10 The List 23 Dec 1988— 12 Jan 1989
l’it's the easiest way to get out of the house. Waiting for the bus. I asked the lady standing beside me: ‘Does your dog bite‘." She said no. I patted it and it almost bit tny fingers off. I said ‘I thought you said your dog didn‘t bitel’ She said: ‘That‘s not my dog.‘ I went into Boots. I went in the door — it saves walking through the w all — and I said to the assistant: ‘lixcuse me. have you any laces‘." ‘.\'o.‘ she replied. '()h my] I said. ‘that‘s- terrible — Boots without lacesl‘
I went down the front — oh. you can go down the front. there's no law against it ~— and l was walking in my tisual way. one foot in frottt of the other. oh. that’s the best way - I've tried various methods. I remember once I tried a series ofjttntps. I heard someone say. look at that Australianl' I didn‘t answer. just
wagged my tail.
Then l met this man. I knew him. otherwise I'd never have spoken to him. l le was sitting on top of a horse with a briefcase. bowler hat and Wellington boots. I said. ‘What are you doing on top ofthat horse'." He said. ‘I thought you'd say that.'l could have cut my tongue outzl wished I'd never mentioned it. I thought — if I'd only just said ‘l lello' and never mentioned he was on a horse -— or Fanny‘s your aunt. or anything. lshottld just have passed him as if it were an everyday occurrence. Then he said. ‘As soon as I saw you. l said to myself— he'll say what are you doing up on that horse'." I was awfully embarrassed —
and to hide my embarrassment. l
patted the horse. I said. ‘This horse has a flat head‘. He said ‘You're
1 facing the wrong way'. I wondered
Bob Black talks to
lf the workload of (‘ity Lights' writer
and creator Bob Black is anything to go by. a writer's lot is not a peaceful one. At present. preparations are well under way for the programme‘s fourth series and a foray into the world oftheatre is planned for January. Evert as we spoke. Bob was up against it. polishing off the script for the show's (‘hristmas special — a festive reworking of ‘lt's a Wonderful Life‘.
Eocusing upon the trials and tribulations of would-be novelist Willie Melville. the show has become something of a ﬂagship for BBC Scotland. receiving full networking and proving that (‘aledonian humour can travel south of Gretna and still be successful.
From the beginning. however. the chips have been stacked against such a result. Even sonte natives have baulked at the broadness of the characters‘ Glaswegian dialects while the show's subject matter has always been resolutely Northern — failure. despair and disillusionment.
The fact that it has worked out is a tribute to the warmth and skill of Black‘s writing. Speaking frotn his home in Pollokshields. Bob begged
t )differ: ‘The show‘s success is quite
amazing. really. but I think it's more of a testament of the cast. Over the years they‘ve grown into their characters and really made them their own. Gerard Kelly especially — his portrayal of Willie is so popular and loved so much.‘
A product ofthe DC. Thompson
publishing empire. Bob has followed
a uniquely backward path towards eminence. After having his fully-fledged sitcom put into production. the BBC suggested that he try his hand at sketch writing. So Bob became a contributor for A Kick Up the Eighties and Naked Radio before graduating to the post of Script Editor on Scotch and Wry. Such experience gives hint a hefty working knowledge of the nature of Scottish comedy. surely? ‘Well. I don't think it does to be too
parochial. With (‘ity Lights. we like to maintain a wide-spread sense of humour. Obviously the Glasgow accent lends itselfto humour but I think the show could be set in any city. really.‘
Bole claim may well be borne out in the not-too-distant future. Negotiations are presently under way to sell the concept to American television -- (’ould you stand to see Willie Melville metamorphose into ('huck .‘ylelvin'.’ Black laughs at the idea: ‘Yes. I agree that most ofthese adaptations are pretty dire. What they did to Reggie l’errin especially was just awful. But if they develop
the characters properly. it could be
excellent. I mean look at Till Death
L's l)o l’art -- that's become one the longest running. most consistent shows on American TV'. So. if(‘ity Lights gets done. hopefully they‘ll do it equally well.’
Transatlantic triumph. however. is a long way off. Much tnore pressing is the (‘ity Light‘s Christmas special. a production which features Billy (‘onnolly in a somewhat unusual role. The Big Yin forsakes his more familiar throat- shredding histrionics to don wings and magic wand as Willie’s guardian angel. A bit ofa coup for the show'.’ ‘()h definitely.’ agrees Bob 'he wanted to do the show apparently because it was so different from his usual style. He
why it had refused the sugar lump!
