"Art? God fucking spare me."
Better known for playing spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, Jock actor, Peter Capaldi, almost spoils this otherwise excellent documentary on the history of Scottish portraiture.
He was all over it like the pox; it was as though his contract stipulated that for every minute of Scottish pictures there had to be two minutes of Capaldi's cadaverous iffy scholarship, as though the paintings would not hold an audience and the programme depended upon Capaldi's air of Tucker-like menace.
"Who was it done your media training, Myra fucking Hindley?"
or as the Beeb puts it
""Peter Capaldi explores the story of Scotland's art. He had a talent for drawing and a love for art that took him to art school in Glasgow, but soon after graduating he became an actor. Capaldi spends time with the paintings and the artists that have made Scottish art special. He sketches some of the most important Scottish portraits, and by focusing on the tradition of portraiture that goes back 500 years, Capaldi shows how Scotland's art has reflected the changing face of the nation."
Living in Scotland, best part of England, is like inhabiting the mind of a publicity-crazed Z-list celebrity. Everyday it's another form of querulous self-obsession: How am I Scottish? Whaduzitmean to be Scottish? What is Scotland's place in the world? Are we a big small nation ? Or are we too big to be small, too small to be big? Have we actually shaped the entire modern world ? Why are we always pissed, beating our wives and dropping down in the filthy streets from obesity heart attacks? Isn't Sean Connery the greatest actor of all time, the Proclaimers bigger than the Beatles, Lulu the Maria Callas of rock'n'roll?
Capaldi and his producers offer more of the same, Scottish art, particularly it's portraiture, the cruelly unrecognised rival to the world's greatest paintings. It is nothing of the sort but by God it's not bad.
Like most things Jock, Capaldi's programme comes with irritants but the pictures and their settings are fabulous and although the editing lingers overlong on Capaldi and his own indifferent sketching, he is nevertheless both annoying and refreshing as an arts presenter.
And at ninety minutes it is too long for Capaldi's self referential delivery and too short to accommodate the breadth of history he attempts - a brief, impassioned denunciation of the Highland Clearances and their later Victorian aristocratic colonisation, a bitter reproach to Scott's invention of the shortbread-and-tartan mythology, yet not a word of Culloden.
A quirky, idiosyncratic bit of programming, flawed and unskilled in places, unlike the Beeb's Baroque series earlier in the year but as we say in Scotland, a man's a man for a' that and the juxtaposition of a TV satire villain with the considerable Scottish artisitic heritage makes interesting TV. It is definitely worth a close look; which is clearly what Mr Capaldi, below, thinks of himself.