As a Dundee man I am very excited to be in this comedy set in Broughty Ferry. With the comic writing skills of fellow Dundonian, Neil Forsyth, and the audacious spirit of Bob Servant it captures the very essence of the unique East Coast humour.”Brian Cox
Date: 21.12.2012 Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.02
BBC Four’s new comedy series, Bob Servant Independent, follows the trials and tribulations of Bob Servant (Brian Cox) as he endeavours to sell himself, relentlessly, to the good people of Broughty Ferry.
The series stars Brian Cox with Jonathan Watson, Pollyanna McIntosh, and Rufus Jones and will transmit on BBC Four from early January.
The Scottish town of Broughty Ferry doesn’t know what’s hit it. The sudden death of the sitting MP has resulted in a by-election that could change the political map of the UK. Bob Servant (Brian Cox) has been waiting his whole life for this level of attention and he’s willing to do anything to keep it.
Bob sells himself as a man of the people but doesn’t really like people. He also has absolutely no understanding of the political process and uses the by-election campaign as a heaven sent opportunity for self-promotion.
His campaign manager is Frank (Jonathan Watson), Bob’s long-suffering best friend and neighbour, and their love-hate relationship is a central aspect of Bob Servant Independent.
Brian Cox said: “As a Dundee man I am very excited to be in this comedy set in Broughty Ferry. With the comic writing skills of fellow Dundonian, Neil Forsyth, and the audacious spirit of Bob Servant it captures the very essence of the unique East Coast humour.”
As the series progresses, Bob has an increasingly fractious relationship with the favourite to win the seat, a slick professional politician called Nick Edwards (Rufus Jones). Bob also struggles to deal with Edwards’ campaign manager (and wife), Philippa Edwards (Pollyanna McIntosh), a smart, no-nonsense woman, always two steps ahead of Frank.
The two campaigns jar markedly while the series builds to the natural climax of election night.
Writer and creator of Bob Servant Independent, Neil Forsyth, added: “It’s hugely exciting that Bob is making it onto the telly, and that Brian is once again involved and leading a brilliant cast. He’s been a supporter of the Bob Servant cause for a long time. To be honest, Bob would probably be disappointed that he’s been overlooked to play himself, but even he would reluctantly accept Brian taking up the challenge."
Bob Servant Independent is written by Neil Forsyth and produced by Owen Bell.
It was commissioned by BBC Four and Cheryl Taylor, former Controller, Comedy Commissioning, and Mark Freeland (BBC Four) and Ewan Angus (BBC Scotland) are the co-executive producers.
Bob Servant (played by Brian Cox)
Businessman, raconteur, optimist and a man of endless ambition, Bob Servant is a hero for our troubled times. Born and bred in Broughty Ferry, Servant sees it as his natural fiefdom. This belief stems largely from Servant's dominant position in Broughty Ferry's notorious ‘Cheeseburger Wars’ - a period of riotous appreciation for the snack that caused madness on the streets and lined Servant's pockets. Now retired and living in his stylish riverside house, with its much-admired (by him) extension, Servant is looking for a new cause. When it’s announced that Broughty Ferry is to have a by-election, one man is ready and willing to step back into the limelight. Bob Servant, Independent.
Frank (played by Jonathan Watson)
Bob Servant’s great loyalist is Frank, the ultimate right hand man who has spent decades under Bob’s close tutelage. Frank was Director of Sauces on the cheeseburger vans and now has a similarly impressive title – Campaign Manager for Bob Servant Independent. It’s a job he takes very, very seriously. Nothing would make Frank happier than helping his best friend and mentor win the by-election.
Bob’s View on Frank – “The Dean to my Torvill.”
Nick Edwards (played by Rufus Jones)
A Westminster protégé, Nick Edwards is a career politician who descends on Broughty Ferry to wow the locals and pick up what he sees as a safe seat. He heads up an impressive operation. Slick, well-funded, highly organised, the Edwards campaign is everything that Bob and Frank are not. Nick has come here to win a by-election but no amount of political training could have prepared him for the experience of taking on Bob Servant.
