"Play for Today" Just a Boys' Game (TV Episode 1979) Poster

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simon-11830 June 2004
Take no notice of Dinky Donk, who has put annoyingly silly reviews of Peter McDougall plays on here. If you read his comments you'd get a very misguided idea of what this piece is about.

Just a Boy's Game is a masterpiece, a low-key story of life in a depressed Greenock, when the only ambition for the hard-cases is to be legendary hard-cases. Miller's performance is first-class, and Mackenzie's direction faultless.

This is quite possibly the finest Scottish film ever made with the exception of Just Another Saturday.

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gilso6815 December 2006
Make no bones about it folks, This masterpiece is the best television drama 'EVER' to come out of bonny Scotland !! Frankie Miller is not only Scotlands greatest ever singer, Given a few more lucky breaks he should have been one of our best ever actors as well. The supporting cast of Ken Huchison (Murphy's mob, The Sweeney) & a youthful Gregor Fisher (Rab C Nesbit, Naked Video) just make this a joy to watch, Its great the BBC have at last released this on DVD as it hasn't been on TV for at least 20 years !! The song that runs over the credits at the end (Rules of the game) can be found on the remastered Frankie Miller CD Once in a blue moon.
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Excellent slice of life.
Sebastian Carr8 May 2003
Set in Greenock, in Scotland, this hard hitting drama perfectly captures the hard man culture of the west of Scotland. Strong performances and a spot on script combine to give British TV one of its finest moments. The grim urban decay contrasts with the natural beauty that lies beyond.
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''I know the rules of the game!''
RaspberryLucozade17 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
'Just A Boys' Game' is my favourite 'Play For Today' edition of all time. It was written by Peter McDougall for whom this was his third entry into the 'Play For Today' strand, ahead of 'Just Another Saturday' and 'The Elephant's Graveyard'.

It was all about the life of a hardman named Jake McQuillen, who works in the shipyards of Greenock. He fills his nights drinking and larking with his friends Dancer ( a lover and joker rather than a fighter ) and Tanza ( a jack-the-lad with a sharp tongue ). Although he wants nothing more than a quiet life, he often finds himself having to call upon the use of his fists whenever someone tries to challenge him. Playing the impassive Jake was Scottish soul singer Frankie Miller in what was his only acting role. It comes clear that Jake's life is not a happy one. He was rejected by his mother and sent to live with his grandparents as a child.

Jake appears to have a close relationship with grandmother but has no bond whatsoever with his dying grandfather, who was once the town's hardest man. Despite their hatred for each other, Jake wants to get as close as possible to the old man before he dies.

One night, whilst on the town with Tanza and Dancer, a young team of thugs, headed by a young razor wielder named McAfferty, corner the three men and a fight ensues. Unfortunately, whilst Jake and Tanza manage to handle themselves, Dancer draws the short straw of luck and, whilst trying to evade the thugs runs headlong into a throat high iron bar, killing him. Tanza is openly distraught at Dancer's fate, however Jake conceals his grief, telling Tanza ''That's how it goes, that's the game!''.

Later, Jake is horrified to hear his grandfather's dying words.

As Jake, the monotone voiced Miller was sparkling, giving a natural performance as the cold yet somehow lovable and ruggedly handsome McQuillen. As a result of his outstanding performance, Miller was offered a string of other roles but turned them down as his interests lay more on music than acting. A pity as I believe he could well have been a contender for one of Scotland's greatest actors. Hector Nicol ( a very good stand-up comedian by the way ) likewise was equally fear striking as Jake's grandfather. Alas, his potential as a straight actor was cut prematurely when he died in 1982.

The supporting cast, including Ken Hutchison, a then unknown Gregor Fisher ( sporting a 'Jason King' moustache rather than a string vest and bandage ), Katherine Stark and Jean Taylor Smith all make their time on screen worthwhile and possibly even make the characters more stronger than they were written. McDougall's script, brought to life by wonderful performances and wonderful production values, was full of many great lines that fizzed like bubbles in a cola.

In 1994, a brain haemorrhage very nearly claimed Frankie Miller's life. He was in a coma for months and for a while after emerging was unable to speak, necessitating the need for rehabilitation. Whilst he is no longer able to perform, his legacy as a singer is still beating strong with fans.
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Hard men = gay men
Ring Piece28 May 2004
The subtle gay undertones of this Greenock set play are hard to ignore. Frankie Miller as Jake McQuillan provides a stunning portrayal of a "Hard Man" barely able to conceal his forbidden passion for lovable rogue sidekick Dancer(Ken Hutchison). The sub-plot detailing McQuillan's battle to be the dominant alpha male in his family is over-shone by his need to "batter" senseless anyone who looks at the object of his affections in the wrong way.

Jake's contempt for women is illustrated by his refusal to "hump" Clatty Bella, instead preferring to drink cheap fortified wine while his true love "beasts" her instead.

Tanza(Gregor Fisher,)and his relationship with his spouse "Mary Doll" provides some comic relief, as does Hector Nicol as ex-hardman and nudist "Granda".

Overall McDougall's vision of a 70's West of Scotland town inhabited by "headcases" in denial of their homosexual leanings "rings" true.
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