STILL Game. Still running. Still funny. But why has this sitcom managed to sustain for an incredible eight series, plus specials? Sitcoms come and go as often as Kylie’s boyfriends. Even classics such as The Likely Lads managed just six runs, Rising Damp four and Porridge three.

So what is there about this pretendy pensioner show that has seen it become as much part of the Scottish cultural canon as Burns, Byrne and Billy Connolly?

To begin, Still Game had a long time to develop. Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill’s idea was conceived as a sketch in BBC Scotland’s Pulp Video back in 1995 and the Still Game baby appeared as a joyous, gorgeous little play, running at the Edinburgh Festival in 1997. And despite achieving great success (the TV rights were initially bought by LWT and then nothing) – the wean was left to sit outside in the pram for seven long years.

Meantime, Kiernan and Hemphill persevered. They landed a radio series, Chewin’ The Fat, which gave them television currency and in 2002 Jack and Victor reappeared, all matured.

But what’s undeniable to the success is the alchemy between the writers. Like so many sitcom creators they have, ostensibly, nothing in common. (Think Galton and Simpson, Croft and Perry, Two Doors Down’s Sharp and Carlyle). Hemphill grew up in Montreal in a middle class world. Ford Kiernan grew up in Glasgow’s east end district of Dennistoun. Hemphill came to Scotland to study at Glasgow University. Kiernan ran the university bar.

Yet those sensibilities, formed in separate worlds, coalesced into comedy. And Kiernan and Hemphill did have connections, beyond the fact they once worked in the same sex chat line call centre. They both loved New York Jewish humour, from Neil Simon to Mel Brooks. They both wanted to be writer-performers. And they both loved the shared experience of scoffing Tunnocks tea cakes.

And coming up with Jack and Victor wasn’t too hard, when they shared tales of Hemphill’s Uncle Sammy and Kiernan’s Uncle Barney. The other characters are also coloured in brilliantly.

Read a script and take out the

names on the left of the page and you can easily work out who is speaking. Isa: nosey, entirely lacking in self-awareness. Navid: contemptuous of

his customers. Boabby: sarcastic. Winston: the chancer. Tam: meaner than a junkyard dog.

In one episode, the pathetic, one-legged Winston faces being blown up in a block’s demolition and says to Tam: “I’m a goner, go on without me.” Tam shrugs and says; “Aye, okay.” Winston replies: “Ya durty, lousy b******.”

Yet while the characters are dark, this isn’t Beckett. There is nothing nihilistic about Still Game. Every day represents a fresh challenge in Craiglang, the duo desperate to squeeze the juice out of life, whether in the form of a lager, a wheeze or a dalliance. The plotlines are a clever mix of the serious, such as a gas bill crises, a death – and the silly, which capture the (heightened) ordinariness of life. Jack and Victor will never, as was the case with Only Fools and Horses, jump the shark and win the Lottery. And even though the duo may be old, they don’t prism the world through a pair of thick-lensed NHS spectacles.

What’s also clever is there are no lasting, big relationship stories, the writers clearly aware of wandering into soap opera. When Isa and Navid had a moment it turned out to be “just a wee tingle”. There is no politics, it’s a Brexit-free zone, yet at times the sitcom is implicitly political. Paying the gas bill is a class story, as is being decanted from your home. But their class role is assumed. And each social hurdle represents a laughs opportunity.

There is also little doubt Kiernan and Hemphill are greatly aided by their central conceit – younger men playing older means they can get away with comedy murder.

Older actors playing comedy are all too often in shows set in a retirement home or a hospital, and the reality can be One Foot in the Grave tiresome or Last of the Summer Wine silly. But using younger actors compensates for the reality, and allows for license, by way of language and manner.

Brendan O’Carroll’s Mrs Brown works because she’s a man. (A genuine woman in her seventies with a potty mouth just wouldn’t be entertained.) And, as with Still Game, the suspension of disbelief helps create laughs. It would be hard to see elderly actors getting away with their little ditty: “A scone and tea at half past three makes the day go brighter. Take yer cakes and fancy tarts and shove them up yer a***.”

