Still Game started as a stage play featuring three characters: Jack Jarvis, Victor McDade, and Winston Ingram. Due to a broken lift, the three men are stranded in Victor's flat and discuss a variety of subjects ranging from death to sex. The stage play toured Scotland, England, Ireland and Canada before returning to Glasgow, where it was filmed and released on video and DVD.
A small number of revisions accompanied Still Game's transition from stage to television. Gavin Mitchell, who originally played Winston (and was replaced by Paul Riley for later performances), played the part of Boabby in the series. Characters mentioned in passing were later fleshed out into supporting characters.
In 1998 Jack and Victor appeared in a number of skits in a tongue-in-cheek documentary about Scottish pop music called Och Around the Clock. In these they are shown to be watching while sitting in Victor's flat. Their skits centred on the duo's disparaging comments about the performers.
The characters reappeared in Kiernan and Hemphill's sketch show Chewin' the Fat, nearly every episode of which featured Jack, Victor, Tam and Winston, with minor differences from their counterparts in the series. By the time Still Game became a show in its own right Winston's physical appearance had changed significantly, but he was still played by Paul Riley. As the show evolved, supporting characters assumed greater prominence. Jack and Victor made their final appearance on Chewin' the Fat in the 2002 Hogmanay Special.
For the show's first three series the broadcast of Still Game was limited to BBC One Scotland. The show was then moved to BBC Two for the fourth series and shown throughout the UK. On 28 December, 2005 the first Christmas special was shown on BBC One, the first national broadcast of the show on the channel. A fifth series of the show started filming in February 2006 and was shown the following June on BBC Two. As of 2006 series three had not been shown nationally, and only five episodes from the first two series were shown on national BBC Two from 17 January to 14 February, 2004. The second series was shown nationally from 10 July, 2008. This meant it was listed as a new series in TV listings, even though it is not for Scottish viewers.
In the first three series the episode titles were all Glaswegian dialect words that were related to the episode. Starting from series four the episodes were titled using standard English so that general audiences could understand them.
The events of Still Game take place in a floating timeline where the characters remain the same age from series to series. One of the most prominent examples of this is that Victor reveals that he is 74 years old in "Scran", an episode of the second series, but it is not until the fifth series ("Smoke On The Water") that he celebrates his 75th birthday.
The sixth series of Still Game ended on BBC Two on 23 August 2007. A Christmas special was aired on BBC One Scotland on 23 December and for the rest of the UK on BBC Two on 28 December. There was also a Hogmanay special called "Hootenanny" aired on BBC One Scotland, later aired to the rest of the UK on 2 January 2008.
Ford Kiernan, Greg Hemphill and Paul Riley's company Effingee Productions is thought to have split up after Riley walked away to go it alone after being refused more control over the future of the company by Kiernan. Hemphill stated that he didn't want a "boardroom battle".
On 15 October, 2013, the Daily Record ran a front page story that the show would be returning. On 23 October, 2013, Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill announced details of live shows at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow at a press conference. They were scheduled to perform four shows beginning in September 2014, but due to high demand it was extended to 16 then 21 shows.
The 21 shows at The Hydro ran from 19 September, 2014 until 10 October, 2014, played to 210,000 fans and made £6 million in ticket sales. The show received mixed reviews.
In November 2014, a special sketch featuring Jack and Victor visiting the set of River City was made for Children in Need. The sketch also featured a cameo of a director played by Still Game director Michael Hines. On Hogmanay 2014, BBC Scotland showed a documentary celebrating the show titled Still Game: The Story So Far. The program featured interviews with the cast, celebrities who have appeared on the show and super fans. Including a look at some favourite moments.
On 12 May, 2016 the BBC announced that the show would return in 2016 with a six-part 7th series, (9 years after the previous series). Filming of the new series started in summer and the series began on 7 October, 2016. The show's return attracted its highest ever overnight audience for a single episode on 7 October, taking a 58% share of the Scottish TV audience with 1.3 million viewers. The show also aired for the first time on BBC One throughout the UK and drew a total of audience of 3.2 million.
In September 2016 a second live show was announced for the SSE Hydro. The second stage show was to run for 10 nights beginning 4 February, 2017 but in October 2016 a further 5 performances were added. Unlike the previous live show, this one will not be recorded for TV and DVD.
On 16 March 2017 it was announced an eighth series has been commissioned, to air on BBC One later in the year
Although Still Game is set in the fictional Craiglang area of Glasgow, the Maryhill district of the city is one of the most common filming locations. The early part of the 1st episode was set in the South Nitshill area of Glasgow where Jack lived before he moved beside Victor in the high rise flats (the flats where Jack originally lived have since been demolished). The shops featured in the series can be found in the Townhead area of Glasgow. The Forth and Clyde Canal and its locks are used in background shots, along with the nearby high-rise tower blocks (flats) including the one in which Jack and Victor live called "Osprey Heights". For the first three series of the show, a real pub ("The Gimlet") in Ruchill was used to film the exterior shots of the pub Jenny's, originally The Clansman. However, between series three and four, the owner of the pub had the building demolished, causing the fourth series production team to build an exterior in a set in the Glasgow North Media park, Maryhill. An outdoor market in Possilpark was used in the episode "Cauld" when the character Winston buys several electric heaters. The bingo scene in "Courtin" was filmed in the Gala bingo in Possilpark and was a scene that coincidentally brought 2 old friends together, as Paul Riley (Winston) and the Gala bingo caller used in filming Joe Houston, used to be friends when they were both young lads. Scene interiors (Jack and Victor's flats, hallways and the interior of Navid's shop) are specially constructed sets, built within a warehouse complex, now a Maryhill industrial estate (and called Craigmont Studios). Scenes from several episodes were also filmed in the Knightswood area of Glasgow, including exterior scenes in the episode 'Courtin', and the golf course scenes in the episode 'Tappin'.
