Rab C. Nesbitt

Rab C. Nesbitt is a Scottish sitcom that originally ran from 1988 to 1999. Produced by BBC Scotland, it starred Gregor Fisher as the titular character; an alcoholic Glaswegian who believed that unemployment was the life for him. He was originally a regular character in the BBC 2 sketch series Naked Video (1986-1990).

The pilot of the sitcom was originally made only for Scotland in 1988, a Christmas special entitled "Rab C Nesbitt's Seasonal Greet" subsequently repeated on the network the following year. The show began its first series on 27 September 1990 and continued for seven more series, finally ending on 18 June 1999. Rab C. Nesbitt is currently being broadcast on Paramount Comedy 2, around 9pm on Wednesdays, shown in double episodes.

Ian Pattison created and wrote all 52 episodes of the award winning sitcom. The programme is especially notable for approaching far darker topics and themes than those that are usually encountered in sitcoms (although almost always in a blackly comedic manner rather than a serious one), amongst them cannibalism, contract killings on the homeless, suicide, incest, sexual harassment, neo-Nazism, mental illness, zoophilia, murder of suspects by police officers whilst in custody, alcoholism, organised crime, devil worship, mass long-term unemployment, sexually transmitted disease, mariticide, drug dealing, infidelity, police brutality, gun crime, ringworm, domestic violence, transsexuality, shoplifting, infertility, drug abuse, alcohol-induced cirrhosis, eating Rottweiler flesh, murder and cancer, often several usually unapproachable subjects by comedy used in the same episode. Also notable is that Rab is frequently seen breaking the fourth wall.

The series was popular and regularly attracted 5 million viewers.

On 24 August 2008, it was confirmed, following much speculation, that the series will return to BBC2 for a one-off special as part of the channel's 2008 Christmas season

In the past the series also featured guest appearances from Norman Lovett, Peter Mullan, Rikki Fulton, Anita Dobson, Timothy Spall, Stanley Baxter, Clive Russell, Sylvester McCoy, Russell Hunter and then unknowns David Tennant, Ashley Jensen, Ford Kiernan, Greg Hemphill, Karen Dunbar, Jane McCarry and Paul Riley.

Cast and characters

The Nesbitt family

  • Robert "Rab" C. Nesbitt (Gregor Fisher): alcoholic (in denial), deadbeat, self-styled "street philosopher" and "sensitive big bastard", although "sensitive by Govan standards, y'understand, y'know. Ah awiz keep mah pinkie oot wan ah batter sumwan oer the heid wi a basebaw bat." Described by his wife Mary as not "an unemployed person" but "the original unemployed person", Rab is very rarely seen in anything other than a pinstripe suit in very poor condition, rotting plimsolls, a filthy headband and a string vest. He has two sons, Gash and Burney. Rab has 4 brothers, all dead; Rab only survived because he was the only one out of the five who was able to understand the benefits form (however, his brother Gash at least is still alive). He claims to have been talented as a teenager, but never went anywhere with it due to Govan-dwellers being scared of talent when they saw it and tried "tae batter it tae death wi' empty wine bottles".
  • Mary "Mary Doll" Nesbitt (Elaine C. Smith): Rab's long-suffering wife, and considerably more functional and aspirational than her husband. Claims that on the day she was born it was a toss-up whether she or the dog's litter would end up at the bottom of the river Clyde in a sack (Burney: "She won. There's nae bloody justice, eh?").
  • Gash Nesbitt (Andrew Fairlie): The Nesbitts' elder son. Described by his father as "so anal-retentive he's still shitein rusks." Has dabbled with Christianity, hard drugs, Hare Krishna and ram-raiding BT shops in his efforts to find himself.
  • Burney Nesbitt (Eric Cullen): the couple's younger son (the first three seasons only). Briefly dallied with neo-Nazism. Was also discovered to be gifted at painting, although gave up on this avenue when he realised it wasn't getting him sex. Apparently has "a tattoo awn mah erse an baws like gooseberries". Referred to as "that wee bendy toy" by Gash. Actor Eric Cullen left the programme following series 3 due to personal problems (although not for the reasons sometimes cited: that he was implicated in a child pornography scandal; this occurred, but he was found innocent and his leaving was occasioned by emotional problems resulting from the case) to be replaced by David McKay's Screech.
  • Screech Nesbitt (David McKay): Rab's nephew (replaces Cullen in the fourth, fifth, and six season). Actor David McKay earlier portrayed Young Young McGurn's son Bimbo in "That's Entertainment".
  • The other Gash Nesbitt (Sylvester McCoy/Andrew Fairlie): Rab's brother, who he named his son after. Gash Sr. was once highly intelligent but very sensitive, and developed mental illness either following or coinciding with a period of particularly intense ill treatment by he and Rab's father. Gash is usually a resident of a special home, yet managed to escape (or merely unconsciously wandered away) to be briefly taken in by the rest of the Nesbitt family during the episode "Father".

The Cotter family

  • James Aaron "Jamesie" Cotter (Tony Roper): Rab's longtime friend, as well as chronic serial philanderer and self-described 'scumbag'. Jamesie is always seen with his trademark shabby sports jacket and bottle of Irn-Bru. Possesses an odd obsession with the imprints he leaves when stepping in puddles with trainers, a habit that very nearly got him eaten by Young Young McGurn. "Some men climb Everest, some men write symphonies, but Jamesie Cotter left a good imprint when he stood in a puddle." Despite his womanising, Jamesie is infertile and allegedly poorly-endowed, according to his wife Ella. It was revelaed in the special episode "Fitba" that Jamesie had played football for Third Lanark A.C..
  • Ella Cotter (Barbara Rafferty): Jamesie's fiery wife, with her red beehive haircut and leopard skin coat. Seems to loathe her husband and frequently considers murdering him, and has stabbed him at least once.

