With more than two weeks now since Sir Clement's death, I think it's time to share some thoughts on what comes next for the show.
Those who say the show will never be the same without Clement have a fair point. Without Clement there is just one link to the show's history and what some anyway will see as its golden days, and that is Nicholas himself. And let us keep this in mind - Nicholas is now 85. It seems unlikely that he will still be chairing the show in his 90s. He of course still seems remarkably fit and still seems happy to take any work on offer. He still sounds a lot younger than 85 - his voice isn't getting older in the way say Peter Jones's did. But a 90-year-old chairman just seems highly unlikely.
Some thoughts then.
1. As Nicholas is now the only link to the show's rich history, the producers will want him to stay in the chair as long as possible. I would have thought that if Clement was still there, there might have been some thought to occasionally having someone else in the chair, just to prepare the ground. But I doubt that will now happen.
2. In the past year, Paul was at 10 of 11 recordings. That sort of strike rate will continue. They will want Paul to be on the panel as often as he is willing to do it. I would expect recordings will be scheduled around his availability.
3. In the short term anyway, there will be more appearances by older players who have a Clement-like competitive style, particularly those that were doing the show even as guests in the 70s and 80s. I am thinking here of Sheila Hancock, Sir Tim Rice and Gyles Brandreth in particular, but also Tony Hawks and Kit Hesketh-Harvey.
4. But I'd also expect one or two or even three others to appear far more regularly. I would think they would want some players seen as regulars apart from Paul, because simply a show like this is something of a sitcom and they will want more familiar faces than just Nicholas and Paul.
Who? Hard to say. If Graham Norton was prepared to commit to doing the show far more often, he'd be lapped up surely. He is a huge name in British TV at the moment and helps to bring in the younger audience the show must crave. However he does seem to have plenty of other jobs at the moment and I'd doubt that he would make that commitment, at least for now.
The other candidates seem to me to be Tony Hawks, Gyles Brandreth, Julian Clary, Sue Perkins and Marcus Brigstocke. Tony is the next most frequent panellist after Paul and Clement in the past 10 years and has been involved in every season since the winter 1998 season. He's also developed a Clement-like interest in the rules which is in his favour. He's a reliable performer, without, in my view anyway, being an outstanding one.
In the past four years, Gyles is only just behind Tony - 18 shows to Tony's 20. He has the competitive instinct and the willingness to argue about the rulings. He seems to me to be getting better at the show too, relying less on familiar routines, although they still come into it a bit. He has a distinctive style which is in his favour.
Another who seems to improve every time he's on is Julian Clary. He was a bit hit-and-miss in his early days on the show, but these days he's consistently funny and witty and competitive too. He's good at the repartee and has a really good relationship with both Paul and Nicholas. He has a distinctive style which is different to Paul's.
Sue Perkins is now a star whenever she is on the show. She is very very funny and very articulate. She always has something funny to say and despite her lack of wins - 1 win in 24 shows - she always seems competitive to me too.
And Marcus Brigstocke had a couple of good years on the show too with a somewhat Paul-like style and competitive attitude. His last recording wasn't as great though and he does seem now to be committing to other panel game shows. Still he has the attribute of being a rising star in the business which helps his cause.
My thought. I think in the short term Gyles in particular will appear more often. But if I was the producer, Julian and Sue would be the two I'd be looking to hear far more often. Distinctive styles, both very funny, both play well off Paul.
That's my pick anyway.