Burnistoun returns to BBC Scotland for its third (and final) series this week. Iain Connell & Robert Florence's fictional-town comedy is a really nice mix of Scottish humour, wordplay and weirdness and is worth a watch.

I know that, as a fairly traditional sketch show, Burnistoun can divide opinion. The genre hasn't exactly been fashionable of late, which is a shame. In the no-laugh-track / post-Curb / post-Office world, it's easy to forget that sketch comedy has given us some of the best. stuff. on. telly. ever. and, like Limmy's Show alongside it, when Burnistoun hits, it hits big. I really like it.

I was motivated to mention this / draw a picture when Rab urged people to watch more written comedy. To "tell the telly people you've seen enough panel shows". Hell yeah. Who want's to live in a world where there's more of this than this, or this, or this? Throw more money at the writers, costume departments and set designers, please.

Via their production company Bold Yin, Connell & Florence have recently been encouraging growth, collaboration and innovation in Scottish comedy. A wonderful thing. We've got some of the funniest people in the world living up here and, with a poke and a prod, they might get a little of the attention they deserve. AndyDee, I'm looking at you. Let's get Swatpaz on the TV too.

You can watch the new series of Burnistoun as it airs on BBC iPlayer and there's a bunch of old episodes and clips on YouTube. Rab (who, incidentally, Alex & I spotted in the town the other week but were typically too shy to say hello to - sorry) also has had his fingers in a lot of other pies. Pies close to my heart. Heroquest, anyone?

Chimera, 1991

This video ruined a holiday.

In 1991, the sci-fi / chiller miniseries Chimera "BBC Chimera, 1991") aired on the BBC while I was spending a week in Center Parcs with my parents. Being the summer, I was allowed to stay up a little later than usual to watch TV. Usually we'd find a film or a sitcom or something that we could all enjoy. I was 8.

One night, one horrible, dark night, however, I picked Chimera. Silly idea. I'd caught a little of the first episode back home and, although nervous (ep.1 featured a stabbing by an unseen aggressor!), I was curious enough to stick it out. Mainly because there'd been talk of... a monster!

Episode 2, for the most part, was fine. Actually, being a fairly serious production, it was low on monsters and kinda talky for an 8 year old. It mostly confused or bored me. Only the scenes that centred around a couple of kids - a brother and sister who had an imaginary friend called "Mr. Scarecrow" - really caught my imagination. As is the way with horror stories, imaginary friends don't often turn out to be all that imaginary and, true-to-form, in the final shot Mr. Scarecrow went and showed his bloody face. As the credits rolled, I knew my life as an innocent, happy, fearless child was over.

Looking back (above at the 5 min mark), it seems Mr. Scarecrow didn't actually show his face, just his stripy jumper. Goddamn it though, that must've been the freakiest stripy jumper in the whole-wide-world because I got scared. Really, really scared. (SCARED!). That night (and each subsequent sleepless night for at least the next 6 months) I was haunted by a face that I'd never even seen. I knew, I just knew that, right outside, the dark of Sherwood Forest was full of Chimeras. One was up on the roof. One was peeking in at me through the window. One was even preparing to slowly open my door and, when he did, I'd see that stripy jumper and I'd be dead.

Chimera, despite showing its age, seems a fairly interesting watch. Someone named SonofChimera has uploaded the whole series as a YouTube playlist. From what I can tell, Mr. Scarecrow (real name Chad) (...honest) is a genetic experiment - a chimera being a combination of different species, in this case, man & monkey - who causes havoc when he escapes from a fertility clinic. He's a tortured fella who's handy with a knife and wears dungarees. Most importantly, you very much do get to see his face.

As soon I get the chance, I'm gonna sit down and confront Chimera, my biggest childhood demon. Maybe if it's rubbish, I won't be scared anymore.

Stoppit & Tidyup Character Design


Stoppit and Tidyup is a cartoon I remember fondly from my childhood. Created by Charles Mills and Terry Brain, the guys behind one of my all time favourites - Trapdoor, S&T was a short-lived series that followed the lives of the weird and wonderful inhabitants of Do As You're Told. It ran in 1988 for 13 episodes on the BBC.

I didn't love Stoppit and Tidyup the way I loved Trapdoor or Portland Bill or Mysterious Cities of Gold, but it definitely had something that kept it with me. The introduction used to fire up my imagination - the weird music, the Terry Wogan narration and, most of all, the seemingly endless (to a 5 year old) parade of fascinating characters just made me want to grab a pencil and paper and draw some monsters.

The characters, that was it. I couldn't get over how cool they looked. At that age, I knew a little about how animation worked and understood that they were drawings that someone had sat down and thought up. How could someone draw something so good? They were perfect to a little kid like me. Clean Your Teeth's teeth were so white. Hurry Up was so fast. As for I Said No, well, he was just the biggest thing in the whole wide world. I loved him the most - the way he completely filled the screen and looked so utterly pissed off all the time. You can check out all the characters in the intro to this episode:

As an adult, rediscovering the show through a YouTube nostalgia trip (best thing about an Apple TV btw - can't beat watching Raggy Dolls on the big telly), I've got a new appreciation of the brilliantly inventive character design in Stoppit & Tidyup. So many great monster ideas. The stressed-out Take Care is great - forever flapping his tiny wings to stay in the air, the aforementioned Clean Your Teeth too - all swaggering by like he's the man.

The best, though (and by best I mean creepiest), is Go And Play, who I've posted above. My new favourite. A silent man-child of a thing dressed in tiny white shorts (pants?) and carrying a toy-train. He skips everywhere, his too-adult looking legs move him around slow motion, his dead eyes and blank expression make it seem like, for a guy called Go And Play, he doesn't much care about having fun or, well, anything at all. He's all spaced out and weird. I love him.

I tidied up a screen grab of Go And Play to illustrate this post. If doing so is against a copyright rule of some kind, I'll happily take it down. The idea and original drawings belong to the creators and I only use it out of love and respect for a great bit of character design. It makes me want to draw monsters again.

Terry Gilliam Explains His Cut-Out Animations

This video did the rounds a few weeks ago, but I'm posting it anyway because I just rewatched it. Monty Python's Terry Gilliam explains, in a completely honest and straightforward manner, how he put together his famous cut-out animations for Flying Circus etc.

What I like most about this video is how simple he makes it look. The young Gilliam actively encourages you to go out and make your own versions, in exactly the same way (or differently, he doesn't seem to care) as he did, without being at all precious about his creations. Despite being behind some of the most instantly recognisable, even iconic, animations ever made, he acts like 'ach, I only do it this way because I'm lazy. Anyone could've made these stupid things'. It's a lovely, inspiring and encouraging attitude from a brilliant creative mind. Now I feel a bit dumb for not having made the Monty Python intro.

I originally found this clip via Drawn (who found it via KC Green on Twitter).