1 9 9 8 (UK)
4 x 50 minute episodes
Set on an Edinburgh council estate in the bleak 1980s, rising drug dealer John Joe “Jo Jo” McCann (Robert Carlyle) was hellbent on gaining money and power at all costs amidst a decaying urban sprawl.
Robert Carlyle’s hardman hero fought his way above the rest to achieve his own needle infested, concrete fiefdom and some fake marble flooring in his council home with a lovely all in one, steel-reinforced front door to keep the drug squad at bay.
As a drama it offered no way out for any of them – like AIDS– riddled “calendar material” junkie Malky (David McKay), who took the rap for Jo Jo’s murder of his own uncle, just to get free drugs in prison and die in a warm prison cell.
At every point throughout Looking After Jo Jo, it was reinforced that nobody had a choice, even Jo Jo, who told the lawyer: “I could have been you. I could have gone to your college.” We were never convinced.
The coarse morality jarred, like when Jo Jo coldly slashed his drug rivals with a razor because they pushed a shopping trolley into his girlfriend. But the brilliant script never once judged him, and he still came out as a sympathetic hero.
Even when he shot his uncle dead, the family ties and loyalties were still there in the background. His loving sister quietly bagged up his blood-stained clothes and kept her mouth shut. With Jo Jo locked up as the cops gathered at the estate, a teenage relation demanded: “What the fuck are you looking at?”
Violent and dark, this was a tough, uncompromising story about the never-ending cycle of crime and violence that existed in a believable, tight but deprived community.
And yet the gallows humour shone through. Jo Jo, desperately trying to deny the AIDS epidemic, told his pals you have to first be a “poof”, knowing full well he was wrong.
At every turn as a drama, it was believable and compelling.
John Joe “Jo Jo” McCann
DC Gordon Monk
Young Jo Jo
DS Alistair Wright
Annie Louise Ross