Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

July 25, 2006

Great show

I really enjoyed this week's show. Sue Perkins is very good, Paul was in good form, and Tony and Charles both contributed well. Only five subjects were discussed in the show - equal to the record low. And Sue is now out on her own as the least successful panellist ever - in 15 shows she is yet to record a win.

July 21, 2006

sad story about Stephen Fry from The Independent

'I couldn't meet the gaze of anyone I loved' - Stephen Fry tells of his suicide attempts
By Ciar Byrne, Media Correspondent
Published: 21 July 2006

In two revealing films for BBC2, Stephen Fry is to give the most frank account yet of the manic depression that led him to twice attempt suicide.
The comedian and actor will also interview fellow celebrity sufferers of depression, including Tony Slattery, Carrie Fisher and Richard Dreyfuss. More than a decade after he walked out of the West End play Cell Mates following bad reviews, and contemplated suicide before disappearing to mainland Europe, he retraces his steps in Stephen Fry - The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, to be shown this autumn.
"Eleven years ago, in the early hours of the morning, I came down from my flat in central London to this lane. I went into my garage, sealed the door with a duvet I brought, and got into my car. Sat there for at least, I think, two hours in the car, my hands on the ignition key. It was a, you know, it was a suicide attempt not a cry for help.
"[Later] I drove to the south coast and took a ferry to Europe. I just knew I couldn't be at home. I really believed I would never come back to England. I couldn't meet the gaze of anyone I knew."
After a week, Fry secretly returned to the UK, and at the age of 37 was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by a doctor. He subsequently spent three months in Santa Barbara in the US, undergoing therapy.
The comic, who turns 50 next year, also attempted suicide at 17. "I took as many tablets as I could, and as many variations as I could, in order to make them as toxic as possible. Unfortunately, it just made me projectile vomit and I do remember, absolutely, that it was a suicide attempt, not a cry for help," he tells a bipolar research specialist in one of the two prime-time documentaries. Fry hopes the films will help to break the taboo over mental illness.
"I have discovered just how serious it is to have bi-polarity or manic depression, as it's also called. Four million others in the UK have it and many of them end up killing themselves," he said.
"So, 10 years on, in these two programmes, I'll tell you what I've found out about my mental illness. I'll talk to others who have it about how they cope, both with the illness and the stigma surrounding it."
Some of his conclusions are surprising. The comedian Tony Slattery describes in the programme how he fell into "a pool of despair and mania", renting a warehouse by the Thames where he didn't see anyone for months.
But when Fry asks him, if he could, would he press a button, and get rid of his bi-polarity, Slattery says he would "keep it", because it is part of who he is.
The show's producer, Charlotte Moore, said: "Stephen decided he wanted to talk about it, because a lot of people don't talk about it, because of the taboo around mental health. It's a very misunderstood condition. He thought he could use his programme to make a difference."

Life and times of Stephen Fry
BORN 1957, Hampstead, London. Grew up in Norfolk
EDUCATION Uppingham School, Rutland. Absconded with a stolen credit card and spent three months in Pucklechurch Prison, for fraud
FURTHER EDUCATION Queen's College, Cambridge: 2:1 in English. At Cambridge Footlights he met friend and collaborator Hugh Laurie. Appeared on University Challenge
LIVES London and Norfolk
1984 Rewrote script of Me and My Girl, which became a huge West End hit and made him a millionaire
1980s Weekly column in The Daily Telegraph
1986, 1989 Appeared in two series ofBlackadder
1992 The Liar published. Has written three more novels
1992 Peter's Friends. He has acted in more than 20 films
2003 Debut as film director: Bright Young Things, adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies.2006: Won the Rose d'Or award for Best Game Show, for QI
INTERESTS High-profile supporter of the Aids charity the Terrence Higgins Trust

July 18, 2006

This week's show

It was great to hear Graham again. He really is one of the best ever on the show. It was his first "summer' appearance in three years. I hope he plays at Edinburgh this year. Marcus and Pam I thought were fine if not spectacular. I'd rather have heard Stephen Fry for example...

