Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

April 25, 2012

Happy birthday Clement

The great man would have been 88 on April 24t - my friend Vicki Walker posted this to celebrate

Ten Things I Think About JAM On TV

1. I THINK....

I have been slow in following up on my earlier post here about JAM on TV written at the end of the first week. I have been giving priority to transcribing and there are now 20 new transcripts up on the website. So now time to update the blog with thoughts after two weeks of JAM on TV. Anyway here goes...

2. I THINK...

Just A Minute on TV was good TV. The main criticism beforehand was that the format wouldn't work on TV. I think the programmes were good television. It was interesting to watch the players struggling to keep going, glaring at each other, their expressions and how they play to the audience. Because we could see them in close up shots, it was in many ways better than actually being there. I think too the thing seemed fresh, a strange thing to say after 45 years perhaps, but the variety of subjects - I thought the subjects were very well chosen - made it seem fresh. I think it compares well with the other comedy panel shows on British TV.

3. I THINK...

It was the right decision to try and stick as much as possible to the radio format. The only real innovation was the bell to announce the last round. I quite liked it though I think Nicholas would have to dream up some new jokes to make if they were going to make any more. It had a nice tone to it too. Other minor changes - the display of the subject on screen, the lighting up panel tables - were all fine too. I noticed that Nicholas appeared to be operating the time device himself, pushing something on his desk when he said "starting now" and I wondered why he needed to do that. Would you have liked to have seen a clock or the points on the screen? The producer Andy Brereton thought part of the fun is not being entirely sure when the whistle is to be blown.

4. I THINK...

The second week was better than the first week. The best of the 10 shows was the last with Paul Merton, Julian Clary, Stephen Fry and Shappi Khorsandi which was as good as Just A Minute gets. But Tony Hawks's two appaearances in the past week - joining Paul, Graham Norton and Sue Perkins, and then Paul, Gyles Brandreth and Liza Tarbuck - also made for top class JAM. The show with Paul, Sue, Marcus Brigstocke and Stephen Mangan was also very funny. The only disappointment was the show with Paul, Shappi, Jason Manford and Hugh Bonneville. All had their moments but there wasn't enough experience there to get the show to work. I think I would have retained Josie Lawrence from the first recording that night.

5. I THINK...

Nicholas Parsons was really outstanding. I was worried about having such an elderly man in the chair but he was really really good. He was sharp, funny and in command. He continues to hit the right tone for this show more often than not, and his vast TV experience meant he seemed to connect with the TV viewers. He was good at keeping his eye on the camera, eyeing the viewer and therefore keeping up a conversational manner. I don't think anyone could have done better. Paul's involvement was vital too. Firstly his presence gave the TV version credibility (it's not as if he does many TV panel shows apart from Have I Got News For You). And in the great tradition of Kenneth, he has the marvellous ability to get the show back on track if ever it begins to drag. He was tremendous.

6. I THINK...

The disappointments were in two categories. A reasonable number of newcomers were tried - Hugh Bonneville, Ruth Jones, Jason Manford, Stephen Mangan, Russell Tovey - but none of them really shone. I would say only Stephen and Jason were worth a try on the radio. Maybe Hugh too - he certainly has the gift of the gab. The other disappointment is that Sheila Hancock, Jenny Eclair, Kit Hesketh-Harvey and Ross Noble didn't get a run. Each has a distinctive style that would have worked well. They did try and book Sheila, Jenny and Ross - not sure about Kit.

7. I THINK...

I ran a poll on the Yahoo group about the series and what should happen now. People had five options in answer to the question "Was Just A Minute on TV a success"...* Yes! Let's see it on TV AND hear it on radio coz you can't get enough JAM * Yes! Put it on TV and wind up the radio version * Yes! It was a nice one-off but let's stick to radio * No! It doesn't work on TV, keep it on the radio * No! The whole thing is looking old, let's wind JAM up entirely and move on to a fresh idea The results are interesting. So far there are votes only for the first and third options - ie. everyone thinks the TV series worked and everyone wants it to stay on radio. Whether it should evolve into a regular TV series is the issue people are divided on. That vote is very close, but at time of writing, the third option has a slight lead.

8. I THINK...

I disagree with this poll result. If JAM does become a semi-regular part of the TV schedules, it means the show is getting a much much larger audience. That is the best way of keeping it on air in some form. And the TV version ADDS to the radio experience. If done properly a JAM TV show can be better than a radio show. I don't think it should run five days a week. But why not at roughly the rate they show other panel shows - 15 to 20 shows a year? I think that would boost the chances of the radio show surviving and, let's be honest, Nicholas's retirement or death is bound to raise the question of whether the show should continue.

