Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

December 26, 2016

Just a Minute panto - Merry Christmas

For a variety oif reasons, my enthusiasm for Just Minute has cooled a bit recently. But the Just A Minute panto was absolutely excellent, one of the best editions of the show ever.

The surprise to me was the involvement of Prince Charles. I can take and leave Royal messages for anniversaries, but I thought what he said was nice. He was the only person to reference the panellists of the past despite all the talk of 50 years of Just A Minute, and did so in a natural and interesting way.

The pantomime material was really well integrated with the "game" which was played between two teams, I assume because the fourth seat was changed between four guest panellists, Tony Hawks, Tom Allen, Rufus Hound and Pippa Evans. Gyles Brandreth wrote the panto material and was in top form, I thought.. Paul was as funny as he has been in many years, Sheila Hancock was excellent. I would have liked to hear a bit more from Julian Clary who played a genie but didn't have much to do.

This really was an excellent production, and I loved some of the small touches, like the different sounds for the whistle. The song at the end was excellent - hasnb't Sheila Hancock got a great sionging voice.

Matt Stronge should take a bow - that was a really top-class production.

They jkept mentioning 50 years - in fact we have just passed the 49th anniversary and have almost 12 months to the 50th. But if this production is a taste of what is to come to mark the 50 years, we are in for a lot of fun in the year ahead.

Trivia question for someone - who is the lovely West Indian man (I think) who often does continuity at JAM time and was announcing at the beginning and end of today's show? What a great voice!

November 23, 2016

Just A Minute goes... panto!

I've been wondering if JAM might do some more shows before the end of the year - and here's the answer - Radio Four plans a Just A Minute pantomime.

From the BBC page...

Radio 4 says: "Just A Minute is 50 years old next year, and what better way to kick off the celebrations by combining the longest-running panel show with another great British institution - the pantomime! In Just A Minute Does Panto! Nicholas Parsons is joined by Just A Minute regulars Paul Merton and Gyles Brandreth as they journey through Panto-land in search of the missing Just A Minute Golden Whistle.
"Their companions on their quest include Katherine Ryan, Rufus Hound and Shelia Hancock. There'll be adventure, genies, panto dames, goodies, baddies, and audience participation. But above all, at the heart of it, a cracking game of the much loved comedy show, Just A Minute."
Nicholas Parsons adds: "I've been presenting Just A Minute for 50 years and I've appeared in many pantomimes during that time. These factors combined we have created a festive edition of our iconic show without hesitation, repetition or deviation. Oh yes we have!"
Just A Minute Does Panto! will air on Christmas Day at 1:15pm.

September 06, 2016

exciting panel news

Ross Noble was back on JAM today - one of my top two or three favourite panellists.

And Will Self makes a debut! This is different and interesting!

Writing this at work and noiw can't wait to get home and have a listen!

Paul Merton and Sheila Hancock are the other panellists.

Also the BBC is now saying this is an 8 show season - not six as they had previously said.

Updated appearances for this year - newcomers bolded... 20 shows in total

Paul Merton 18
Gyles Brandreth, Josie Lawrence 6
Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton, Marcus Brigstocke 4
Nish Kumar 3
Tony Hawks, Jenny Eclair, Julian Clary, Tim Rice, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Pam Ayres, Holly Walsh, Josh Widdicombe, John Finnemore, Rufus Hound, Zoe Lyons, Esther Rantzen, Katherine Ryan, Alexei Sayle, Will Self 2
Fred MacAulay, Janey Godley, Pippa Evans 1 

August 25, 2016

JAM's future

As we all know JAM is approaching the major milestone of its 50th anniversary. In the past the BBC has marked these anniversaries at the beginning of the year so maybe we are just a few months from the anniversary being marked at the beginning og 2017.

I think though that the controversy over Clement Freud's past as a sexual predator is going to make marking the anniversary very difficult. I will be surprised if there are many more clip shows or classic CD releases simply because the BBC will not be able to rerun shows featuring Clement. I think the most likely thing is a show where the anniversary is mentioned in a low-key sort of way, probably without mentioning the show's most frequent panellist.

I am wondering too if once the show is marked, if we might well find the show will be retired. I have no inside information at all, but to me anyway, the show is not as good as it once was, and with Nicholas in his mid 90s it just seems like the 50th year might be a good time to call it to an end.

What do you think?


A largely unremarked feature of the current season was that Katherine Ryan completed an uninterripted minute in her first show, indeed in her first time speaking.

Last year when David Tennant did this it was big news and indeed Nicholas mentioned it in his behind the scenes interview with Gyles Brandreth just last week. It was very widely reported as a first.

It was a great achievement but not a first. I wrote about this here and again here. At the time I wrote to some of the reporters who had reported this feat, but no-one responded or corrected their stories. So no doubt it is now firmly established as a fact!

Katherine Ryan did this in the first show of the current season, but it seems to have passed most people by. Congrats to her - she joins a small group, even if she is not the second.

In the very next show, Zoe Lyons also went the whole minute on debut, but not on her first time speaking.


Have been behind on panel news  - the recording for season 76 is now complete.