July 15, 2006

Newcastle team

was Paul, Tony Hawks, Sue Perkins and Charles Collingwood.

Points of interest -

It means at least 10 shows in this season (they did 9 in the summer run this year) as they have already recorded nine with the shows in Edinburgh still to come.

It's the first time Paul and Tony have appeared on the same show without Clement or Derek Nimmo. Which is interesting as apart from Clement, Paul and Tony are easily the most regular panellists since Peter Jones and Derek died.

And good to hear Sue again!

July 12, 2006

Bournemouth panel

was Clement, Paul, Tim Rice and Ross Noble. Ross hasn't been on the show for ages. As regular readers of the blog will know he is a special favourite of mine so I am REALLY looking forward to hearing him.

Wendy Richard to leave Eastenders

The diva of JAM, Wendy Richard, is to leave the show. I find it very surprising that Wendy would leave voluntarily - she is a creature of habit. So unless she is unwell (she has had health problems) i rather fancy she has got the boot.

Anyway a lot of press coverage of the story.


Wendy Richard to leave EastEnders

Actress Wendy Richard is to leave EastEnders after almost 22 years playing Pauline Fowler in the TV soap.
She is one of just two cast members who have been in the BBC One hit since it started in 1985. The other is Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale.
She will depart in a dramatic storyline at Christmas and said she had "loved every minute" of her time on the show.
Her spokesman added there had been "no arguments or quarrels" and she simply felt it was time to move on.
Richard said when she was first approached about the role, she "never would have thought that 22 years later, I would still be playing her".
"But nothing lasts forever. I've loved every minute of being part of this fantastic show, and will stay in touch with the many friends I've made," she said.
Pauline's memorable storylines include giving birth at the age of 41 to her son Martin and coping with the breakdown and death of husband Arthur.
She also discovered her son Mark was HIV positive and her daughter Michelle was pregnant by Dirty Den.
"For many years, Wendy simply was EastEnders for the audience," the programme's executive producer Kate Harwood said.
"Pauline's indomitable nature typified the grit and fight that embodies the EastEnders spirit as she took on the world and battle through her many troubles."
BBC controller of continuing drama John Yorke said Richard "occupies a huge place in people's hearts".
He said she would be missed most for "the sheer pride and love she showed for her character, her fictional family and, of course, the show".
Richard, 59, has been at the heart of few big recent storylines. She was diagnosed with cancer four years ago but returned to work within months.
The actress also appeared in BBC sitcom Are You Being Served? for 13 years and was made an MBE by the Queen in the Millennium Honours List.

Wendy Richard's dramatic soap life

Wendy Richard's decision to give up her role as Pauline Fowler in BBC soap EastEnders brings to an end two decades of turbulence, trauma and familial strife.
Since making her debut in the programme in its very first episode on 19 February 1985, Pauline has lost her mother, her twin brother, her husband and a son.
She has given birth, become a grandmother, married again and inherited a dog.
Along the way, she has seen her teenage daughter have an illegitimate child, her adult son reveal he was HIV positive and her husband suffer a nervous breakdown.
The long-suffering Pauline, who, as Albert Square's resident washerwoman, has seen more than her fair share of dirty laundry over the years.
In real life, Richard has seen drama as well, having been divorced three times, battled breast cancer and faced persistent criticism of her character's dowdy look.
Earlier this year, her character married Joe Macer (Ray Brooks)
Health concerns have limited her screen time in recent years, and she began to publicly question how long Pauline could be Albert Square's resident matriarch.
"You do sometimes think, I wonder how long I can keep this up for," she told the Guardian earlier this year.
But the fact that she has been such an enduring staple will make it hard for fans to cope with her departure, says Inside Soap editor Steven Murphy.
"It's huge in soap terms," he says. "She's a character people love to hate - you just assumed she would be there forever."
Jonathan Hughes, editor of All About Soap magazine, agrees. "She's an absolute legend," he says. "You can't imagine the show without her.
"People will miss her because she's been such an important part of EastEnders for so many years."
Both editors agree, though, that Pauline's presence has been largely peripheral for some time.
"Her marriage in February was the biggest story she'd had in years," says Mr Hughes.
"Obviously Wendy's had things going on in her personal life so she hasn't had as heavy a work schedule.
"She may have been on a bit of a soap pension, content to be around but not necessarily drive the show."
Mr Murphy adds: "It's been an interesting year in EastEnders - a year of real change. Maybe this is the right time for her to go.
"Pauline's such a strong character you can't really have her on the sidelines - you have to have her central or not at all."
As far as Mr Hughes is concerned, though, anything less than a dramatic exit will be a disservice to both Pauline and the woman who plays her.
"To do justice to the character, it would be best if she died," he tells the BBC News website.
Mr Murphy adds: "Part of you wants them to kill her because it would be so huge, but another part thinks they should give her some happiness.
"Maybe the ghost of her husband Arthur will come back and give her a heart attack, so she can join him in heaven".

