Never has the term ‘ubiquitous’ applied more relevantly than to David Tennant on our TV’s and radios this Christmas and New Year, and it says a lot about the charm of the man that even after all this (over?) exposure I still warm to him. This feeling was reinforced by his appearance on Desert Island Discs. Not only was the banter with Kirsty Young effortless (not always the case), but how can you not respect someone whose musical choices included The Proclaimers’ Over and Done With
, Elvis Costello’s Oliver’s Army
and, best of all, The Housemartins’ Me and the Farmer.
But the first time I set eyes on the good doctor was in a very fondly remembered BBC drama Takin’ Over the Asylum
(1994). The show was sold as a vehicle for Ken Stott, but the supporting cast were superb and once the characters had been introduced this emerged as a real ensemble piece. Stott plays Eddie, a double-glazing salesman by day who dreams of being a radio DJ. He gets the job as the radio presenter in a Glasgow psychiatric hospital, where he meets, amongst others, Tennant’s ‘Campbell’, Kate Murphy’s ‘Francine’ and Angus McFadyen’s ‘Fergus’. All have distinct mental health problems, such as OCD, schizophrenia and manic depression, which the writer, Donna Franceschild, deals with in a knowlegable and sensitive manner. If that sounds like a depressing premise then you are mistaken. There is real comedy as well as heartbreaking drama on show. Although many of those involved have gone on to better paid roles, they will not have been involved in anything as charming and moving.
The DVD of the series came out last year and it’s worth having a look at as it is that rare beast, quality Scottish TV comedy/drama, and the cast are as good as anything John Byrne put together, as high praise as I can possibly give it. Here’s a clip as a taster: