear a page from his calendar and glimpse a new Bonnie Scotland vista – by shouting out “Ben Lomond!”. Right, said, Victor, we’re climbing it.
Oh no! Was this how they would cop their whack? Was it going to be Touching the Void re-done for codgers – Touching the Haemorrhoid? – with an unbearably tense climax on a precarious ledge following a row over who’d scoffed the last of the Kendal Mint Cake and dire consequences for one if not both of them? “What a way to go, eh?” remarked Tam in the Clansman. “Venturing into the unknown at their age.” Tam liked the sound of this, and right away he and fellow bunneted intellectual Winston put their names down for the assault on Scotland’s 183rd highest munro, mine host Boaby doing likewise.
And that was it, really.
Tam brought along some tins from the back of a cupboard for the campfire feast, only these contained paint and dog food (this gag was immediately followed by one about dogging, a nifty juxtaposition).
The outdoor location budget was modest with no landslides or midge swarms, the show hadn’t forked out on Midge Ure’s guest turn the previous week.
There was no big song-and-dance number to finish and no big reveal.
No-one got all profound about the meaning of life and no-one announced they were going to have a sex change. That was OK, though.
Kiernan and Hemphill could have indulged themselves with a two-hander the way soap operas sometimes like to come over all Samuel Beckett but generously they invited the gang along for the last ha-ha. It was a sweet conclusion with images of the main players fading to dust as Boaby Dylan warbled on the soundtrack: “When your rooster crows at the break of dawn/Look out your window and I’ll be gone.”
If this edition was typical of a series with fewer great gags, then Still Game delivered plenty previously.
But is this really the end?
While the others were sleeping off their hangovers, our bunion-weary and compression sock-clad heroes continued the climb together. Maybe they nipped down the other side of the mountain and signed a big-money deal with Netflix.