Burnistoun - Series 1 (4 stars)

Burnistoun series 1 (review)

Iain Connell and Robert Florence revive the sketch show format with aplomb


Amid the painful nonsense that masquerades under the banner ‘comedy sketch show’, it’s a truly remarkable surprise to have a show like Burnistoun on our very doorsteps. The series is largely owned by Iain Connell and Robert Florence, two writers and performers who first met at the age of 14 and are clearly in harmonious tune with each other’s comic sensibilities. Somehow, they’ve given the notoriously erratic sketch-show format a welcome shot in the arm with their skewed take on life when it seemed that the likes of Funny Or Die Presents and Horne & Corden had read out loud its last rites.

Having their occasionally sinister sketches housed in the one place led some to dub it a Scottish League of Gentlemen, but where Royston Vasey provided the thumping heart at the dark core of Shearsmith and co’s multi-character comic-horror, Burnistoun is a mere backdrop to locate scenes set in a local newspaper room, council office or radio station. Some of the finest moments here, whether in lifts, at theatres, or on deprived council estates, could be set pretty much anywhere.

Of course, not all of it works (the ice cream boys are a rarity for being annoying and unfunny), but the unpredictability of the writing (the local politician who reaches the very heights of power or the ‘ginga’ bottle incident which eventually reaches Hollywood) and strong pay-offs make the majority of scenes an outright success. And, bless their hearts, there’s not a daft catchphrase in sight. Unless, in your world, ‘the needless installation of traffic lights at the Dekebone roundabout’ can be considered a catchphrase.

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