Rab is a 40-something waster. He's never worked a day in his life, and revels in the intricacies of the Welfare system (or 'the Broo' in common Glasgow parlance). He is married to the matriarchal Mary, who holds together the family of in spite of Rab's lifestyle of booze and casual violence.
But he's not all bad, he has deep and profound thoughts about life and philosophy, and will expound them to any passer-by with the help of his rolled-up newspaper. He wanders the streets of Govan (a district in Glasgow) in a dirty blue suit and string vest, always with his trademark dirty bandage around his head from some long-forgotten head wound. Together with his eternal, scheming friend, Jamesie Cotter (and his long suffering wife Ella), Rab introduces us to a myriad of colourful and downright scary Glasgow characters.
Although comedy in intent, the series explored many dark topics, including marital breakup, murder, long-term unemployment, infertility, cannibalism and child abuse. Through several flashback sequences, we see the young Rab and his siblings putting up with a violent father who took his life failures out on his family. Rab's own family life is far from idyllic, Mary leaving him to fend for himself on various occasions, and the kids running away to London.
The final series was aired in 1998. In 2008, the character returned for a one-off, 45-minute special at Christmas 2008 which eventually led to a revival which ran for two seasons and ended with a New Year's special in 2014.
- Number of episodes: 53 Length: 48 x 30 mins, 2 x 45 mins, 2 x 50 mins, 1 x short special
- Special (45 mins) Rab C Nesbitt's Seasonal Greet: 31 Dec 1989, BBC2 Sun 9.30pm
- Series One (6) 27 Sep-1 Nov 1990, BBC2 Thu 9pm
- Special (45 mins) Fitba 15 July 1991, BBC2 Mon 9.45pm
- Series Two (6) 14 May-18 June 1992, BBC2 Thu 9pm
- Special (50 mins) 31 Dec 1992, BBC2 Thu 11.30pm
- Series Three (6) 18 Nov-23 Dec 1993, BBC2 Thu 9pm
- Series Four (6) 19 Sep-24 Oct 1994, BBC2 Mon 9pm
- Short special part of Fry And Laurie Host A Christmas Night With The Stars 27 Dec 1994, BBC2 Tue 9pm
- Special (50 mins) 29 Dec 1994, BBC2 Thu 9pm
- Series Five (6) 5 Jan-9 Feb 1996, BBC2 Fri 9pm
- Series Six (6) 1 Aug-5 Sep 1997, BBC2 Fri 9.30pm
- Series Seven (6) 21 Aug-25 Sep 1998, BBC2 Fri 9.30pm
- Series Eight (6) 14 May-18 June 1999, BBC2 Fri 9.30pm
- Christmas special, 23 December 2008, BBC2 9pm
- Series Nine (6) 21 Jan - 25 Feb 2010, BBC2
- Series Ten (6) 5 Oct - 9 Nov 2011, BBC2
The show provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Pete the Warlock. For that matter, all the Satanists who appear in that episode come off as this. Sure, they may sacrifice goats, deflower virgins and on occasion daub their naked flesh with the warm blood of animals and engage in unspeakable acts of sexual depravity, but they do lots of wonderful work for charity.
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Davina, full stop.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Rab, constantly.
- Black Comedy: And how. Over its run there's barely a taboo topic the show hasn't featured, and almost always for laughs. This includes, but is not limited to: cancer, neo-Nazism, incest, cannibalism, ringworm, Satanism, alcoholism and mental illness.
- British Brevity: Every season ran for only six or seven episodes. Downplayed by being a Long Runner, meaning it still totalled to a decent 66 episodes.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the pilot episode and first series, there are a couple of casual references to Rab physically abusing Mary when she gets too lippy. Whilst Rab remained prone to violence throughout the shows run, its pretty much unthinkable that hed assault his wife.
- Freudian Excuse: Jamesie claims his contemptuous attitude towards women stems from the abuse meted out by his mother, which never let up even when he cared for her through her infirmity to her death.
- Hypocrite: Amongst Rab's philosophizing is the observation that a crowd gathered to watch a cannibal on a rooftop - who is potentially going to jump - are feeding on humans just as much as the cannibal (albeit feeding on their misery instead of their flesh).
- Large Ham: The Pie mafia Boss in series 5.
- No Accounting for Taste: Rab and Mary, and to an even greater extent, Jamesie and Ella. (The Nesbitts are much more likely than the Cotters to get Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moments.)
- Nobody Poops: Averted multiple times, in one instance complete with splosh sound effect.
- Overly Long Name: John William Pure Mad Mental Intae Your Body Simpson Craig Gemmell Chib The Bam Rib-Racker No Real Young Rebel Ya Bas St. John McGurn aka Young Young McGurn.
- The Pig-Pen: Rab is near-constantly filthy. His idea of cleaning himself up prior to a night out in Spain is to peel off a dirty bandage and discard a cigarette butt from behind his ear.
- Exaggerated Trope: Mr McCutcheon, a shut-in who has spent decades living in solitary squalor, is in even worse condition than Rab. When the latter meets the former, he remarks: "That must be some stink comin' affa you for it to out-stink the stink comin' affa me"
- Not to mention Rab's brother, Gash, yet another Doctor.
- Revival: A Christmas Special ten years after the show first went off air, followed by a full series the year after.
- Similar Squad: On holiday in the Costa Del Sol, Rab is delighted to see a Spanish man in a vest and bandaged head, ranting incomprehensibly at nobody.Rab: There's nothing restores your faith mair in human nature than meetin some poor bastard that's just as mad as yersel.
- Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Gash's daughter Peaches has undergone this as of the 2014 New Year Special.
- The Stoner: GashMary Nesbitt: Gash, how many fingers am I holding up?Gash Nesbitt: Uh, Thursday.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: After Burnie was written out by actor existence failure Rab has to take care of his nephew Screech.
- Tie-In Novel: A Stranger Here Myself: Being the Life Story and Revelations of Mister Rab C. Nesbitt of Govan.
- Violent Glaswegian: Where to begin?
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Rab with Jamesie. Also with Norrie the barman.