The Missing’s Ken Stott on reality TV and the BBC’s “disgusting” coverage of Scottish Independence

"Reality TV could drop off the side of a cliff and we’d all be better off for it" says the Rebus actor. "It's nauseating, programme after programme…"

What can’t you miss on TV at the moment?


I can’t say there’s anything on that’s bursting through and demanding my attention, but I’ve been switching into the coverage of the centenary of the First World War. It’s been fascinating. I’ve not seen anything new that I didn’t know already, but there’s a fondness and a respect that I appreciate. 

What did you think of the poppies at the Tower of London?

I thought it was astonishing, for all the right reasons. I was overwhelmed by this simple piece of art, the fact that it was to commemorate the deaths, and the pointlessness of the deaths. I’ve been somewhat annoyed that it seems to have been appropriated by the military, given that it was the military who sent them all to their deaths. I was very annoyed to see a 13-year-old boy in military fatigues putting in that last poppy. I thought it was a disgusting image. It infuriated me. 

The Missing has been brilliant. Did the director tell all the actors who the culprit was in advance, or did he keep you in suspense?

I wouldn’t do a project unless I knew what happens. I mean, we could all go off and join the fascists! If they were to keep people in the dark, they wouldn’t get me involved. It would be an outrage. 

You played Rebus. Do you like any current British detective series, or have the Americans stolen our thunder?

Maybe they have. We’re in trouble in Britain. The warning signs were obvious some years ago, that we’re no longer leaders, we’re followers in most aspects of broadcasting. I despair. In every area we seem to have thrown everything away and embraced reality television. It’s nauseating, programme after programme. How to trick somebody into buying your house, followed by how to trick somebody into doing up your house, into how to trick somebody into not doing up your house, and what to cook while you’re doing it. I like documentaries, for example about climbing Everest, but we don’t do that any more. The new documentary that we watch is how to make a blancmange. 

So you’re not a fan of reality television?

That could drop off the side of a cliff and we’d all be better off for it. 

What else makes you reach for the off switch?

Technology has moved on to the point we’ve got a fantastic array of special effects at our fingertips. As with all new toys, we play with them too much. Whenever I see pointless use of special effects, I reach for something else. 

Is it true that you used to be in a band, whose members went on to be the Bay City Rollers?

It’s all true. It wasn’t the only band I was with. The music business is only slightly worse than the acting profession, in the way that it’s run. 

You backed Scottish independence – you must be disappointed.

I am. The BBC were pretty disgusting throughout all of it. You only have to look at the time given to the candidates, you only have to look at the fact that in the majority of cases the last word was given to a No campaigner. The BBC backed that. The establishment is a dirty, dangerous beast and the BBC is a mouthpiece for that. I was fascinated by how people were given so much room to say, “Stay with us, we love you, and if you won’t stay with us, you’re disgusting, we hate you.”


The Missing continues tonight Tuesday 9 December at 9.00pm on BBC1