Finport, as mentioned and seen in the fifth series, was filmed on location in Largs and Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, both of which were once popular seaside resorts with Glaswegians. The shots of the promenade and the sea wall is that of Saltcoats' harbour area. The café that Jack and Victor walk past is The Melbourne Café in Saltcoats. The pub scene is set in the Royal Oak pub in Largs, while the bed and breakfast where Jack and Victor stay the night is located at the north end of Largs promenade. In the scene where Jack and Victor arrive on the bus from the right in Finport this leads from the sea, there is no road there. In the scene where Jack and Victor find Winston, a wide panning shot reveals the famous Nardini's ice-cream building and the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Millport.
Ardgowan House, a late 18th-century mansion at Inverkip, Inverclyde, was used as the setting for Blair Tunnoch in the episode "Fly Society". Jack and Victor buy tickets for a meal and evening at the theatre from Tam who won them in a radio quiz. During the pre-theatre meal they meet two apparently sophisticated, attractive ladies, played by Una McLean and Jeannie Fisher, whom they try to impress with tales of overseas adventures and wealth. The women invite them to a country house party at Blair Tunnoch.
The area where Jack and Victor are sitting during the court recess in the episode 'Recipe' of series six is the Main Lounge of The Crookston Hotel in Glasgow. The interior shots of the bakery in the same episode 'Recipe' were filmed at factories in Glasgow, one of which Tunnocks factory in Uddingston. The court scenes were filmed in Court No. 2 of Hamilton Sheriff Court.
The bar used during the Hogmanay Special in 2007, Hootenanny, was The Red Hoose in Dunipace, chosen by producers for its old world qualities.
Navid's shop interior was a set in Hillington industrial estate, the exterior shots being a row of shops in Kennedy Path, Townhead, Glasgow.
The shots where Jack and Victor visit Barbara in her work were filmed in the Clydebank area of Glasgow. The interior of the shop was also filmed on site in a local charity shop which is still in use today.
Just before the fifth series started filming, a pest control team had to be called into the Maryhill studio set when it was discovered that rats had infested Navid's shop and were eating their way through the stock. The alarm was raised after Jane McCarry (Isa) found a dead rat on the set. The high rat population in the area was due to the proximity of the Forth and Clyde Canal.
In the Children In Need sketch it saw Jack, Victor and Isa at the River City set in Dumbarton, Scotland.
For the Story so Far episode the stars Ford and Greg filmed that at the BBC Scotland Headquarters in Glasgow.
For the Seventh series the show moved all locations to BBC Scotland Studios in Dumbarton, Scotland. Also where shows such as Scottish soap opera River City, Two Doors Down, Shetland and Millie Inbetween are filmed.
The theme music used on the TV broadcasts of the show is an excerpt from "Cuban Boy", performed by The Cuban Boys, which is itself an arrangement of Frank Chacksfield's track of the same name from the album West of Sunset. Although on the DVD release of the Complete Series 1-6 (including all the specials), the opening and ending theme tune has been changed to an entirely different theme. The reason behind this is still unexplained, however licensing could be a possibility. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra recorded an updated version of the theme tune for season 7.
Referring to the fifth series' finale, the Daily Record heralded for Still Game to be added to the ranks of the "greatest sitcoms ever". They called the episode "classic comedy" and said it was "a perfect mix of empathetic friendship, laugh-out-loud gags, real feeling in the acting and genuine warmth and chemistry between the characters". The Daily Record also revealed Still Game was trouncing rivals The Catherine Tate Show and Steve Coogan's Saxondale with 300,000 and 700,000 more viewers respectively. Creator and star Ford Kiernan said of the ratings: "I am absolutely delighted. The figures have gradually increased - episode after episode."
Still Game was criticised for its "reliance on expletives" by Teddy Jamieson, television critic for The Herald. He also commented that the sitcom "paints [Scotland] in broad strokes", through its use of stereotypes. TV Today praised the show for being "refreshing" in the age of dying sitcoms. It said the show was funny in a "straight down the line way". Still Game has attracted interest from known screen legends, such as Sean Connery (who even requested a role in the show). Actor Bill Nighy is also reported to be a fan, calling upon the distinct Glaswegian accent for his role as Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean. The show has won awards in both the 2004 and 2005 BAFTA Scotland awards and was named as the winner in the Best Broadcast category at the 2004 Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards.
In 2006, Still Game was once again nominated for a BAFTA Scotland award for the "Most Popular Television" category. Other contenders included Rebus and Taggart. Paul Riley, who plays Winston, was also awarded for his role in the show.
The series revival in 2016 received some negative reviews. Julie McDowall, writing for The National, said of the first episode "You're going to hate me for saying this. I already hate myself for even daring to hold these thoughts, but I need to be honest with you: this was a disappointment." She later said of the series, "I fear this once brilliant sitcom is turning into Mrs. Brown's Boys. Just like an auld yin in the Clansman, its teeth have been removed and it’s gumsy and ineffectual and a bit of a bore." A review in Chortle said "I suspect a lot of new viewers will wonder what all the fuss is about, as this episode seems clunky and dated," going on to say "in truth no one here appears to be a great actor" and that "it seems to be a little crudely edited, too, with the timing of cutaways off the pace. And when you start to notice things like that, it’s got to be a sign that something’s wrong."