Chewin’ the Fat

Wednesday, November 15, 2000 by

Chewin’ the Fat returned for its third series, with a sprinkling of old favourites and a dash of new characters added to the mix. The question is, now that its popularity within Scotland is at an all-time high, has it affected the recipe?

Well, on the surface, perhaps it has slightly. While I cannot argue with the fact that I roared and laughed my way through tonight’s episode, there is an overwhelming feeling that it lacked something. Yes, it was funny, but there was nothing particularly innovative about the whole affair.

Ronald Villiers, the hopeless actor, is still stumbling his way through auditions and adverts, the lighthouse keepers are still grating on each others nerves, and the “Glasgae Banter Boys” are still finding thrills in the sound of an Evening Times salesman. The recurring characters are all in place with no changes (although the “good guy/wank” running joke has been dropped after the stars grew tired of people in the street shouting “wank!” at them), as it should be with old characters. The Fast Show had recurring characters and it was the familiarity with them that drew you back.

However, this is a new series, so some new characters and scenarios are inevitably introduced. How did the new items fare? At this early stage it is difficult to tell. Some worked from the outset, in particular the pathetic “eco-terrorist” who asks a fisherman how he likes being hooked in the mouth before running away (with a cry of “‘mon the fish!”) went down well with this reviewer. Certain ideas seemed to be slightly nervous, as if the team are wary of trying out different concepts for fear they don’t work. Perhaps it’s simply my current unfamiliarity with these innovations which gives me that feeling. Time will tell on that score.

The other criticism I had was the familiarity of some of the new sketches. It seemed to me that that many had been done before in other shows. A football manager on the touchline having his every movement mimicked by his assistant had been done in a slightly different manner by The Fast Show, and the “Invisible Boss” gag, while funny, was even funnier when it first show up in cult ’80s film Amazon Women on the Moon. I would hope that this is a minor lapse and does not indicate a lack of new ideas.

The stars of the show, Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill, aided by Karen Dunbar amongst others, have succeeded in crafting a series that taps into a hidden element of Scotland that we find easy to laugh at, mainly because – certainly to a man brought up in Glasgow – it is so familiar. Only another Scotsman would acknowledge that we find humour in the word “dobber”, a “window licker”-type face that could possibly be offensive in the wrong hands, and the “take that line to the bookies” style of marker pen fighting seen in schools throughout the land. Much of the humour is of the juvenile type, but it works because above all else it is funny.

To be fair, while I did have some misgivings, this was the first episode, and so some of the new sketches will surely settle in through the course of the run. I will certainly look at this review again when the series has ended to see if my concerns were unfounded or not. I for one believe that Chewin’ the Fat still has a lot to offer. I just wonder what the English think of it…


Comments are closed.