Bob Servant Independent
BBC Four, Wednesday, January 23, 10pm
Brian Cox is the sort of guy that makes you feel all fuzzy inside and want to use the words ‘national’ and ‘treasure’ in consecutive order. No, not Professor Brian Cox, the man to whom the media attributes housewives’ sudden interest in astrophysics (although he is great too). The Brian I refer here is Brian Cox CBE, the esteemed and really rather brilliant character actor.
Every time this Brian pops up in a film, he pretty much guarantees that it will never fall below an acceptable level of quality, like he’s some sort of living, breathing Royal Warrant. That guarantee almost applies to Bob Servant Independent (a mouthful of a name for a programme, if ever there was one) in that it never gets so bad you’ll simply dismiss it as tosh. Unfortunately, for a show that is supposed to be a comedy, it fails to raise even the faintest of chuckles.
This is all a bit of a surprise, given that the book in which the character of Bob Servant first appeared, Delete This At Your Peril, was the choice of Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh for Esquire magazine’s Funniest Books Ever poll. And funny it was too, detailing author Neil Forsyth’s actual correspondence with a plethora of email spammers under the guise of alter ego Bob Servant, a burger van owner from the Dundee suburb of Broughty Ferry.
On the back of the book’s success, Forsyth adapted it for radio, with Cox playing Servant. Although not as laugh out loud as the book, it was still amusing. And if Forsyth had found a way to adapt it for television, there’s no doubt he could have come up with something still humorous. Instead he’s developed this all-new sitcom for Servant, which, as previously mentioned, is sadly lacking in the comedy quotient.
Cox is as imperious as ever as Servant, here standing as a politically incorrect candidate in Broughty Ferry’s by-election, especially in his exchanges with Greg McHugh (last seen as Howard in Fresh Meat), who is so convincing as a local radio DJ that Heart FM may well be drawing him up an offer as I type. It’s all to no avail though, given the script is run through with clichés and weak gags that are well below the level of everyone involved here. Neil: give me your email address, and even I could spam you with better material than this…