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Looking After Jo Jo


Synopsis

A gripping and powerful story set in the 1980s in working class Edinburgh. Jo Jo is determined to follow in his father's footsteps and become a decent criminal, while his girlfriend reckons she is the best Marilyn Monroe since Marilyn Monroe. The world is changing however and drugs have arrived and the old rules don't apply anymore... (Amazon)

Starring

Robert Carlyle    Jenny McCrindle    Kevin McKidd    Ewan Stewart    Juliet Cadzow

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What the critics say

Robert Carlyle gave a memorable and chilling portrayal of a drugs dealer in Looking After JoJo. BBC Director-General's Review

Hot actor Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) stars in this BBC mini-series as a young man in Edinburgh running with the wrong elements. The thick Scottish accents could use subtitles (and a slang dictionary), and of course every scene is grim, grim, grim. But Carlyle has star power, no doubt about it. British TV Show Reviews

Robert Carlyle, who can do both gangster and copper, is set for life. One of the reasons that Carlyle made such an interesting policeman in Hamish Macbeth is that he looks so much like a villain. He not only has a frightening smile and blank, murderous eyes, but he has perfected the gangster's swagger. And he uses these to good effect in Looking After JoJo. The Sunday Times

JoJo (played with his usual presence by Robert Carlyle) is a small time-crook who becomes a bigger one as he switches from stealing cigarettes to dealing drugs. The London Times.

Robert Carlyle is never less than mesmerising. The London Times.

Robert Carlyle is remarkably unremarkable in the looks department. The star of Hamish MacBeth and The Full Monty has eyes on the beady side, a large nose and a froggy smile, but accompanied by formidable talent the result is a mix of sensual charm and menace that makes him the perfect lead for a forceful series set in Edinburgh in the early 1980's. Gerri Sutton's View (Australia)

The following article is by Andrew Billen, and was published in The New Statesman, January 1998.

    A land fit for heroin. I am still haunted by the title of last year's Edinburgh Television Festival debate on drama: "Dramatising Britain." I'm haunted because, between the costume serials and detective series, television does so little to bring contemporary Britain to fictive life. However it is immediately received, I am sure that Looking After JoJo, a four-part 200 minute serial from BBC Scotland starring Robert Carlyle of Full Monty fame, will be looked back on with admiration, either as a doomed protest at the rule of gloss or the precursor of a new post-Tory confidence in the power of television drama to interrogate society.
    If you were a suspicious type, you might wonder if it had to be smuggled on to the air in the guise of "crime drama." Like Band of Gold and Widows, the ostensible variation is that the central figures are all robbers not cops. Unlike those shows' stars, however, the crooks are unlikeable. If you really want to know what JoJo's gang of Scottish thieves are like - beyond unscrupulous, faithless and violent - I'd say that they were pathetic. From the fastness of middle London, you observe their feuds and psychoses, fascinated, as if viewing an ant colony driven to fratricide by the toxic dung hill on which they thrive.
    Looking After JoJo is set between 1982 and 1983. The scene is an Edinburgh housing estate run, to all intents and purposes, by the McCann family. It is led by Uncle Charlie, publican and establishment criminal who treats with the law, rather than being threatened by it. Played by Ewan Stewart, Charlie looks like a lizard who has just wandered out from a power shower. His nephew, JoJo (Carlyle) is the young pretender, who in Monday's opener dared a freelance raid on a cigarette warehouse and was set up by Charlie in revenge.
    Given chase by the police after a jewellery-shop raid, he is released only after some smart talking by Clare Galloway (Lizzy McInnerny), a lawyer with an inexplicable desire to look after JoJo.
    The topic sentence in the preceding paragraph is "It is set between 1982 and 1983." This was the period in which criminals all over the inner cities turned professional. Where once they stole cigarettes from warehouses, now they stole narcotics from pharmaceutical factories. Early scenes show boys with their snouts in crisp bags inhaling glue. By the final episode they will be on heroin. With smack comes something known in those far off days as "The Virus." This new crime is its own epidemic.
    But these are also the Falkland years in which Thatcherism announced its victory. At the beginning of each episode kids bounce on the roof of a burnt-out car in front of a poster of the Tory Boadicea and the legend: "Who fights harder for Britain?" When JoJo first meets his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenny McCrindle), she is lolling in front of a plaintive "Coal not Dole" poster, as if to suggest she, too, is already defeated. The writer Frank Deasy dares ask the question: Can Thatcher be blamed for JoJo?
    The films are filled with so much detailed characterisation, some of it too nuanced to be get-at-able, that they do not permit just one answer. JoJo has been traumatised as a child by the murder of his alcoholic father. He is fated to replicate his father's chemical dependency and his predisposition to crime, but like Hamlet he also finds himself in a revenge drama that somehow implicates his mother. The McCanns' criminality Looking after JoJois an expression of their dysfunctionality as a family.
    But JoJo, it is suggested, is also a victim of a get-rich capitalism, the eighties' obsession with glamour and governmental neglect of the falling working classes. We are meant to compare him both with Galloway, a lawyer doing very nicely of legal aid, and with Lorraine, an ambitions Marilyn Monroe look alike (bum note: in 1982 wouldn't she be a Deborah Harry wannabe?) "Norma Jean," she reasons, "was only the first Marilyn Monroe look alike."
    Her idea of a legend is a suicide, JoJo's is a killer. Each knows their definition is askew, that this is a land fit for heroin not heroes.
    The cast is exemplary, but there is no doubting that in Carlyle we are in the presence of a major star. Hamish Macbeth to some, Begbie in Trainspotting to others and the most famous backside in England to anyone who has seen The Full Monty, he gives a rigorously unsentimental performance as JoJo. Watching preview tapes of the next three episodes, half of me wanted to smash JoJo and the other half wanted to smash whatever had created him. You will not guess until the final minutes if he emerges as a victim or a millionaire fit to join the Blair project.

JoJo Factoid: The part of a drug-dealing gangster meant Carlyle had a short stretch behind bars - "It was for his own safety while they moved inmates," laughs a BBC insider. TV Plus.

Robert Carlyle on JoJo: Looking After JoJo was far more psychologically draining than The Full Monty. There's more to The Full Monty than meets the eye but something like JoJo is in a different darker mould. That's something I enjoy." The Guardian.