from the Guardian

Bye then, Pauline

By Lucy Mangan

I have an inkling that the many and varied sufferings of Pauline Fowler during her 21 year occupation of Dundecoratin' in Walford Square will be delineated at length over the next few days, after Wendy Richard's announcement that she is leaving EastEnders to pursue an interest in macrame or sit on a Caribbean island, whichever is the retirement option of choice for actors these days.
So instead, let us concentrate here on the woman behind the tragedies and the cardigan.
The woman behind the tragedies, Pauline Fowler, is surely one of the oddest soap creations ever. She is a character without humour, charisma or indeed any redeeming features (up to and including her interior decor), who became progressively, unrelentingly, (if understandably, as she became the matriarch of the most dysfunctional family since the Borgias) miserable.
There was no pleasure in watching Pauline - her troubles were too ordinary to provide fascination, catharsis or distraction from one's own and her reactions too short of heroic to provoke admiration or make her into some kind of aspirational figure. Although, admittedly, as the years and travails rolled cumulatively on you did come to admire her mere survival.
She was presumably intended to be the anchoring force for EastEnders, but because of the writers' unprecedented decision to break with traditional narrative rules and give her not a single redeeming feature, she became more of a sucking chest wound than the heart of the show.
What must it have been like for the woman behind the cardigan, though, to journey from 70s sex symbol - as the luscious Miss Brahms, ever promising to burst out of the Grace Brothers' regulation-issue waistcoat in Are You Being Served? - to playing a character who became a byword for downtrodden haggery?
It must be one of the least vain performances on record. Barbara Knox as Rita Fairclough was lauded beyond measure when she bravely went without make-up for a couple of episodes of Coronation Street when Len died, but Richards hasn't seen a lipstick on set in two decades.
And while younger stars were dropping in and out of the show as drug problems, dramatic break-ups with Hollyoaks stars and offers of prime-time ITV series took them, Richard has soldiered on through everything, from breast cancer to the advent of Barbara-sodding-Windsor.
She has more than earned the right to a long and happy retirement. Let us hope her smiling muscles haven't atrophied in the meantime, so that we know she's enjoying it.