Bob’s view on Nick – “Wet behind the ears.”
Philippa Edwards (played by Pollyanna McIntosh)
The power behind the Edwards throne, Philippa Edwards is a smooth political operator here to guide her husband to by-election success. Elegant, highly intelligent and domineering, she is greeted with utter confusion by Bob and Frank. The cheeseburger industry was not a place for powerful women. For Frank, who as Campaign Manager is Philippa’s direct rival, she is all his nightmares come true.
Bob’s view on Philippa – “Basically just a pretty Hitler.”
Lady Provost (played by Victoria Liddelle)
Rhona McDonald is the Lady Provost of Broughty Ferry. A long term observer of Bob Servant, she is dismayed to see the arrival into the race of a man who made money while “reintroducing scurvy” to Broughty Ferry. She is impressed by the urbane Edwards, and watches in horror as Bob somehow battles himself into the by-election race.
Bob’s view on Lady Provost – “You give someone a special necklace and they think they’re Mother Theresa.”
Anders (played by Greg McHugh)
An ambitious young DJ at Broughty FM, Anders sees the local radio station as a stepping stone to greater things. The opening episode sees Bob and Anders go toe to toe in a political debate that leads to a serious, dog-based controversy. Later in the series Anders moderates a dramatic debate between the candidates, trying to keep some sort of control over a combustible evening.
Bob’s view on Anders – “I see a lot of myself in him. And I think he’d ditto that.”
Kirsty (played by Shirley Henderson)
When Bob visits the local Church to “mop up the religious vote”, he chances upon the intriguing figure of Kirsty. It’s love at first sight as Bob pursues Kirsty around the church and tempts her to a dinner date, where events take a decided turn for the worst.
Bob’s view on Kirsty – “Some of the best skirt I’ve ever seen in Broughty Ferry, including tourists.”
Stewpot (played by Antony Strachan)
Landlord of Stewpot’s Bar, Stewpot has seen a lot of life and a lot of pain. The last thing he needs are Bob’s regular visits. Only Bob Servant would choose a local pub because he feels he’ll be the most impressive drinker there.
Bob’s view on Stewpot – “Easily the worst landlord of the worst pub in Broughty Ferry. Easily.”
Reverend Thompson (played by Derek Riddell)
Broughty Ferry’s minister Reverend Thompson knows Bob through reputation. When Bob comes bumbling into his church to chase “the religious vote”, Reverend Thompson has his measure from the start. On election day, he’s the confused recipient of a dramatic donation from Bob.
Bob’s view on Rev Thompson – “Leader of the God mob.”
Jim “Hendo” Henderson (played by Alex Norton)
Bob Servant’s Achilles heel is his pre-occupation with Broughty Ferry’s “boo boys” and the historical lack of respect that they’ve shown him. Jim “Hendo” Henderson was a schoolboy contemporary of Bob and his first ever boo boy. An intimidating man, Hendo is a distant, terrible memory for Bob until he makes a spectacular reappearance. He and Bob revert to playground taunts, with tragic results.
Bob’s view on Hendo – “The Worst of the Worst.”
Margo Servant (played by Sheila Reid)
Bob’s mother Margo is a sweet old lady with a surprising turn of phrase. She’s spent 58 years trying and failing to reign in her son’s outlandish schemes and over-ambition. Now she’s given up. Ensconced in Broughty Ferry’s ‘Cheerio and All the Very Best’ Nursing Home, she wearily hosts lively visits from Bob and Frank. She views Bob as a continual source of worry and embarrassment, but she clearly has a soft spot for Frank.
Bob’s view on Margo – “One of the main reasons I’m here today.”
Where it all began
In 2006 I read about scam-baiters, people so frustrated with spam that they reply offering similar frustration to the spammers. I opened an email account in the name of Bob Servant, choosing the name so I could sign off emails “Your Servant, Bob Servant.”
That was the beginning of a seven year journey to Bob Servant Independent being broadcast by the BBC in January 2013. It’s been a process that has stuttered and apparently ended on a few occasions but, one way or another and often down to blind luck, has led to this six-part BBC Four series that will introduce Bob Servant to the nation.
