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Every time a bell rings, an angel gives me a line for Still Game the shop and said to Ford we need to be outraged. Jack and Victor have this SHOP; STAR ON THE INSPIRATION BEHIND SMASH COMEDY AS A NEW SERIES HITS TV SCREENS; Writer Greg reveals why regular is to be killed off.

Byline: Steve Hendry

It's a wonderful life in Still Game.

Craiglang may only stretch from Osprey Heights to Navid's shop and The Clansman but for Greg Hemphill, the sitcom is not so far from Bedford Falls, the fictional town of Franz Capra's 1946 film.

The classic movie tells the story of an angel, Clarence, who is sent from Heaven to show James Stewart's desperate family man what life would have been like if he had never existed.

According to Greg, co-star and co-creator of the iconic sitcom with Ford Kiernan, it's been one of the biggest influences on Still Game.

He said: "Even in a very tough environment like Craiglang, you are always looking for the heart of it, how people connect and help each other.

"Because that is the kind of stuff we both love. We both love things like It's A Wonderful Life. It's probably on both our top 10 movies list and if you look at it, we have probably cribbed from that more than any other film in how characters relate to each other and they help each other and support each other.

"It really is wonderful. As much as the characters all slag each other, you know they can only do that to people they love."

A Wonderful Life, a bell rings when an angel gets his wings. The only bells ringing when Still Game returns for its eighth series about pensioners Jack Jarvis and Victor McDade and their pals is for last orders at the Clansman.

But angels will be visiting the show. One of the regular characters will be killed off in the new series. The identity of the victim who shuffles off this mortal coil is a closely guarded secret. But it wasn't a decision Ford and Greg took lightly.

They were keen to ensure a wonderful afterlife for the departed.

Greg said: "Every situation is different, but in this case we talked about it to the performer for a long time. They were like, 'That's perfect for me', so everybody was on board. You don't just go in and say, 'Hey everybody, we are killing off so and so' and that person goes, 'Jeez, thanks very much'. You have to be sensitive. You don't take those decisions lightly.

"In the past, we were more cavalier. I remember telling Paul Riley, who plays Winston, in the pub we were going to cut off his leg and he was like, 'Whit?' And the fact that he was so shocked made us want to do it even more.

"We're a little bit older and wiser now, but it comes back to the issues you are dealing with in the show.

"Still Game is all about the shrinking of your life as you get older. Death is something which everybody has to think about. But we have never really addressed it directly on the show."

Greg, 49, who is married to Scots Squad and Balamory star Julie Wilson Nimmo, with whom he has two children, has developed a radar for how life changes for the elderly.

If you are of pensionable age and live in Glasgow, don't be surprised to find a tall Scots-Canadian keeping a watchful eye on you.

He said: "It happened when I was in my local shop and an old dear was struggling with one of the self-scanners.

"I came back from the shop and said to Ford we need to be dealing with this because it is one of these things that just lands on people's doorsteps.

"So we rewrote an episode to bring that in, when a shelf-scanner is in Navid's shop.

"Jack and Victor and any pensioner in Craiglang go to their local shop and they love a bit of banter and chat and that's being taken from them in an instant.

"I think that has a lot of poignancy. What does something as simple as a self-scanner mean to a pensioner? "When we started the show after our break last year, we had this conversation with the art department that even though we want Jack and Victor to be the same age as they were 10 years ago, their TVs would be different, what phones would they have, all the little things that would impact their lives.

"That started a wider conversation - how is Jack and Victor's environment changing? That's why the high flats featured so often in the last series.

"That is sort of continuing in this series with a storyline about the gentrification of The Clansman.

"Boaby decides to start charging PS6 for a burger and everybody is outraged. Jack and Victor have this little triangle - Navid's, the pub, and their house.

"That's their world and if something threatens that, what does that mean to them? "That is something any pensioner or anybody in Scotland and the UK has to think about."

Time marches on for everyone, not just pensioners.

The Still Game stars are mindful of what they have achieved, particularly after the break between 2008 and the show's return to the SSE Hydro in Glasgow in 2014, where they played to more than 210,000 people.

While they are enjoying the moment - and it may last for a long time yet - they know it will eventually come to an end.

Greg said: "This is the second series of the show in its new guise and I think this time we are enjoying it more because we know we might not be doing it in five or six years time. Nothing can last forever. It doesn't work that way.

"First time round, it felt more like a grind because we started to feel frustrated at the time the show took up. This time, we are enjoying it.

"Eventually, the time will come when we want to go and do other stuff and we will just go and do it.

"It won't have the sense of frustration attached to it as it did the last time because we know we are lucky.

"Most actors or writers would kill to talk to an audience as wide as we do in Still Game. You don't take that for granted and throw it away. It is a gift." Still Game returns to BBC1 on Thursday at 9.30pm.

Still Game is about the shrinking of your life as you get older

CAPTION(S):

MAGICAL Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life

SHOP TALK Navid, played by Sanjeev Kohli, is part of

Victor and Jack's 'triangle'

SOME BOTTLE Craiglang crew
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 4, 2018
Words:1083
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