from The Mirror

By Polly Hudson
SO the Patron Saint of Cardigans has quit Albert Square.
A surprising move on the part of Wendy Richard - surely she's comfortable as the respected Grande Dame on set, makes easy money and Hollywood's hardly beckoning.
But for Pauline Fowler, the most miserable woman in the world, it makes perfect sense.
The character ran out of steam years ago - and if she had to go through much more, surely she'd end up smashing her own skull in with that infamous dog shaped doorstop.
Pauline Fowler's life hasn't exactly been rosy. She's lived at No 45 Albert Square all her life (but mysteriously remains one of the few characters who have never been run over).
Her mother Lou Beale was a battleaxe, far too involved in Pauline's life (and they say daughters always turn into their mothers).
Her bumbling husband Arthur stole the Christmas Club money to pay for his daughter Michelle's wedding to a man she didn't love, had a breakdown, went to prison, had an affair and died.
Her son Mark got Aids but preferred to die on a motorbike far, far away than shuffle off this mortal coil in the loving arms of his smothering mother.
Daughter Michelle got knocked up at 16 by Dirty Den, her best friend's dad, then later by Grant, her best friend's husband, and moved to America, i.e. as far away from Pauline as humanly possible.
Son Martin went to jail for murder, then accidentally married a lesbian after giving up their child for adoption. Pauline fell for a gay man (Derek) before marrying Joe, who turned out to be an excon, but is trying to make amends by decorating her loft (not a euphemism).
So it's no wonder Pauline doesn't smile much.
In recent years she's had mostly no storylines at all and has to fill her time by applying fake tan at two minute intervals - in last week's episodes she looked like Al Jolson.
After 21 years' service, I hope Wendy goes out with a bang. Urgh, no, not that kind.
A Christmas Day death always does wonders for ratings. Pauline Fowler, come in, I reckon your time might just be up.

from The Sun

Wendy pulls plug on soap
Sun Online

WENDY Richard is to quit EastEnders after 21 years.
The actress, who plays misery guts Pauline Fowler in the soap, will leave Albert Square this Christmas in a dramatic storyline.
Her spokesman said Richard, 62, had decided to pursue new challenges.
“There have been no arguments or quarrels. Wendy just felt it was time to move on.”
Richard added she never thought the role would go on for as long as it did.
“But nothing lasts forever," she said. "I’ve loved every minute of being part of this fantastic show, and will stay in touch with the many friends I’ve made.”
Richard, also famous for playing sexy shopgirl Miss Brahms in the 70s sitcom Are You Being Served?, has been at the heart of EastEnders since the very first episode on February 19, 1985.
She is one of only two remaining original cast members - the other is Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale.
Memorable storylines over the years include giving birth to son
Martin aged 41, coping with husband Arthur’s mental breakdown and the death of son Mark from AIDS.
In real life Richard has twice been diagnosed with cancer, the last time in 2002. Doctors have since given her the all-clear.
She has been married and divorced three times.

from The Daily Mail

After 21 years, Pauline leaves the misery of Albert Square

Dressed in a dowdy cardigan, she has carried the woes of Albert Square on her shoulders for 21 years.
But now Pauline Fowler is finally to be freed from the unremitting gloom she has borne so stoically.
Wendy Richard, the actress who plays her, has announced she will bow out of EastEnders this Christmas in what BBC insiders promise will be a blockbuster storyline.
Miss Richard, who appeared in the first episode of the show broadcast on February 19, 1985, is one of only two cast members still on board, the other being Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale.
Miss Richard is one of the show's highest earner, with a salary of around £370,000. Insiders claim she has decided to leave after creative differences with the producers.
One source said: 'She knows her own mind and has a real sense of what she thinks is right for her character. But if a person doesn't want to do what the producers want them to do then they have a stark choice - knuckle down, or walk.
'Wendy tried to stare down the producers over the story lines they had in mind and lost.' However, a BBC spokesman denied this was the reason for her quitting and insisted the actress was simply keen to pursue new roles.
'There have been no arguments or quarrels - Wendy just felt it was time to move on,' he said.
'She resigned at the end of last year but agreed to stay on for the Christmas storyline. She got to the point where she thought, "How much further can I go with this role?''.'
The 62-year-old actress, who appeared in numerous TV shows in the Sixties and starred as Miss Brahms in the Seventies sitcom Are You Being Served?, was originally thought to be too glamorous for Albert Square. She persuaded the show's creator otherwise.
Since then Pauline has most frequently been seen working in the launderette and sharing her woes with Dot Cotton.
Pauline's bumbling husband Arthur (played by Bill Treacher) was jailed twice - first for the theft of the Christmas club money, the second time he was framed. He also had an affair and a nervous breakdown before dying on his allotment. Pauline's HIV-positive son Mark (a former drug-user) also died, as did her twin brother Pete Beale, the victim of a gangster-orchestrated car crash.
Her younger son Martin turned into a delinquent hooligan, while her teenage daughter Michelle was earlier impregnated by Dirty Den. However, there have been some happy moments - including her recent marriage to Joe Macer (Ray Brooks).
In her own life, Miss Richard has also faced her share of struggles. When she was 11, her father killed himself after suffering from depression-Her mother, an alcoholic, died of liver cancer in 1972.
Miss Richard was twice struck down with breast cancer in the early 1990s but was given the all-clear after surgery. Four years ago, she suffered a relapse and a tumour was removed from her neck. She has three failed marriages, none of which produced children.
Announcing her departure from EastEnders yesterday, Miss Richard said: 'Nothing lasts forever. I've loved every minute of being part of this fantastic show and will stay in touch with the many friends I've made.'