The Two Ways Inn regulars

  • Andra (Brian Pettifer): one of Rab's best friends, described more than once as looking "like a Ninja Turtle". Married to a woman called Bobbie who he is so repulsed by that he dry heaves when thinking about sleeping with her.
  • Dodie (Alex Norton/Iain McColl): another of Rab's best friends. Is implied to be fond of unconventional methods of intoxication (e.g. sniffing shoe polish).
  • Dougie (Charlie Sim): The barman of the Two Ways Inn.
  • Norrie (John Kazek): The barman of the Two Ways Inn. Norrie takes over the running of the pub after Dougie gives up the job.

Recurring cast members

  • Phoebe (Sara Corper / Sarah Crowden): An extremely middle-class English woman, married to Hugh.
  • Hugh/"Shug" (Sean Scanlan): A relative of the Nesbitts, Hugh feigns Englishness or at least pretends to be a middle-class Scot from Berwick-upon-Tweed due to Scottish cultural cringe and the distaste displayed at anything working-class and/or Scottish on the part of his wife Phoebe. Rab grows to dislike Shug as Rab feels that Shug is willing to do anything for Scotland - except actually live in it. As soon as it suits him, Shug scurries off back to England and his wife, a habit that very nearly got Rab killed by a hitman in "Pie".
    During that episode, and a nervous breakdown of sorts on Shug's part occasioned by the (further) degradation of his marriage to Phoebe, Shug started "Shug's Pie Shop" in Govan, convinced that he could do better than the unhealthy mutton pies available and popular at the time. However, the only real novelty introduced with his mutton pies was changing the shape from round to square.

Notable one-time characters

  • John William Pure Mad Mental Intae Yoor Body Simpson Craig Gemmell Chib The Bam Rib-Racker No Real Young Rebel Ya Bas St. John McGurn aka Young Young McGurn (Maurice Roeves) from 'That's Entertainment': a local "psychotic, with cannibalistic tendencies" who regularly threatens to eat people who displease him. McGurn's family burgle and vandalise local houses with impunity. Unfortunately for Jamesie Cotter, he chose to the "whap the meat oop" McGurn's daughter Tracey, a fact that very nearly got him eaten himself.
  • Peter The Warlock (Peter Mullan) from 'Life Has Meaning': a Devil worshipper who, after feeling insulted by Rab, places a hex on him, resulting in a dart embedding itself into Rab's cranium. Owns a cloak allegedly once owned by Aleister Crowley (but is most often seen naked) as well as a dog with a unicorn-like horn. Last seen sprinting naked down the street pursued by a furious, pitchfork wielding, Rab.


The programme began being broadcast on 27 September 1990 and finished on 18 June 1999. Some shows still get broadcast nowadays though on Paramount Comedy 2.

Pilot episode:

Series 1:


Series 2:


Series 3:

Series 4:


Series 5:

Series 6:

Series 7:

Series 8:

Quotes from the show

  • Rab: "I will tell you this boy, I will tell you this".
  • Rab: "Mary, we huv knain each other tae long to let a pound ae dead meat tae come between us".
    Mary: "Let's leave oor sex life oota this"
  • Mary: {To Burney but referring to Rab} Is that him back?
    Burney: Dunno Maw, wait an i'll ask. Is that you back, da?
  • Shug: There are more people in the greater London than there is in the whole of Scotland.
    Rab: but I mean, for goodness sake, it's quality that counts, not quantity.
  • Rab: I will skive and skive again.
  • Rab: I was born a cynical bastard and I'll die a cynical bastard!
  • Rab: Some place, Govan, eh? Where else can y'get a fish supper at 9:00 AM? Simple. Jes steal it aff a drunk whit's been layin pished ootside a close aw neet.”
  • Peter the Warlock: [to Rab] Now if you'll excuse me, I have a unicorn to sacrifice and a virgin to deflower. [to three of the guys as he leaves the pub] See youse.
    Dodie: He must be a warlock right enough to huv found a unicorn in Govan.
    Jamesie: He must be Sherlock Holmes to huv found a virgin.
  • Rab: Oh in the name of God
  • Rab: Don't bend the knee, do not bend the knee!


Season Episodes Originally aired DVD release date
Region 2 Discs
1 6 1990 5 July 2004 1
Season one began airing on 27 September 1990 and featured a total of 6 episodes.
2 6 1992 18 October 2004 1
Season two began airing on 14 May 1992 and featured a total of 6 episodes.
3 6 1993 28 May 2005 1
Season three began airing on 23 November 1993 and featured a total of 6 episodes.
4 6 1994 1 August 2005 1
Season four began airing on 19 September 1994 and featured a total of 6 episodes.
5 6 1996 4 December 2006 1
Season five began airing on 5 January 1996 and featured a total of 6 episodes.
6 6 1997 15 October 2007 1
Season six began airing on 1 August 1997 and featured a total of 6 episodes.
7 6 1998 15 October 2007 1
Season seven began airing on 21 August 1998 and featured a total of 6 episodes.
8 6 1999 15 October 2007 1
Season eight began airing on 14 May 1999 and featured a total of 6 episodes.

In addition to the eight series, the Christmas special "A Seasonal Greet", the two other feature length specials "Fitba" and "Home", a live show, and various other episodes have been released.

There are also a book entitled A Stranger Here Myself and two script books.


External links

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