• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Bob Servant Independent, BBC Four

Brian Cox, whose new sitcom, Bob Servant Independent (Wednesday, BBC Four, 10pm), is set in Broughty Ferry, says people from the east and west coast of Scotland laugh at different things.

I come from the east and live in the west so I know this to be true.

Cox's view is that humour in the west is about oppression and adversity – that would certainly explain Rab C Nesbitt – and that in the east it's much more childlike and fantastical. But that's not what I've noticed.

If I hear laughter from an east-coaster, I know someone, somewhere, has just been made to look stupid – the humour is mean.

It's why we made Donald Trump build a big golf course before telling him about the wind farm.

There's nothing that will make us east coasters laugh more than the expression on the face of a rich man who's just lost lots of money.

This is maybe why Bob Servant Independent, which follows a local businessman as he tries to win the Broughty Ferry seat in parliament, doesn't work as well as it should – it lacks the meanness that comes with being brought up in the cold, it's missing the cold sneer at someone else suffering or in pain, the ha-ha of argh. The jokes are fine, but they glide past warmly and greyly, like luggage on a conveyor belt. The whole thing is too nice.

Except there's a lot of promise in the format. Anyone who has ever been in a pub or a taxi in Scotland will recognise the character of Servant. He's the man who has a C&A jumper in the age of H&M, a beer belly in the age of the six pack, a moustache in an age where men shave everything. His views also bear no relation to the available evidence – something which doesn't prevent him, or thousands of others like him, from holding those views with evangelical certainty.

But there are a couple of other reasons why I think the character of Servant has potential, and hopefully the satire will be explored in later episodes.

First, here's a man – a confident incompetent – who reminds us of the quality of our politicians in Scotland, particularly the type that could allow George Square in Glasgow to get so ugly and then pay £100,000 to fail to sort it out.

And second, despite its tameness, this sitcom could also, if it wants to, say something about the corrupting influence of politics, how it changes and warps people, how it makes them behave in public.

In the first episode, we saw Servant promise that he would have dogs shot and also promise that he would have those who harm dogs shot. He was holding two conflicting opinions at the same time with absolute conviction and he was saying it to survive, to please, because he felt he had to.

And there are plenty of politicians – particularly one called David Cameron on the subject of the European Union – who should recognise that.

Contextual targeting label: 
Pets

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

137243