Only An Excuse to make final farewell on BBC Scotland at Hogmanay

BBC Scotland’s hit festive season comedy sketch show Only an Excuse is to brought to a halt after 27 years.

Jonathan Watson and Judy Murray playing it for laughs in Only an Excuse. Picture: BBC Scotland
Jonathan Watson and Judy Murray playing it for laughs in Only an Excuse. Picture: BBC Scotland

Star Jonathan Watson and writer-producer Phil Differ, who first started lampooning Scottish football’s key characters in 1996, have decided to call it a day after an hour-long swansong this year.

It will mark the end of an era for BBC Scotland’s programming on Hogmanay, which Only an Excuse has been a centrepiece of since 1993, when it was lined up as replacement for Rikki Fulton’s long-running sketch show Scotch and Wry.

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The final bow for the show, which started life on Radio Scotland before transferring to TV in 1993, will feature a mix of classic sketches from the archives and newly-filmed material with special guests still to be named.

Jonathan Waton's mimcry of Sir Alex Ferguson has been one of his most popular impressions on Only an Excuse.

It is likely to feature a host of Watson’s most celebrated impressions, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Frank McAvennie, Walter Smith and Graeme Souness, as well as key figures from the worlds of politics and entertainment.

Watson and Differ came up with the format of poking fun at the great and good of Scottish football as a parody of a flagship documentary series narrated by the late William McIlvanney.

Despite regularly attracting more than a million viewers, the pair decided to bring the show to an end after last year’s instalment. BBC Scotland ordered a major shake-up of its Hogmanay programming last year after changing the format of its show over “the bells,” with Susan Calman fronting a pre-recorded programme instead of Jackie Bird’s live show.

Watson said: “Every year we’ve really enjoyed the responsibility of creating a show for Hogmanay.

Line of Duty was spoofed during last year's Only an Excuse. Picture: Martin Shields

"It has been a privilege to be a part of the audience’s New Year celebrations and we’re delighted to be given the opportunity to go out on a high. We’ve got an hour to look back at memorable moments down the years and catch up with some special guests who’ve inspired us.

"We’ll also be having our traditional look back at the big talking points from Scottish football in the last 12 months

“All shows come to an end, and after last year’s edition, and the great response that it received, Philip and I discussed making the next one our last.”

Differ said: “We’ve loved doing the show for Hogmanay down the years but it feels like a good time to bring it to an end and we’re delighted the BBC are giving us a special so we can bow out on a high.

"It’s very gratifying that we’ve been able to continue to attract high calibre writers. Some of them weren’t born when the show started.

“There are so many characters and sketches we’ve loved doing and it’ll be great fun to give some of the classic sketches another airing. It has been a tough year so hopefully we can give everyone a good laugh again on Hogmanay."

Gavin Smith, commissioning editor at BBC Scotland, said: “The show will be going out on a high with this special edition. It will feature some great memories as well as treating audiences to the traditional festive fare of bang up-to-date sketches, sending up the latest news and views from the world of Scottish football and beyond.”