Scotch and Wry

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Scotch and Wry
Genre Comedy
Directed by Gordon Menzies (1978-89)
Ron Bain (1990-92)
Brian Jobson (1989-90)
Starring Rikki Fulton
Gregor Fisher
Tony Roper
Claire Nielson
Juliet Cadzow
John Bett
Barbara Dickson
Country of origin Scotland
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2 (plus 12 specials)
No. of episodes 24
Production
Producer(s) Gordon Menzies (1978-89)
Philip Differ (1990-91)
Tony Roper (1992)
Location(s) BBC Broadcasting House, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Camera setup Multi-camera
Production company(s) BBC Scotland
Release
Original channel BBC1 Scotland
Original release 30 September 1978 (1978-09-30) – 31 December 1992 (1992-12-31)
Chronology
Preceded by The Scotched Earth Show
Followed by Only an Excuse?

Scotch and Wry was a BBC Scotland television comedy sketch show starring Rikki Fulton (1924–2004) which ran for 15 years and, at its peak, was watched by nearly half the population of Scotland. It had a revolving ensemble cast which over the years included Gregor Fisher, Tony Roper, Claire Nielson, Juliet Cadzow and John Bett.

Initially running for two series from 1978 to 1979, the show went onto become a top-rating annual one-off Hogmanay special for over a decade.[1] The series also gave early exposure to emerging Scottish actors such as Gerard Kelly and Miriam Margolyes. In later years, cast members from sister BBC Scotland comedy show Naked Video would also make sporadic appearances.

Development

Scotch and Wry developed from The Scotched Earth Show, a one-off trawl through humorous Scottish writing, drawing upon books, plays and quotations, broadcast on New Year's Day 1977. It starred Rikki Fulton who, at that point, had not been seen much on television since his STV series Francie and Josie.

Fulton went on to appear in his own show, Scotch and Wry, which first aired on BBC1 Scotland at 10.30pm on Saturday 30 September 1978. This was a traditional sketch show and featured much unused material from The Two Ronnies, augmented by contributions by John Byrne, later to script Tutti Frutti.

The second series, in which Gregor Fisher was added to the cast, utilised material by further London-based writers. After this the show lived on via a succession of Hogmanay specials. Fisher dropped out once Rab C Nesbitt began to dominate his career, and the London writers also phased themselves out, to be replaced with the newer generation of Scottish writers (Bob Black, Phillip Differ, Neil MacVicar, Niall Clark and others) who were coming through from Naked Radio (see Naked Video), A Kick Up the Eighties and other shows.

Its comedic focus was on predominantly Glaswegian humour, constructed around distinctly Glaswegian themes; such as the city's suburbs, its football clubs, and its sectarian divide. The programmes (and some personalities) of rival ITV station STV (most notably Late Call) were frequently parodied on the show. In the later Hogmanay specials, a greater emphasis was placed on major news events that had happened during the previous year as their basis.

Another regular target in many sketches was Lanarkshire singer Sydney Devine, who later became one of the show's many guest stars, appearing in a parody of Phantom of the Opera. In later years, singer Barbara Dickson made regular appearances in musical interludes.

Characters

Stand out characters in almost every Scotch And Wry included Supercop, an idiot motorcycle policeman whose catchphrase was 'Alright Stirling, oot the car' and whose goggles would spring off his helmet; Dirty Dickie Dandruff; Gallowgate Gourmet, the unbelievably unhygienic TV chef; and McGlinchey, a colourful wide-boy.

Fulton's greatest creation was undoubtedly the Reverend I. M. Jolly, a Church of Scotland cleric whose epilogues — a spoof of STV's Late Call — were delivered with melancholic mien and in lugubrious tones that struck a deep resonance in the Presbyterian soul.

Post-closing credits sketch

It also became customary of Scotch and Wry to include a post-closing credits sketch, which was often a dig at The Hogmanay Show that followed immediately afterwards. The best remembered skit - from the 1985 special - involved Fulton interrupting a party to throw his television out of the window just before the show started.

Ratings

Scotch and Wry topped the Hogmanay ratings every year from 1984 to 19??. In 1988, for example, it was viewed by 2.1 million, almost half of Scotland's viewing population.[1]

Screenings outside Scotland

The 1982 Hogmanay special was the only edition of Scotch And Wry seen throughout Britain; networked by BBC1 24 hours later, on New Year's Day 1983 (11.20-12.00pm).

For several years, Scotch and Wry also aired on BBC1 Northern Ireland.

The original series was also aired on UK Gold from 1994-95.

Compilation programmes

Several compilation programmes have been broadcast, including a Hogmanay special in 1996, marking Fulton's 50-year anniversary in showbusiness, and a six-part series, The Very Best of Scotch and Wry, aired in 2004 following the Rikki Fulton's death.

Video releases

When issued on video, sales of Scotch And Wry surpassed those of even the evergreen Fawlty Towers.

Four Scotch and Wry VHS compilations were released:

  • Scotch and Wry (1986)
  • Double Scotch and Wry (1987)
  • Triple Scotch and Wry (1989)
  • Prince of Pochlers: Scotch and Wry 4 (1992)

All four compilations were re-released on DVD in 2006, but now form part of Rikki Fulton ultimate collection DVD. The full series and sketch remains unreleased to DVD.

Reverend I M Jolly spin-offs

The last new episode of Scotch and Wry, produced by regular cast member Tony Roper, aired on Thursday 31 December 1992.

For the subsequent three years, Fulton revived his Reverend I.M. Jolly character for a series of spin-off Hogmanay specials — Tis' the Season to the Jolly (1993), Jolly: A Man for All Seasons (1994); and The Life of Jolly (1995). Jolly made one last appearance in 1999, taking Scotland into the new millennium with It's A Jolly Life, a highlights compilation fleshed out with a new closing epilogue.

His fictitious memoirs, How I Found God and Why He Was Hiding From Me, was the best-selling book in Scotland in 2003.

Legacy

Comedy specials have continued to air each Hogmanay on BBC1 Scotland, including Chewin' the Fat, Still Game and Only an Excuse?.

References

  1. 'BBC wins battle for Hogmanay TV audience', Glasgow Herald, 11 January 1989.