By Martin Owens
Over the past year or so, Greg McHugh has become one of Scotland’s best-loved TV figures with his portrayal of Gary McLintoch in hit BBC series ‘Gary: Tank Commander’. After moving to London soon after the success of the show, Greg is not short of offers – landing a role in Channel 4’s new hit comedy ‘Fresh Meat’ and securing a third series of ‘Gary: Tank Commander’.
“I have two main plans for 2012,” explains McHugh. “Writing and filming Gary Tank series 3, which will take me up until spring. Directly after that, I start filming ‘Fresh Meat’ series two, which then takes me to September.”
Since the first series of his show – back in 2009 – Greg has frequently been asked how long he plans to keep the show running.
“I really don’t know to be honest,” he admits. “I don’t make those decisions, it’s the combination of the audience response and whether BBC Scotland want to commission another one. “I’ll see how series three is received and take it from there – never say never.”
One section of the show’s fan base that has surprised Greg more than most is from soldiers. Fake-tan, peroxide blonde hair and camp – Gary McLintoch is the complete opposite of the usual army stereotype. “The feedback I’ve received from soldiers has been great,” laughs McHugh. “Quite often, soldiers actually tell me that they have met or worked with someone like Gary in the army. Scary.”
While the show is winning fans all over the world, with Gary even getting a run on ABC2 in Australia, BBC bosses in London have refused to back it. Along with hit Scottish comedy shows ‘The Limmy Show’ and ‘Burnistoun’, Tank Commander has continuously been snubbed by BBC bosses south of the border. And that fact hasn’t gone unnoticed by McHugh. He said: “I really wanted it to be backed last year and it wasn’t, so it’s time to move on and concentrate on the writing and making of series three and try to make it the best show we can.
“I’ve been asked this question [how he feels about the treatment of the show] more than any other in recent months and the fact that so many people ask it seems to suggest that the public have already formed an opinion about how these shows have been treated. I’m happy to move on and make another series and not worry about how it’s viewed by BBC London.”
From a show that has not received the backing of station bosses to one that has the backing from everyone – station bosses, fans and TV critics, McHugh stars in Channel 4’s hit new comedy ‘Fresh Meat’. In it we see McHugh immerse himself in the role of Howard – a socially awkward “oddball”.
“I hope we will be seeing more of Howard,” admits McHugh. “I’ve been told I will be in the show more but until you’ve seen the scripts, you just never know.
“Fresh Meat series two starts filming at the end of May through to the end of August. I presume Channel 4 will want to release the show at the same time as last year [September].”
As the creator, writer and star of Gary: Tank Commander, McHugh admits he had no difficulties in following someone else’s script.
“It’s brilliant – especially with the writers of Fresh Meat. It’s much less pressure than writing and lot of fun. When you get to deliver the lines that Howard has, it makes for a happy day at work.”
Having already conquered TV, McHugh has now set his sights on radio, working with comedian Will Andrews on new BBC Radio 4 show ‘Meanwhile, it’s Will and Greg’.
“Writing for radio is very different [than writing for TV]. It gives you huge freedom as the sketches can be set anywhere and can have any type of
character or setting in a way that, often in TV, would be restricted by budget.
“In radio, though, you obviously can’trely on visual gags or hide behind funny faces.”
There have been rumours suggesting that ‘Meanwhile, it’s Will and Greg’ could make the transition from radio to TV, with a sketch show a possibility – rumours that certainly interest Greg. “I hope to keep working with Will, so the idea of doing a TV sketch show sounds ace.”
Gary Tank Commander series one and two are available on DVD now.