9. I THINK...

Whatever I think what will matter is whether the wider audience liked it. Despite the use of the 45 year peg, the producers were hopeful of another run. Andy Brereton told me that and Jamie Ormerod tweeted the same sentiment. I haven't been able to find any ratings figures. Did it lose audience compared with Eggheads? I'd love to know.

10. I THINK...

it's harder than you think to think of 10 things...

couple of bits of news

A TV documentary series is to focus on gay comedians. It carries the amusing title God Save The Queens. Kenneth Williams and Julian Clary are both among those on the list and I expect to see Graham Norton and Stephen Fry too. Story here courtesy British Comedy Guide
Gay performers in British entertainment are to be charted and celebrated later this year in a new series for Sky Atlantic. God Save The Queens, a three-part series, will tell the story of gay comedians and performers in Britain since Queen Elizabeth acceded to the throne in 1952. Production company Twofour describe the programme as "a warm-hearted and intelligent definitive history of gay performers in the British entertainment industry". They said: "It starts in 1952 and tells the story of gay performers and the role they have played in changing public perception of homosexuality and becoming national institutions along the way. "It will be a celebration of achievements and career highlights, as well as a history of how gay rights and our perception of gay performers has changed over the last 60 years." Viewers can expect contributions from current gay comedians such as Julian Clary (pictured), as well as comment on the lives and work of celebrated performers of the past, including Carry On stars Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Williams, stand-ups such as Frankie Howerd, and high-profile entertainers such as Larry Grayson. The Queen assumed power on 6th February 1952, after the sudden death of her father, George VI. The series is likely to be broadcast during the summer to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Commissioning Editor Clare Handford says: "The history of entertainment is inextricably linked with camp culture. God Save The Queens is a celebratory look at the flamboyant male stars who have shaped our cultural landscape during the 60 years of the Queen's reign." Executive Producer Juliet Rice adds: "As we celebrate the royal jubilee, God Save The Queens tells the stories of our favourite gay stars and the social landscape that defined them, providing us with constant entertainment over the last 60 years."
And Jo Brand is at the helm of a new panel show which focusses on classic TV comedy. It really sounds good fun - again from the British Comedy Guide.
Jo Brand has been lined up as the host of a brand new panel show - all about classic comedy. A pilot for the currently untitled project will be recorded later this month in central London, with guests including comic actor Miles Jupp. Producers say the new programme includes "silly games, banter, and clips from some of the funniest TV shows ever made", and invites contestants and audience members who know their Gavin & Stacey from their Only Fools And Horses, and their Fawlty Towers from their Office. Although no further details have been confirmed at the time of reporting, the new format is believed to be a pilot for digital repeats channel GOLD, which has secured a "double-digit millions" budget for its own original programming commissions to mark its 20th year on air. The station began life in 1992 as UK Gold, and last month announced it had ordered a new, revived series of hit 1980s satire Yes, Prime Minister. Whilst Brand presented docu-stand-up series Jo Brand's Big Splash for GOLD's sister channel, Dave, in September last year, GOLD themselves have covered this territory in the past. 2006 saw the channel - then known as UKTV Gold - broadcast 5 part comedy quiz show The Sitcom Showdown. Each episode saw two teams of fans, assisted by one celebrity proponent, battle in a number of rounds of trivia and general knowledge related to their chosen favourite sitcom, for that show to be named the greater of the two - for example, the first episode saw 'Allo 'Allo! win over Absolutely Fabulous.

website update

For those interested I have been busy transcribing over the past month and now the site is up to date again. The eight radio shows and 10 TV shows of this year are all up and I also completed series 61 from mid 2001.

So if you like the transcripts and like any of these people - Paul Merton, Sue Perkins, Gyles Brandreth, Julian Clary, Liza Tarbuck, Marcus Brigstocke, Josie Lawrence, Tony Hawks, Graham Norton, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Jenny Eclair, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Charles Collingwood, Shappi Khorsandi, Phill Jupitus, Miles Jupp, Cyrus Broacha, Jason Manford, Anuvab Pal, Pam Ayres, John Sergeant, Rick Wakeman, Hugh Bonneville, Ruth Jones, Stephen Mangan and Russell Tovey - you'll find new naterial with them up on the site.

