Glasgow? It’s not a modern, cosmopolitan, cappuccino-drinking city bursting at the seams with Armani wearers who drive convertibles and sound like Kirsty Wark. In fact, it’s more like a semi-dystopian, almost desolate Eastern European country.

At least that’s how the man with arguably the most important job in Scottish television sees it. Or rather, how Still Game director Michael Hines wants the world to see it.

“There are those who think of Still Game as being a cosy, traditional Scottish sitcom,” he says, smiling over coffee at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay HQ. “But that’s not the case at all. It’s very much a story about survival. That’s why I use big, wide-angle, brutalist shots that scream out ‘Life is hard’. That’s why the show features shots of towering grey obelisks. And in our world, life happens at a very slow pace so I don’t do tracking shots or shoot anything fancy. I wanted to represent the material the best way I could.”

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Still Game is back for a new, seventh series, and Hines will again make his (dark) mark on the cult sitcom. But for those who wonder why dark clouds, oily puddles and bleak outlooks should feature in a comedy show, Hines points out great comedy very often emerges from a black backdrop. The greatest sitcom of all time, Steptoe and Son, was set in a junkyard; trapped men cast off by society living amongst other people’s cast offs. Rising Damp was set in a Dickensian boarding house. Porridge in a jail. Still Game is about pensioners trying hard not to blacked out by the shadows of the high flats they live in. And when the laughs emerge out of the thick fog of containment, they’re all the more powerful for it.

To set it against a David Hockney (or even a Take The High Road) backdrop would be to miss the point.

“I’ve always been keen to keep comedy real, or hyper-real,” the 51-year offers. “That’s why I like to see the performances delivered very flat. Navid and Bobby (Sanjeev Kohli and Gavin Mitchell) are brilliant because they are so flat, and real. Jack (Kiernan) will go higher, which suits him and Ford likes to bring a little Oliver Hardy to his performance. But overall, the performances are downplayed.”

The director adds; “Glaswegian can sound harsh, like a punch in the face, but at the same time comedy has to be real for it to be believable.”

Hines has a clear comedy vision of his Glasgow yet he didn’t even grow up in Scotland. His mother was a nurse from Sweden who moved to Birkenhead aged 19 where she saw the Beatles and met his solicitor father.

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His parents divorced in the early Eighties and Hines’s mother decided she wanted to live in Scotland. In 1983, the teenage Michael attended high school in Alva, going on to Stirling University. If Hines had thoughts of leaving Scotland they were cancelled in 1988 when his mother was confirmed to have terminal cancer, with a prognosis of six months. Hines determined to remain nearby to look after her and it paid off. She lived for another 11 years.

His career plans were confused. Hines studied Computer Science but was “terrible”, switched to studying English, with the idea of teaching, but was “booted out”, having been labelled the second worst student in his year. (The ignominy of not even being labelled Top Failure wasn’t lost on him.)

“I jumped onto a new course, Film and Media Studies,” he says, his voice light in recall. “As a kid I liked showing off and re-enacting Monty Python sketches, so it sounded a good idea. But I had no real career plan. On leaving uni, I signed up for the Government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme and set myself up as children’s entertainer, and also a theatre teacher. I went to Belfast to run a dance company, and I would go into schools to teach teachers how to teach drama.”

Hines is clearly a grafter. “I have a really low boredom threshold and I’ve always looked for interesting stuff to do.” He had a mini epiphany in 1994 however when he landed a role in Finney, the Geordie gangland crime. “David Hayman was directing and I realised he was always busy, while the actors were always waiting, sitting around.”

Fate intervened when, aged 28, a friend called to say BBC Education in Edinburgh wanted someone to write and direct five 20-minute stories about children going on from primary to secondary. “I reckoned I worked well with kids given my experience but I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I didn’t really know one end of a camera from another. I just learned on the job.” He adds: “And I’m still learning.”

Hines moved onto working in children’s television with BBC Scotland, and built a reputation as a very good all-round director, but with a real bent for comedy. In the late Nineties, The Comedy Unit, makers of Chewin’ The Fat asked him to come on board. What was his take on the Kiernan and Hemphill? “I thought they had real comedy bones, but they didn’t seem to know a lot about the art of TV making. They wanted someone who could make their shows the best they could be.”

But they didn’t want someone to tell them how to write. “There was a story in the papers once about how I killed off the lighthouse keepers in Chewin’ The Fat and the "Gonnae no’ dae that" catchphrase. But I just filmed it. That’s been the way of the relationship with the boys. If I ever suggested a line to them they’ll throw me a look which says: "You film, we write." And likewise if they suggest a shot I’ll remind them I do the filming.”

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Hines was a stick-on to direct the new series, Still Game. To put his own mark on it, he cast some of the characters, bringing in, for example, Gavin Mitchell as Boaby. Six series later, Still Game was embedded in the national consciousness. But then in 2008 came the great divide when the Kiernan/Hemphill relationship imploded. Hines was a casualty of the collateral damage.

“It was sad that it happened,” he says in soft voice. "Professionally, because we were set to make a new sci-fi comedy together, set in a space rocket, and it would have been great for my career to do something so different. And personally because they are nice guys and talented individuals who when they come together something magical happens.”

Did he try to mediate? “No, I wasn’t that close to them. I was hired by Ford and Greg and you have to remember that. In the business, familiarity breeds contempt and it was important I didn’t live in Glasgow at the time and go out bevvying with them.”

Had he seen the writing on the Craiglang wall? “I did get a sense at the end of Series Six the team were tired. There was grumbling, people didn’t really respect each other enough. It wasn’t that they were arriving on set in different wagons, but I was aware of a discontent. But my job was to stay out of it. I wanted to work with all of them in the future.”

Hines offers a knowing smile; “It’s so typical of blokes. We’re emotional cowards. We don’t do anything, in relationships or life until deadline time and then it’s often too late. If they had sorted it out much earlier. . . .”

Hines struggled to land comedy work, even with Still Game success. “Producers often wanted to use London directors, even for shows being filmed up here.” Yet, he wasn’t the type to wait for the phone to ring. He worked on TV ads, he began teaching at university, worked for MTV and set up a company to make comedy for Gaels.

Coincidentally, his Gaelic show Two Days in October featured Greg Hemphill. On the last day of filming in 2013 the actor took the director aside and revealed some startling news. “He said ‘We’re putting the band back together – and we’re playing the Hydro.’ I thought ‘What band?’ Then I realised he was talking about the Still Game team. I told my missus, (Kirsty) but no one else.”

But could Hines direct a theatre show in 10,000-seater arena? “I’d only ever directed one theatre show before, written by Ford, called When Clarence Calls, for Oran Mor in Glasgow,” he says. “And that was the tiniest theatre (200 seater).”

Hines pulled the Hydro gig off. He utilised giant screens, countless video inserts, special effects. “It was like a rally. It was a jaw-dropping spectacle. I believe nothing has been done like this before. But it was scary.” He adds: “Afterwards, I think I suffered from post-traumatic theatre syndrome.”

It’s no surprise Kiernan and Hemphill have looked up to the light that is Michael Hines for Series Seven. They delight in his cleverness, his pragmatism and his ability to filter Glasgow through a dark lens. But the director reveals a little more CV detail.

“I am a bossy bastard who’s arrogant enough to think I bring something different to Still Game,” he says. “And I do think the boys trust me not to f*** up.”