I wrote three Bob Servant books (including his autobiography Hero Of Dundee) and a radio series (The Bob Servant Emails) which transmitted on BBC Radio Scotland and Radio 4. However, the television adaptation was itself a four year quest for me and producer Owen Bell. Owen had been given one of the books by a friend’s girlfriend and contacted me asking if I’d considered adapting the character for radio or TV.
We completed the radio series first and managed to persuade Brian Cox to play Bob after I met a mutual friend in a pub. The fact that both he and Bob are Dundonians undoubtedly helped.
Getting Brian on board was the first step, the next was finding a premise that allowed Bob’s pompous, self-regarding character to be given free reign without taking him out of the confines of his hometown, the Dundee suburb of Broughty Ferry.
I decided a by-election, with Bob standing as an independent candidate, would give us what we needed. A lot of writing and re-writing from me and skilful script development by Owen eventually led to BBC Four commissioning this series with BBC Scotland.
We shot in Scotland in 2012, with Brian padding about Broughty Ferry in Bob’s distinctive leather jacket and bunnet combo, ably assisted by his sidekick Frank (the hilarious Jonathan Watson). Watching it unfold was a thrilling conclusion to a long journey.
Ten things you didn’t know about Bob Servant
1. Bob Servant is a business tycoon. Many in Scotland remember his victorious role in Dundee’s notorious Cheeseburger Wars, when his “Armada” of cheeseburger vans scoured the city to sell their questionable products to a delirious public. His enemies point out Servant singlehandedly brought back scurvy to the city’s hospitals, a claim Servant dismisses as “typical boo boy material.”
2. Before the cheeseburgers came a window-cleaning round described by Bob as being “the largest in Western Europe”. In both endeavours he was eagerly assisted by right hand man Frank. On the vans Frank was Director of Sauces, with the window-cleaning he was Bucket Chairman. Frank was also briefly Manager of Sponges but lost the role within days in a situation for which Frank readily admits he “only had himself to blame”.
3. Bob’s house bears an extension that is testament to both his success and ambition. A large glass extravaganza, described by the Council planning committee as a “carbuncle dripping in arrogance”, Bob refers to it more warmly as the “Anything Goes Annex”, an area where he encourages people to “be themselves and let their worries drift away like geese”.
4. Bob’s age is a matter for some debate. He claims, with fool-proof logic, that he “can’t fully remember” the day he was born and therefore doesn’t know his date of birth.
5. Bob is a respected man of letters. The three Bob Servant books have been published in the UK, North America and, most impressively of all, in Dundee where they famously outsell the Bible. They have been called “a Dundonian Lord of the Rings” (by Bob) and “absolutely terrific” (by Frank).
6. Bob has also worked as an Agony Uncle. In the two years that he answered readers’ problems for a Scottish magazine he advised over 20 men to divorce their wives “with immediate effect” for crimes including winking and having arrogant walks.
7. The arrival into politics isn’t something that Bob decided on a whim. Absolutely not. As long as he can remember he has walked around Broughty Ferry looking at the punters, and their “sad little faces” and wondering what he can do to help them. This is his chance.
8. Frank is extremely proud of his role as Bob’s campaign manager. More than anything, he is proud of his special notebook which he currently sleeps with, cradling it like a baby. He’s also invested in a new suit and the shortest back and sides in Broughty Ferry.
9. Bob is currently single despite extensive efforts to the contrary. His autobiography contains a chapter entitled The Great Skirt Hunt which shows both the depth of his attempts at gaining a girlfriend, while also hinting at the attitude that has perhaps handicapped them.
10. Bob is greatly looking forward to the transmission of the TV show. He believes it will be “permanent Beatlemania” for him in Broughty Ferry. He has printed off a thousand close-up photos of his face that he will be offering for signature (for a fair price) and is also planning to market “Bob cameos” where he will attend social events for five minutes during which time he will tell “a couple of belters and have the punters laughing like penguins”. He is targeting birthdays, retirements and funerals.