from The Daily Mirror

By Nicola Methven Tv Editor
EASTENDERS veteran Wendy Richard is to quit the soap after nearly 22 years as Albert Square battleaxe Pauline Fowler.
The actress, who has been with the show since it was launched in 1985, will leave Walford in a dramatic storyline at Christmas.
Yesterday Wendy, who will be 63 next week, said: "When Julia Smith, the very first executive producer of EastEnders, first approached my agent to invite me to play the part of Pauline Fowler I never would have thought that 22 years later I would still be playing her.
"However nothing lasts for ever. I've loved every minute of being part of this fantastic show and will stay in touch with the many friends I've made."
Last night sources hinted that the downtrodden laundrette worker would be killed off in a festive tragedy.
The star said she was leaving simply because she felt the time was right to bow out.
Earlier this year her screen son James Alexandrou, who plays Martin, and his TV wife Sonia (Natalie Cassidy) announced that they would leave EastEnders in the autumn.
Wendy's departure will spell the end for the Fowler family, who have been stalwarts of Walford for more than two decades.
BBC drama chief John Yorke paid tribute to the actress, who joined EastEnders after her success as Miss Brahms in the sitcom Are You Being Served?
He said: "Wendy occupies a huge place in people's hearts. To be a star in one show is an achievement that can sometimes be down to luck. To be a star in two separate shows - at two different times of life - denotes a level of skill and expertise that is easy to underestimate.
"Wendy is a consummate professional, who has proved herself again and again in both drama and comedy"
Executive producer Kate Harwood added: "Pauline's indomitable nature typified the grit and fight that embodies the EastEnders spirit as she took on the world and battled through her many troubles."
On screen, Pauline has had to cope with the deaths of her son Mark, husband Arthur, mother Lou, brother Pete and close pal Ethel. She has also had to face her daughter Michelle and granddaughter Vicki moving to America.
Wendy said the saddest storyline was when Mark died after struggling with HIV.
But happier times came when she married Joe Macer, played by Ray Brooks.
In real life, Wendy has had more than her share of heartbreak. When was just 11, her father committed suicide. She found his body slumped in front of the gas fire at their home in London.
Later in life she battled breast cancer twice, divorced three times and beat depression.
Wendy said recently that the current EastEnders cast got on like a house on fire.
During the soap's the 21st anniversary in February, she said: "We all have such a laugh together. I don't think anyone could say there is anyone here at the moment that they don't like. I know I certainly couldn't."
Wendy, who is a staunch Tory, said she only had one difference of opinion with the producers.
She recalled: "Pauline had to say the most unpleasant things about Mrs Thatcher.
"I said to the producers 'I am not a political mouthpiece for other people. Their ideas are not necessarily mine. I will not say this and I will not be downright rude. This is insulting and I wouldn't insult any woman saying things like that. You can sack me if you like but I'm not saying it'. They changed the lines."
Wendy first found fame with her cheeky voiceover to pop singer Mike Sarne's hit, Come Outside. It sold more than 500,000 copies but she was paid just £15. She also appeared in Dad's Army, Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars, On the Buses, Up Pompeii and Carry On films.
When she was 19 she was auditioned for a Bond film by producer Cubby Broccoli.
But she said: "He wanted me but I didn't go back. I was too nervous."
Wendy, whose current boyfriend, painter and decorator John Burns, is 20 years her junior, once said: "If ever I finish playing Pauline, I will be able to have a facelift."
"I'm saving up £2 coins and I've already got the addresses of a few cosmetic surgeons.
"I can't wait."