1 gave the horse a thump on the rump and it reared up. He looked down and said ‘lfyou‘re coming up beside me. I‘m getting off' and slid over the horse‘s neck and landed on his head. Luckily the pavement broke his fall.
So I hung about till he recovered. It was the least I could do. After all. I was the last one to talk to him. So when he came to I said. 'That was a dreadful thing that happened just now‘. He said ‘Just now! It's happened five times already this morning!‘ I said. ‘What are you doing on the horse in the first place'." He said. ‘That's another thing that‘s annoying me. l don‘t know.‘ I said. ‘You don‘t know? How’s that‘." He said. ‘I can't get my briefcase open to find out‘. I said. ‘1‘” have to go now. half the summer‘s gone already
plays the role in a very gentle. subtle way and I think a lot ofpeople will be surprised. It‘s a lovely part. even if] do say so myself!‘
As ifall this wasn't sufficient (remembering. ofcourse. the show's thespian outing next month . a ‘comedy-mystery-thriller‘ Bob also plays a large part in Radio Scotland‘s first venture into the grubby world of trade and commerce; The station‘s stinging satires on the history of Scottish football Only an Excuse and A Tale ofTwo Seasons have just been released on cassette by BBC Enterprises to healthy sales and critical plaudits. How did they come about‘.’: ‘They were inspired by William Mcllvanney's football series Only A Game which were broadcast
talking to you'. He stalked off. leading the horse to a wall where he could mount it. I said ‘Now. now. don't get on your high horse!‘
Then I left and met the producers of this show. lwasn't surprised. the type of luck I was having. I thought — l‘ll dodge them. but they saw me and I heard them calling. ‘(‘hip. (‘hipl‘ They've never got my name right yet! ‘Chip. you’re coming with us.'l said ‘Where are you going'." They said ‘We're going ottt in a fishing smack.‘ Well. you should have seen how the two of thetn were dressed — one had a yachting cap and a pair of water wings — I nearly choked on my seasick pill. The other one ltad a red tamttty. a fisherman's jersey. shorts and plimsolls. I said. ‘Wltat are you walking like that for'." He said. 'lt‘s a sailor's roll. walking the decks. laddie. a sailor‘s roll'. I said ‘lt looks more like a ham roll to me!’
during the last World (‘up. We felt that his treatment was a bit too sombre and serious and decided to do a more light-hearted version of the same thing.
Luckily. people have loved it.‘
No complaints form lampooned luminaries then'.’ ‘Not at all. everyone has taken it really well. When James Sanderson died. for instance. we were unsure as to whether we should include our parodies ofhim on the tapes. But his family told us that James loved the shows and would have wanted to be on them. so he‘s still there. And I think that‘s true ofeverybody in football — there's such an obvious affection for the programme. (Allan Brown)
The Hogmanay viewing figures comfort or compound the New Year hangover for the TV schedulers. Allan Brown recalls horrors of l‘logmanays past.
There isn‘t a carefully mixed raw egg concoction in the land that could cure the collected headaches of Caledonian television producers on the morning ofJanuary One.
As their blood-shot eyes crack open and a brand new year swims into view. the realisation that there are but twelve short months in which to cook up the formula for next year‘s bean-feast is enough to send producers back under the duvets. uttering a welter ofdecidedly tin-seasonal oaths.
The reason our annual Ne‘erday knees-up inspires such fear and loathing on the part oftheir erstwhile parents is a well-kept tale. part Gothic horror and part Whitehall farce.
The problem resides not so much in the format of the shows — the general thinking is that ifviewers at home are having their parties. there should
also be a party on the screen. replete with liberal bending ofelbows and abandoned joi de l loggers.
Quite right too. The perennial theatre ofconflict. however. proved to be just who is doing the bending and abandoning. Healthy young men and women togged up in bumbee tartan and jigging merrily into a new dawn or trendy whippersnappers with their pop groups and stnutty jokes.
Since the arrival in 198-1 or anti-teuchter Gus N'lc[)onald. Scottish television have skipped around the problem with Highland agility. Right from the onset of his reign as Head of Programmes. McDonald described traditional llogmanay television fare as a music-hall joke and asserted that changes would have to he rung. ()ut went Shand. Stewart and the massed pipes and drums. in came the type of