Over the next week or so I am going to update some other sections as part of a general tidy-up.

April 24, 2012

panel news

panel for the show recorded on Sunday – Paul Merton, Graham Norton, Gyles Brandreth and Alun Cochrane

April 07, 2012

last of the TV shows

April 06, 2012

more Kenny

so many people have commented on the Kenneth Williams chat show clip I posted the other day that I can't resist posting another where he tells some of his very best anecdotes - the Edith Evans one cracks me up every time I hear it!

April 05, 2012


the panel for the first recording for next season was Paul Merton, Sue Perkins, Julian Clary and Greg Proops - Greg's first appearance in five years.

eppy 8 and 9

the greatest

Several people have commented in the past couple of weeks with JAM on TV, how great Kenneth would have been on a TV version of Just A Minute.

Here he is on a chat show just a year before his death. Just imagine what it would have been like to watch Kenneth on JAM....

April 03, 2012

eppy 6 and 7

April 01, 2012

Nicholas's daughter writes

Suzy Parsons wrote this very nice piece for The Express


NO MATTER where you are in the world you can never escape my father, he pops up in the most unlikely places! Most recently, had you been making a trip to the Comedy Store in Mumbai (as you do) you would have had the surreal experience of seeing not only my father but also Paul Merton and Marcus Brigstocke recording Just A Minute, along with Indian comedians Cyrus Broacha and Anuvab Pal.

I suppose after 45 years, nothing should surprise me.

I grew up with Just A Minute as familiar as a member of the family, indeed some of the original cast were like family. My father, mother, brother and I lived in Hampstead, on the edge of the heath. Every Sunday when the programme was transmitted, at 12.30 precisely, my father would come rushing in from gardening (a huge passion of his) covered in soil, careful not to leave muddy footprints on the carpet and turn on the radio to listen to the show. Absolute silence was required as he would sit, ear close to his beloved Roberts radio, and listen to the programme. He used to say he had to concentrate so hard during the actual recording he could never enjoy it properly until he listened to the transmission. Then we would have lunch. My brother says the smell of Sunday lunch still reminds him of Just A Minute.

It’s particularly comforting to know that in a world of high-tech special effects, reality TV and innumerable “talent” shows, a good old-fashioned programme like Just A Minute not only survives but is increasing in popularity. Perhaps that’s it, no gimmicks, no autocues, no glitz, rather a simple format executed by a variety of genuinely talented performers. That and the mainstays of the theme music, Chopin’s The Minute Waltz, and my father, are central ingredients which have not changed in all but half a century.

Perhaps that’s it, no gimmicks, no autocues, no glitz

On reflection, I can see Just A Minute is rather like my father; they both retain their sparkle despite their great age. moving seamlessly through the decades, both remain up to date with current affairs, are funny, talented and always entertaining but most of all, they have held on to their integrity.

It is lovely to see that something as good as Just A Minute is now growing into something even bigger; not only with recordings in India but also moving on to our television screens.

The story of how the Mumbai recordings came about is interesting. Slightly more than two years ago my father was in Bangalore, making a programme for Radio 4 about quizzing in India (quiz shows are extraordinarily popular there). The Indians seem to love most things British, particularly comedy and games. While in Bangalore, my father discovered Jaming.

Remove the picture of my father dancing to Bob Marley, tempting as it is. JAM is an Indian version of Just A Minute! Not for professional comedians and certainly not recorded, there are JAM clubs all over India. Six or seven players get together with a JAM Master who will give them a subject to talk about. These can be weird and convoluted. My father remembers one subject vividly: “My girlfriend said because you haven’t done the garden, you can’t come to bed with me tonight!” (Obviously not a problem my father, the avid horticulturist, would encounter).

Thereafter ensues an absolutely unstructured and often quite mad game of JAMING. The challenges are most often invented; forget repetition, hesitation and deviation and in their place are likely to be: “That’s not true!” or “You said that last week!” My father described it as “enthusiastic, happy chaos”.

So taken was he with these JAM clubs that he told Tilusha Ghelani, the producer of Just A Minute, all about them. She thought it would be wonderful to make a radio documentary about JAMING in India so in January, my father and Tilusha went to Bangalore for the JAM Championships. After that they flew to Mumbai to record a “proper” Just A Minute for Britain’s listeners.

My father pronounced the recordings as “a joy to do”.

I asked my father: “So Daddy, what’s next?” “We proved the show travels,” he said, “why not America?”