But perhaps the most important reason for the success of Still Game is the relationship between Jack and Victor. Theirs is a classic bromance. Yes, they’ll bitch and girn at each other over the last Hobknob but it’s underpinned by a real affection, which of course they would never admit to. Living on the same high-rise landing underlines the relationship; sharing would diminish their proud independence, yet their physical closeness implies an intimacy, a need in the other, but without appearing needy. The first episode in fact saw the pair in bed together, revealing a Morecambe and Wise-like pairing. (But far funnier.)

What’s also key is the pair are equals. They could in fact have been created by Neil Simon. They are the Sunshine Boys. Or the Odd Couple. They are equals. What they are not is Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Jack and Victor are rooted in reality. They have no wish to be kings. And if they had lances they’d be clothes poles of exactly the same length borrowed from a back green. But they’d joust for fun; not to hurt each other. What adds to the success is the fact the writers, close friends in real life, continually layer comedy into their conversation. Just as they do when creating scripts. They aren’t, for example, like Richard Curtis and Ben Elton who wrote independently and sent their work to the other for editing. In one Still Game episode, in which there is talk of the regeneration of Craiglang – getting it up and running – Victor says: “They’ve got mair chance getting Stephen Hawking up and running.”

Jack adds “Or Oscar Pistorius”. Then Victor gently quizzes the validity of the line with “Naw, he’s a runner, Jack,” inviting Jack to come back with “But he’s in the jail, so he cannae really run in the jail. So that should still work.”

What’s also fascinating about Still Game’s world is that it ignores the classic sitcom trope of entrapment. Steptoe and The Likely Lads and Rising Damp featured aspirational characters trapped by circumstance. Jack and Victor aren’t trapped at all. They’re happy to go to the Clansman to eat pies and chew the fat with Boabby, take Tam to task or watch out for Winston.

They live and love to wind up Isa, or point out Navid’s blatant disregard for his punters. They are free. They may be pension-reliant but their imagination and sense of devilment can’t be contained.

But what also completes the characters is they are sparkier than a second hand plug. They don’t suffer fools. They don’t hold back. One scene opens with Jack and Victor sitting on deck chairs waiting patiently to see the old flats demolished. In walks a young guy, no more than 12, who gives Jack and Victor a history lesson. Jack says: “Whit are you, a 75-year-old midget?” Victor joins in: “Aye, right enough, spare us the history lesson, on yer bike, ya interloping wee f*****”

We love the pair (no doubt enhanced by their seven-year hiatus) and we will pay substantial amounts to see them perform live at the SEC Hydro because they are always sharp and on the money. There is an episode in which Jack and Victor wander into a giant DIY store – and are handed a map. Victor says to the assistant: “Get a grip, son. It’s a shop, no’ a mountain range.”

The pair know instinctively how close to the line of sentimentality they should go. In the first episode, Jack is leaving his old home, packing his life into boxes, and Victor remarks, dryly, that his pal has so little to show for his time on earth.

The conversation develops into darkness and Jack explains he got rid of most of his belongings because they remind him of his late wife. A sadness descends but the writers don’t back off.

They make the predicament worse when we watch Jack’s six little boxes being loaded into the rickety, oil-spurting removal van, which bursts into flames and the remains of his life are consumed by fire. And when the van bursts into flames, audiences burst into laughter.

It’s a brilliant sight gag, funny and poignant. The punchline? Victor says one word: “Clansman” and Jack shrugs and smiles.

And that’s what truly cements our relationship with the Still Game characters. They may have to face the rising cost of living, and cold pies and piles and Isa’s noseyness and Winston’s whining and Boabby’s abuse but they still smile. They could both have emigrated to Canada to live with Jack’s daughter but they didn’t because they love their little council scheme world and because they know there is still hope.

And they tell us when we’re that age we may be a little crabbit and and little more in touch with mortality but hopefully we will also be still game.