Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

March 29, 2011

JAM on 24 hour panel people

David Walliams and others played panel games for 24 hours as part of a charity gig earlier this month.

This clip has part of the Just A Minute played which featured Nicholas, Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock, Lee Mack and David.

It starts abt 1-30 and runs for about 5 minutes.

Sue and Nicholas

A very funny clip of Sue and Nick playing a sort of sound charades on What The Dickens

March 24, 2011

next season - no Edinburgh?

The BBC is currently advertising that the next six shows will be recorded on Sunday 10th April at 6.30pm, Tuesday 26th April at 7.30pm and Tuesday 3rd May at 7.30pm all at Broadcasting House In London.

Now the summer season usually starts in July - in recent years in mid-July.

Do you record shows in early April to be broadcast three, four, even five months later? I think not. Looks to me like the plan is to have the next series begin in early May.

But if that is the case, could it be that JAM will not be at the Edinburgh Fringe this year? The Edinburgh Festival is of course always in mid to late August. The Edinburgh shows have usually played within a week or two of being recorded at the Fringe as part of the BBC's coverage of the Festival.

At the moment it looks to me like the plan is for JAM not to go to Edinburgh this year. Maybe Clue will go instead?

Too competitive?

With her appearance last week, Sue Perkins brought up 38 appearances on the show - making her equal third among women on the radio version. Only Sheila Hancock and Andree Melly are ahead of her, though if you include TV appearances both Wendy Richard and Linda Smith are still to be passed. Sue is now equal with Jenny Eclair, but can perhaps regard herself as ahead of Jenny as one of Jenny's shows was the 40th anniversary clips programme and another was as a guest subject setter on the 35th anniversary special.

On the Yahoo group, Sue has occasionally been the subject of debate. Not everyone warms to her. Humour is a personal thing - some say simply that they don't find her funny. The other main argument seems to be that she is too competitive.

It's a perennial complaint of course. Some people disliked Clement Freud's style because he was seen as wanting to win too much. Paul Merton and Gykes Brandreth also get criticised for being too keen on scoring points.

I think some competition is a necessary part of the show being a success. The gear of failure, of hesitating or repeating something adds to the tension of the show. And many of the funny moments come from challenges of deviation.

It can go too far and I think some of the TV editions don't work because there are too many trifling challenges and no-one is able to speak for more than a few seconds. The panellists are particularly good at not interruptinmg someone who is being funny.

But bringing it back to Sue - her winning rate of 21 percent is not all that impressive. Of current panellists, Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock, Gyles Brandreth, Tim Rice, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Julian Clary, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Marcus Brigstocke and Josie Lawrence all have a better win rate. But Sue's win rate has gone up a lot in the past two or three years as she has played far more frequently so we should expect that to improve.

I do find Sue very funny and she is second to only Paul in the banter and the ability to take someone else's lines and build on them. And it's the banter and repartee that provides the comic high points.

When Sue gets the subject she always has something to say - she is never just filling in time - and it is always leading to comedy. I think she's great and I look forward to her appearing on the show a lot more often.

Perennial Paul

For the 22 shows of the past year, there has been one ever-present panellist - Paul Merton.

This is the first time since 1987, that a panellist has done every show over a 12 month period. (That of course was Kenneth Williams.)

It's even more interesting though, if you try and find a year when there was one person sitting on their seat through such a large number of shows. For that you have to go back to the 1972-73 season when both Kenneth and Clement Freud were there through an entire 26 show season.

Is this a good thing? I had a letter from one fan who thinks not...

I have thoroughly enjoyed JAM for decades but in recent months my enthusiasm has begun to wane due to the continued presence of Paul Merton. I wonder what your view is as personally I feel the ethos and enduring legacy of the show is best maintained by a continuous change of panellists with old favourites naturally appearing regularly. I'm sure that I'm not the only listener who is disappointed that one panellist is a fixture. Although the points are not the main reason for the show's success, Paul Merton plays to win and naturally he does that most of the time as he plays by far the most shows due to over twenty years' practice and now he is a fixture, he can continue to hone his skills at the expense of less experienced panellists. I wonder what the last of the 'Regular Four' Clement Freud would have made of a panellist appearing every time?

My correspondent makes a good point that Paul can hone his skills much more than the others in order to win. Interestingly though he has been a bit less successful than usual in the past year or two. His average is that he wins 63 percent of games. In the past year he has won 12 of 21 shows, in the past two years (since Clement's death) it's 21 of 43 shows. This is by no means a big fall of course, but Paul has said that he is trying to be less competitive and I think that he is being sincere when he says that.

I tend to think that the comic highlights are often focussed around Paul. In particular he is great at the repartee which often provide the comic highlights. The show is based very much around Paul's style these days.

Is this a good thing? Well we have a way to go before the show is as based around Paul as it was around Kenneth Williams. Kenneth provided such huge highlights on his shows and dominated the show back then in a way that Paul still does not.

Is it the lack of a possible replacement lead panellist? Could be. Tony Hawks has been the usual replacement in recent years but maybe he isn't as good a replacement as the show needs. I'm sure Graham Norton could play the part but he doesn't seem to want to do more than a couple of recordings a year.

When I went to Stratford in 2007 to see a recording, one of the questions I was asked by the producer Tilusha Ghelani after the recording was whether I was disappointed Paul wasn't on the panel (the panel was Clement, Graham, Gyles Brandreth and Phill Jupitus). I told her - and meant it - that I hadn't really thought about it in that way. I had enjoyed the shows very much and in particular I was and still are a huge fan of Graham Norton.

Still it's a good question to think about. If you had travelled some distance to a recording and the panel was say... Tony Hawks, Julian Clary, Sue Perkins and Alun Cochrane... would you be disappointed? I'm guessing you might feel slightly cheated, just slightly...

homeward bound

One of the weirder statistical facts of the current season is that it is the first in 20 years to have all shows recorded in the show's central London base at Broadcasting House.

The season at the end of 2010 had one show recorded in Salford, and the (British) summer season had the Edinburgh shows. But the current season stuck to London.

Since the 1992 25th anniversary excursion to a north London school, Just A Minute has always taken the show on the road at some point in the season. It's been part of the reason why JAM has expanded its roll call of panellists - the reality that not everyone is always going to be available to travel to a venue outside London.

The reason seems to be budgetary. Staying within London means no travel costs, no overnight accomodation costs.

It also means - I reckon - that the producer is having to spend less time ringing around trying to find someone prepared to give up a couple of days to travel to and from some regional location. They can more often get exactly the team they want - I imagine.

March 20, 2011

I'm back

I haven't posted for almost a month which I think is a record. The reason is twofold - the pressure of work and a concerted effort to get up to date with the transcripts. I don't know if many people care deeply but I had got behind with the trabscripts - some of those missing were broadcast more than a year ago. Anyway I now have done six transcripts in the past two and a half weeks and I hope to get the remaining nine (plus the last two from this series) up in the next month. So expect plenty more transcribed bon mots from Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Graham Norton, Sue Perkins, Julian Clary, Liza Tarbuck, Tony Hawks, Jenny Eclair, Josie Lawrence, Ross Noble, Chris Neill, Charles Collingwood, Pam Ayres, Shappi Khorsandi, Dave Gorman, John Sergeant, David Mitchell, Justin Moorhouse, Kevin Eldon, Rick Wakeman and Terry Wogan. The joy of doing the transcripts is that it forces you to savour the shows in detail and to me, that really adds to the enjoyment.

Anyway having completed a transcript today, I thought I'd post about a few things...