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Just Janice: why Tutti Frutti is still the best ever, 25 years on

Tutti Frutti is the best TV drama that Scotland has ever produced.

That’s my verdict after watching the whole series in a marathon six-hour viewing.

It first aired back in 1987, and, I know it sounds daft, but I always thought I’d seen it first time round.

Now I realise that I missed it because I was doing what young people tend to do - I was OUT - having a social life.

My excuse for thinking I’d seen it (apart from being glaikit) is that, even in those far-off days, long before the internet, social media and mobile phones, everyone was talking about it.

I probably saw trailers for it, and it’s popped up on the occasional TV documentary over the years, and I did see the National Theatre of Scotland production in 2007, when the mighty John Byrne managed to condense six hours of drama into two hours of live theatre.

But it was only when I made time to sit down and watch the DVD of the series that I discovered, not only that I hadn’t seen it, but also what an amazing achievement it is.

It’s a comedy drama that starts with a funeral - a sequence that seems anarchic compared to the prime-time pap we’re served up now.

It’s hilarious and dark at the same time - death, domestic violence, despair - they’re all lurking amid the music, the slapstick and the gallery of memorable characters - Miss Toner and Mr Clockerty, Suzy Kettles and Danny McGlone and the Majestics.

It launched Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane and Richard Wilson into the big time, scooping six Baftas along the way.

Even 25 years on, its quality shines through. There are other landmark Scottish television dramas - Peter McDougall’s Just Another Saturday, from 1975, is my other stand-out work, but for sheer, sustained brilliance over six episodes, Tutti Frutti is my number one.

Having dismissed contemporary TV drama in a couple of words, I do acknowledge that Sherlock is much admired. I only watched one episode and found it annoying, although no doubt in 25 years I’ll be raving about it as a masterpiece in my column for the Retirement Home Newsletter.

Possibly tapping into that current interest in the fictional detective, Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre is staging a show that promises to be extremely funny and an alternative to panto.  It’s not a regular drama, though, more of a meeting - of The Arthur Conan Doyle Appreciation Society.

A comedy about one of the capital’s most famous sons, it encompasses everything from particle physics to fairies - and the cast includes one of our most brilliant and under-rated actresses, Gabriel Quigley, who I last saw in NTS’s Enquirer.

She is never less than dazzling - so try to get along to the Traverse - it’s on until December 22.

If it’s a film you’re after, don’t miss Life of Pi. Ang Lee’s mesmerising adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel (a Scottish publishing success story for Canongate) is compelling and beautiful.

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