The panels are

*Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Josie Lawrence and Katherine Ryan - two shows
*Paul, Tony Hawks, Julian Clary and Zoe Lyons - two shows
* Paul, Marcus Brigstocke, Janey Godley and Nish Kumar - one show
* Paul, Marcus, Fred MacAulay and Pippa Evans.

So three newcomers this season - the Canadian panel show regular Katherine - the former reality TV star turned comedian Zoe - and the improviser Pippa Evans.

There have been three six show seasons this year - which makes me wonder if we will get a fourth season in November/December this year.

The current season also has a new producer in Matt Stronge, the first male producer since Chris Neill in the late 90s. He started out as a sound editor which makes him very interesting. welcome to the team, Matt.

If this is all the JAM we get this year, here are the appearances (18 shows) -  newcomers are bolded

Paul Merton 16
Gyles Brandreth, Josie Lawrence 6
Graham Norton, Marcus Brigstocke 4
Nish Kumar 3
Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock,, Jenny Eclair, Julian Clary, Tim Rice, Stephen Fry, Pam Ayres, Holly Walsh, Josh Widdicombe, John Finnemore, Rufus Hound, Zoe Lyons, Esther Rantzen, Katherine Ryan, Alexei Sayle 2
Fred MacAulay, Janey Godley, Pippa Evans 1 

Thimgs to note are the high number of newcomers, only three shows didn't have a newcomer. Also the absence of many who you might well have expected to hear - Sue Perkins, Liza Tarbuck, Susan Calman, Alun Cochrane, Shappi Khorsandi - and after all the fuss about his appearance last year, where was David Tennant? Perhaps some of these will be in a November-December season...

July 02, 2016

panel news

The latest panel recording last night featured Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Josie Lawrence and newcomer Katherine Ryan.

June 16, 2016

Clement Freud

The man who has played Just A Minute more than anyone else, has been exposed as a sex abuser.

How hard and how depressing it is to write that sentence.

When I first saw the allegations yesterday, my first thought was they would be unfounded allegations. It is very easy to make allegations against a dead person. A couple of years ago there were headlines that the former Prime Minister Edward Heath was involved in the abuse and murder of young boys - no evidence ever came forward to back the claims.

In this case though, not only are named people speaking out on camera, but Clement's family and his old party have issued apologies. So we have to take it as true.

I am not going to repeat the details here. Although the focus of the news articles is on Clement's time as a MP - he shared an office for years with another paedophile MP, Cyril Smith - Just A Minute is also getting a mention.

Gyles Brandreth has written an article essentially summing up Clement as a bit odd

The Telegraph has a piece asking if Just A Minute will be tainted forever.

There are suggestions that the BBC may not again play any of Clement's shows.

If that decision is made, how does that affect the 50th anniversary celebrations coming next year? It is hard to see how any commemorative programme would ignore Clement's contribution.

The whole thing is so ugly.

And quite apart from the effect on how we think of JAM and Clement - one can only feel such intense sorrow for the women affected. I hope with all my heart that Clement's offending does not reach further than the three victims at the moment.

Hard to write such things this day.

May 24, 2016


interesting team for the last panel of the season - Paul Merton, Marcus Brigstocke, Holly Walsh and Josh Widdicombe. I love Marcus and are really glad Josh is getting another run so soon. Holly also did very well in her previous shows.

No debutant for the first time this year, but overall it is a less experienced group.

Sad that both seasons so far this yaer are just six shows.

Yet to appear this year over two seasons - Tony Hawks, Alun Cochrane, Liza Tarbuck, Sue Perkins, Julian Clary - will they pop up in the third season?

May 23, 2016


Two milestones in a week - and the same milestone!

Last Monday Gyles Brandreth made his 100th JAM appearance (radio and TV shows combined) and this week Graham Norton also makes a 100th appearance.

After today there will be 10 JAM centurions - Nicholas Parsons, Clement Freud, Paul Merton, Kenneth Williams, Peter Jones, Derek Nimmo, Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock, Gyles and Graham.

It's interesting that two such contrasting personalities cam have appeared so frequently in the show, but both are in the traditions of the show.

Graham is in the high camp tradition pioneered by Kenneth Williams. He doesn't have Kenneth's erudution or the need to show off and put others down - but then no-one will ever be a copy of Kenneth. But the campness and slow delivery style is there. Graham is a famous man in the UK with his TV chat show attracting the world's top celebrities. He's adorable, quick-witted and a bit naughty. Although there are others who are camp on JAM such as Julian Clary, Graham's style is unique and memorable. I always look forward to his appearances.

Gyles is more in the traditions of Derek Nimmo - competitive, literate, erudite and just as Derek was an inveterate place-dropper, Gyles is a great name-dropper. He's plummy and a little pompous, but is also one of the best on JAM at laughing at himself, perhaps the best ever on JAM. The criticism of him on JAM used to be that he relied on old rhymes and jokes which were brought out regularly, but to my ears anyway, he has cur back on that a lot and these days he is much more original. He usually does eight to 10 shows a year, and is on the show far more regularly than anyone else after Nicholas amd Paul. In a way, he has also taken over Clement Freud's role of being curmudgeonly about the rules, although he challenges Nicholas in a more light-hearted way than the great Clement did.

So we now have five living highly experienced panellists - Paul, Tony, Sheila, Gyles and Graham. Contrasting styles which demonstrate how varied the pleasures of JAM can be.