Last Night's Viewing: Bob Servant Independent, BBC4
Life after War: Haunted by Helmand, BBC3

 

Bob Servant apparently owes his existence to email scammers. Like Henry Root, Willie Donaldson's imaginary letter writer, Servant was Neil Forsyth's alter ego in writing to online swindlers and con men, responding to them with a garrulous energy that drove even the most persistent of them to the point of distraction in the end.

Conceived as an act of subversive revenge against the tricksters, he's now been bodied forth by Brian Cox in Bob Servant Independent, a BBC Scotland comedy about Bob's attempt to be elected as MP for Broughty Ferry, a suburb of Dundee. Bob believes that he's one of nature's leaders, not a follower. "I'm not a punter. Never have been, never will be," he tells his gormless political assistant (formerly Director of Sauces for Bob's burger-van company). "I look at your Obamas and your Gandhis and your Burt Reynolds and I think, 'That's my mob, that's my mob right there'."

The opening sequence of Forsyth's comedy was very nicely done, a tour of Bob's smart conservatory looking out on the estuary of the Tay, which teasingly steered clear of Cox's face in favour of the trophies of Bob's business life and shots of his hands as he sketched out the path to power. His electoral strategy is simple. Talk to the young people and then "they'll phone the internet" and spread the word for him. He has boundless energy, limitless confidence in his own abilities and an election poster: "Vote for Bob Servant – because you know him and he's OK". But he does have one liability – his mouth. Every time Bob opens it he loses more votes. So eager is he to please the first caller to the radio show he appears on that he ends up pledging to shoot any dogs that enter a local park. When the police are called he's indignant: "That was a metaphor," he protests. "A metaphor for what?" asks the policeman. "Life," replies Bob after a brief pause.

There are rough edges here, but Cox speeds you past them by the ebullience of his performance, and quite often I found myself simultaneously thinking that it was all getting a bit silly and laughing at it at the same time. There's something joyfully inventive about Bob's foolishness too, a sideways skitter that keeps throwing up lines you couldn't quite have predicted. Trying to spin himself out of trouble with the enraged dog owners of Broughty Ferry, Bob goes back on the radio to insist that he's been taken out of context and is himself grieving for a lost dog called Dancer. "Do you have a description of Dancer?" asks the sceptical DJ. "Oh... he just loves life," replies Bob. Hard to categorise, but the fact that it is is one of its pleasures.

Life after War: Haunted by Helmand followed some of the surviving soldiers from one of the bloodier engagements of the war in Afghanistan – an ambush that left five soldiers from a patrol dead and several more seriously injured. Some of the wounds are physical – the group's commander, Alex, had lost a leg and a hand in an explosion – and others are mental, with recurrent nightmares, flashbacks and depression afflicting the survivors. One soldier found it hard to shake a fear of IEDs, even when walking through a west London shopping centre. A loose drain cover or a sudden noise would jolt him back to Helmand. Another hadn't had an unbroken night's sleep for three years.

Michael Price's film properly reminded you that the dangers don't stop when the troops get back, but it was a little marred by wishful thinking – or at least television's addiction to the upbeat conclusion. "The reunion has achieved everything that Alex hoped for," the voiceover said about the meeting that gave the film a climax. Everything? Really? With several of his men still struggling with mental- health problems? I somehow doubt that, however one might hope it was the truth.

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there