What makes a great comedy?
Brilliant writing for one. And at Ibrox, the script is always so juicy, and full of surprises that whoever is charge of the writing for them, Upstairs, has to be one Hell of a scribe, with a world class wit and a sense of timing that is just fantastic.
You also need great locations; they are more important to comedy than you might at first think. How many Friends episodes revolve around The Coffee House? Cheers takes place in a bloody bar. How many Only Fools episodes concern that evolving disaster of a flat, or are based on events down at the Nags Head? Ibrox is a fine location, and so too is Hampden. But you also get episodes in dingy boozers and dramatic scenes in courtrooms.
Above all else, you need a great cast of characters because comedy is about stuff that happens to people. Stuff people do. There are different sorts of comedy; situation comedy is perhaps the best known, and the most fun to watch. Satire can be incredible though, such as The Office or The Thick Of It. Farce has produced magical results, as anyone who ever watched Fawlty Towers or Father Ted could verify between gales of laughter.
There is no finer group of comedy performers than at Ibrox, and they have managed, somehow, to combine every possible comic genre in one show and make it not only work but be one of the most compelling we have ever witnessed.
And it is bloody hilarious.
Pedro Caixinha is the latest individual to join the cast, and the episodes about him so far have hinted at true greatness to come.
There are some comedy shows whose genius is evident from the first; you see it in them at once.
It was there in the opening moments of Porridge and in the debut of The Royle Family. Others took time. I would argue, for example, that it took three episodes – until Cash And Curry, where the brothers get involved in a dispute between two Indian gentlemen over a statue – before you realised you were watching, in Only Fools, a show that was going to last, and which went on to become the gold standard of the entire genre.
I loved Chewin’ The Fat, and the idea of a spin-off was a winner, but in choosing Jack and Victor I thought the boys had made a huge mistake. I couldn’t see how it could be sustained. I didn’t see where the magic was coming from, and yet, like with Porridge, once you watched the first episode of Still Game you knew Ford and Greg had it, that they knew exactly what they were doing and that your doubts had been ridiculous.
This is like that. I knew when Pedro was hired that it was going to be special.
All the pieces are in place to make it so.
From the resignation-sacking of Warburton and his backroom team this has dripped with opportunities of gold. When the board decided, in the wake of Murty’s bad start, to speed up the process and hire someone quick you could see the opportunity for something fit to bust a gut.
When Pedro’s name surfaced and the first thing we found out about him was that his team was fifth in Qatar you shook your head and thought “No way … too much to hope for.” When it was revealed that he was a not-so-secret Tim that was wonderful and you knew then someone else would get the gig. When the papers said it was a done deal and those pictures of him in his green and white hoops came to light, that was the cherry on the cake.
You knew the Ibrox casting team had produced again. You knew they were onto an instant classic. I thought this one might be a slow burner, like Auf Weidershen Pet, which took the time to develop the characters before hitting its stride with some of the finest stuff ever put on the telly, or the Warburton seasons where it only started to become “must watch TV” towards the end, but this one has exceeded my expectations by a fair bit already.
From six day out of seven training and playing, to cutting the pre-season short and spoiling one of his player’s honeymoon into the bargain, to his three subs at half time strategy to beat Motherwell and his naming the Kilmarnock team with 30 hours to go before kick-off … this one looks every bit as brilliant in execution as it did on paper.
He’s already blown his alibi of course. He said when he was unveiled that he had the best team in the country at his disposal; ergo he doesn’t need big bucks for new players. Cue fielding kids last night, as the implications of that set in.
He said he was targeting second spot and the Scottish Cup. Now his team looks dead and buried as far as the first goes – and fighting a bare knuckle brawl just to get third – and disaster in the cup looms on the not-too-distant horizon, if the script plays out as it should.
There are already whispers of players groaning under the weight of the new training regimen and others who claim they can’t understand his instructions. They do seem rather baffling; he cycled through various tactical permutations last night without settling on any one, and they were all equally useless in breaking down Kilmarnock.
As a smarter person than me once said, “Confused? You won’t be after the next episode …”at the end of which you were usually even more baffled.
The fans don’t rate this guy; that means he gets no benefit of the doubt when things go wrong. They will expect to see improvement – even instant improvement; that doesn’t happen. Even Brendan lost his first match in charge – and some sort of a plan, but they will not wait around for it. If Aberdeen beat them, followed by a cup knockout, the hard questions will already be getting asked at a time when the season ticket forms are going out.
Today Phil has suggested that Caixinha was hired, in part, because he gave the Sevco board false reason to believe he was in good with wealthy Arab “investors”. Imagine that turns out to be true; that would be up there with Kicking Bishop Brennan Up The Arse or any of the nuttier episodes where Basil goes off the deep end and starts slapping Manuel.
You hear some of this stuff and think, “Surely not …”
But this is Ibrox we’re talking about, and those words just don’t apply.
Caixinha is already under scrutiny.
It won’t be long before he’s under pressure.
At another club he might get time – most Hearts fans are frustrated beyond belief with Cathro, and you can hear the steady ticking of the Death Clock in the background, but it’s low, below conversation volume, because the majority will grant him that – but this isn’t a normal club with normal fans and realistic expectations.
This is Sevco. Who’s fans believe in the Survival Myth and who don’t understand that Rangers itself was like an optical illusion, artificially inflated by Murray and the bank.
Listen, this might all turn out well for them over there. This could be like one of those funny shows which takes a really serious (usually stupid) turn to give everyone a happy ending. But then it again, it could end like Soap did, with a bang ….
I suspect that’s exactly how it’ll turn out.
In the meantime, I’ll just sit back and enjoy the entertainment.
“So, will Caixinha prove to be a managerial genius? Will King ride off into the sunset with Club 1872’s money? Will the SFA grow some guts or will the next President of the Association be John “WATP” Gilligan? Will Keith Jackson ask a critical question of these people? Or will Brendan ride to ten in a row on the back of poor Chris Graham?”
These questions – and many others – will be answered in the next episode …