Only an Excuse?

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Only an Excuse?
Created byPhilip Differ
StarringJonathan Watson
Country of originScotland
Original language(s)English/Scottish
No. of episodes27 (inc. 2019)
Producer(s)Philip Differ
Production location(s)Scotland
Running time30 minutes
Original networkBBC One Scotland
Picture format4:3 (1993–1998)
16:9 (1999–present)
Original release31 December 1993 (1993-12-31) –
Preceded byScotch and Wry

Only an Excuse? is an annual Scottish comedy sketch show that is broadcast on BBC One Scotland each Hogmanay.

Starring the 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], whose distinctive voice was expertly mimicked by Jonathan Watson for 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. By 2018, 32 episodes had been aired.[3]

The show has also been performed at 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.


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 appeared 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 (1987–present)
  • Tony Roper (1987–1995)
  • 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 (2012–2018)
  • Scott Fletcher (2012)
  • Robert Yates (2012)
  • Josh York (2013)
  • Charlene Boyd (2014)
  • Sally Reid (2014–2016)
  • James Young (2015)
  • Ryan Fletcher (2016–present)
  • Louise McCarthy (2016–present)
  • Moyo Akandé (2017)
  • Fiona Wood (2018–present)


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.


  1. ^ " - The Home of Scottish Football"
  2. ^ "22 not out: Only An Excuse is the perfect Hogmanay parody". The Herald. Glasgow. 30 December 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  3. ^ "Only An Excuse?". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 5 January 2019.

External links[edit]