July 11, 2006

Nicholas's 700th

Nicholas made his 700th JAM appearance today, including TV of course. The show was the holdover from last season with Paul, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Liza Tarbuck and Chris Neill in attaendance. I thought it a better than average show with lots of points scored. Next week Marcus Brigstocke and Pam Ayres return as guests with Clement and Graham Norton leading the team.

July 01, 2006

Interesting piece on the great man Sir Clement

from The Wandsworth Guardian

Freudian slip-up
By Nancy Groves

As regular listeners to Radio 4's Just a Minute will know, Sir Clement Freud is a rather intimidating man.

Even so, I'm not prepared for how badly I bomb when I interview him. It's 8.45am, I haven't had time for breakfast let alone research and we're meant to be discussing food, the topic of his talk at Leatherhead Theatre this Friday.

So, I see from his biography that he started out as a cook?

"You've read my biography?" he drawls. Well, no, I've read the potted resum your publicist sent me.

"Ahhhhh, so you haven't read my biography. I seeeee."

I feel like I'm back in English class without my homework. Freud's way of elongating his vowels is all very well on Just a Minute it often wins him the game but, over the phone, it's really unnerving.

After more spluttering on my part and deviation on his, he finally says: "Look, I have to go to Ascot now, ring me back at the same time tomorrow with some proper questions and we'll do this again."

I don't think he expects me to phone. So I do. And, this time, we fare a little better. Reading around, I discover that Freud's life really has been a meal in eight courses, starting with the aforementioned stint as prep chef.

"It taught me absolutely nothing," he says. "The war was about to begin and the only people in the kitchen were the too young, the too old, the blind and the alcoholics."

But is it true he cooked for George Bernard Shaw?

"Well, if that's what you want to talk about. When I was 25, I persuaded famous people to come to dinner at the Arts Theatre Club. Shaw was in his dotage then and had just written The Millionnairess for a luscious actress by the name of Florence Desmond. So I sat them next to each other."

"I would always cook for them in the style of a play and, this time, I did Restoration comedy. From my research, I discovered that in the late 1690s, the most popular dish was called ambigue' everything was popped in at once."

I can't tell if he's kidding. But Freud as matchmaker for the elderly? Now that's an image I'd like to hear his grandpa Sigmund psychoanalyse. So, what's the secret to the perfect dinner party?

"I always feel that it's the atmosphere and people that count more than the meal itself. I'd rather eat a bad meal in good company than a good one with someone who is a bit of a s**t," he says.

Which is not to say his palette is unrefined. When called in to spruce up British Rail's on-board sandwiches, his best- selling recipe was the Ultimate Egg a dab of chive butter, a little lemon, gourmet egg mayonnaise on one side and sliced egg on the other.

"I did a deal that everyone who worked in the sandwich factory would get two first class tickets each year," he recalls.

"You'd think they would order their own sandwiches to see what they were like. Not a bit of it! They said: Mr Freud, we make the sandwiches, we don't eat them.'"

Feeling the impending Ascot excuse again, I quickly get in one last question: eating in or eating out?

"Oh, eating in, every time," he says, without hesitation. "Both the service and the cooking are better. It's only the washing up I object to."

I don't know, I say. I find it strangely therapeutic. "Well, I'll cook and you can wash up then, " he says.

It seems Clement and I have finally come to an agreement.