Only an Excuse?

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Only an Excuse?
Genre Sketch
Created by Philip Differ
Starring Jonathan Watson
Tony Roper (1987–1995)
Gerard Kelly (1994–1996)
Greg Hemphill (1995)
Lewis MacLeod (1995)
Gordon Kennedy (1996)
Alistair McGowan (1996–1998)
Grant Smeaton (1997–2010)
Paul Reid (2000–2001)
Elaine M. Ellis (2003–2010)
Tom Urie (2003–2010))
Julie Austin (2006–2013)
Clare Waugh (2007–2011)
Paul-James Corrigan (2010)
Gerry McLaughlin (2011–2013)
Amanda Marment (2011–2014)
Sally Reid (2014–2016)
Ryan Fletcher (2016–2017)
Louise McCarthy (2016–2017)
Country of origin Scotland
Original language(s) English/Scottish
No. of episodes 27
Producer(s) Philip Differ
Location(s) Scotland
Running time 30 minutes
Original network BBC One
Picture format 4:3 (1993–1998)
16:9 (1999–2017)
Original release 31 December 1993 (1993-12-31) – Present

Only an Excuse? is an annual Scottish football comedy sketch show that aired each Hogmanay.

Starring actor and comedian Jonathan Watson, the show features impressions of some of Scottish football's great characters such as Denis Law, Tommy Burns, Barry Ferguson, Sir Alex Ferguson, Frank McAvennie, Walter Smith and Graeme Souness, as well as caricatures of the "stereotypical" Old Firm fan.


Only an Excuse? was first broadcast as a one-off special on BBC Radio Scotland, prior to the 1987 Scottish Cup Final. It was a parody of the five-part BBC Scotland television documentary Only a Game?,[1] which had aired in Scotland prior to the 1986 World Cup Finals and comprehensively documented the history of Scottish football. The documentary was narrated by Scottish novelist William McIlvanney.[2] Jonathan Watson expertly mimicked McIlvanney's distinctive voice as narrator of the radio spoof.

After further occasional radio specials including Only Another Excuse?, A Tale of Two Seasons, and Only a World Cup Excuse, all of which were released on cassette by BBC Scotland, the show switched to television in 1993, retaining its original double act of Rangers fan Watson and Celtic fan Tony Roper. The first episode replaced Rikki Fulton's long-running annual comedy sketch show Scotch and Wry in the Hogmanay television schedules. A new episode of Only an Excuse? was shown every New Year's Eve until 2017.

The increasing popularity of the programme saw it transferred to the theatre, with the most recent performance of Only An Excuse? taking place at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, in September 2004. The scripts of the early theatre shows, written by Philip Differ, were published in the book Only an Excuse?: The Scripts by Mainstream Publishing in 1995, and DVDs of the programme continue to be released.

In total, 27 episodes have been aired.[2]


Jonathan Watson appeared in a spin-off called Only a Wee Excuse on Tam Cowan's weekly Offside programme. Up until the last series, Watson's slot was a scaled-down version of the full show, but from the last series onward saw Watson appearing in the studio without costume to perform his impersonations (as in his theatre performances). Another noticeable difference is that Watson starts each segment in his own voice and sets the context and then ends again in his own voice saying "And that Tam was the week that wisnae".

Watson featured in a sketch in the BBC's Children in Need 2008 telethon as Alex Ferguson being interviewed by Adrian Chiles.

Regular Cast[edit]

  • Jonathan Watson - (1993–2017)
  • Tony Roper - (1993–1994)
  • Juliette Gilmour - (1994)
  • Gerard Kelly - (1994–1996)
  • Greg Hemphill - (1995)
  • Lewis MacLeod - (1995)
  • Gordon Kennedy - (1996)
  • Alistair McGowan - (1996–1998)
  • Susan Nisbet - (1997)
  • Grant Smeaton - (1997–2010)
  • June Brogan - (1999)
  • Iain Davidson - (1999)
  • Fiona Henderson - (1999)
  • Paul Reid - (2000–2001)
  • Geoff Boyz - (2001)
  • Marj Hogarth - (2003)
  • Elaine M. Ellis - (2003–2010)
  • Tom Urie - (2003–2010)
  • Julie Austin - (2006–2013)
  • Clare Waugh - (2007–2011)
  • Paul-James Corrigan - (2010)
  • Matt Costello - (2010)
  • Adam Smith - (2011)
  • Gerry McLaughlin - (2011–2013)
  • Amanda Marment - (2011–2014)
  • Chris Forbes - (2012)
  • Scott Fletcher - (2012)
  • Robert Yates - (2012)
  • Josh York - (2013)
  • Charlene Boyd - (2014)
  • Sally Reid - (2014–2016)
  • James Young - (2015)
  • Ryan Fletcher - (2016–2017)
  • Louise McCarthy - (2016–2017)
  • Moyo Akandé - (2017)


Figures from Scottish entertainment regularly appeared - as themselves.

These included Kelly Dalglish, Catriona Shearer, Reevel Alderson, Jackie Bird, Kirsty Wark, Judy Murray and Muriel Gray.


External links[edit]