Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

November 26, 2011

Ian Messiter's house is for sale

Interesting information about the old Messiter home can be read here.

Sorry to read that Enid Messiter is now in nursing care. She was a wonderful contributor to many of Ian's games, and I know she was a great fan of Just A Minute. I do hope she is still following the show and that she enjoys a long retirement!

You should have more women on the show!

My dear friend Keith Matthews told me when I was in the UK earlier this year that he'd try to persuade one of the radio producers to have an all-woman panel, without success.

I have a bit of sympathy for him because there are a lot of very taalented women on the show at the moment.

In the two and half a years since Clement's death, here's the list of female panellists.

Sue Perkins 18
Jenny Éclair 11
Josie Lawrence 10
Sheila Hancock, Liza Tarbuck 8
Pam Ayres, Shappi Khorsandi 6
Fi Glover 2
Janey Godley, Pauline McLynn, Suki Webster 1

So what do you think? Would a panel of say Sheila Hancock, Sue Perkins, Jenny Eclair and Josie Lawrence be entertaining? I think it would. They all have distinctive styles and they're all in different ways competitive. I think it would be a good show. Or if you wish add in one or more of Liza Tarbuck, Pam Ayres and Shappi Khorsandi - all again very different.

Maybe we should have Sheila, Sue, Jenny and Josie, with Liza as chairperson??? Now that would be interesting.

The TV series recordings are done

Time for some thoughts on the TV recordings recently completed. Obviously the final say will be when we all see the programmes on TV.

Nevertheless there are some things we can say.

Firstly, the producer of the TV series, Andy Brereton wrote to me last week. He sent the nice pics that I have put up here, and also made a few brief comments about the TV recordings that will be of interest. I don't think he'll object to me relaying that he describes himself as a huge fan of the radio show and he says he has tried very very hard to honour the show. I know that the radio show's current producer, Tilusha Ghelani, has had some involvement in the TV show too.

By the way, Andy has offered to chat to me about how the TV show came together so if anyone has any POLITE questions about the TV shows, please send them and I'll ask.

I think too that you can see the radio influence in the casting. Here's the panellists since Clement Freud's death by appearances, including the radio shows recorded but yet to play. I've bolded those who have been in the TV shows.

Paul Merton 56
Gyles Brandreth 23
Tony Hawks, Sue Perkins 18
Graham Norton 14
Julian Clary 12
Jenny Éclair 11
Josie Lawrence 10
Sheila Hancock, Liza Tarbuck 8
Pam Ayres, Charles Collingwood, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Shappi Khorsandi, Ross Noble 6
Stephen Fry, Rick Wakeman 4
Alun Cochrane 3
Marcus Brigstocke, Kevin Eldon, Fi Glover, Dave Gorman, Phill Jupitus, Miles Jupp, Ian McMillan, David Mitchell, Justin Moorhouse, Chris Neill, Tim Rice, John Sergeant, Terry Wogan 2
Stephen K Amos, John Bishop, Jason Byrne, Janey Godley, Richard Herring, Russell Kane, Fred MacAulay, Pauline McLynn, Mike McShane, Paul Sinha, Suki Webster 1

So of the top 10 since Clement's death, only two didn't appear. But Sheila Hancock is in a stage play on the West End and Jenny Eclair is doing panto. So maybe they couldn't do the TV shows for timing reasons. Personally I would have had both of them on if they were available. Of the next group, on six shows, Ross Noble is in Ireland I believe, and Pam Ayres is touring New Zealand and Australia. So maybe the timing is the key to them not doing the TV shows too.

Now here are the casts for the 10 shows organised by number of appearances.

* Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Graham Norton and Sue Perkins
* Paul, Tony, Gyles Brandreth and Liza Tarbuck
* Paul, Graham, Sue and Phill Jupitus
* Paul, Gyles, Liza and Miles Jupp
* Paul, Sue, Marcus Brigstocke and Ruth Jones
* Paul, Sue, Marcus and Stephen Mangan
* Paul, Julian Clary, Stephen Fry and Shappi Khorsandi
* Paul, Julian, Stephen Fry and Russell Tovey
* Paul, Josie Lawrence, John Sergeant and Jason Manford
* Paul, Shappi, Jason and Hugh Bonneville

Look down the list and apart from the bottom two, there are at least three very experienced players of the game in each show. And Paul as an anchor panellist. This is a very good sign.

The problem for a lot of the TV shows in 1994, 1995 and 1999 were the panellists that really didn't know how to play the game. Some were good at picking up on mistakes of others, but had nothing to say when they got the subject. Some were excessively pedantic. Some seemed lost. In the second show in 1994, there were three people playing for the first time plus Tony Slattery in his fourth show. The game is difficult - it needs people who know how to play it. New people need to be introduced with players who do know how to get the balance between being competitive and being pedantic, and are also able to improvise.

The newcomers - Hugh Bonneville, Ruth Jones, Jason Manford, Stephen Mangan and Russell Tovey - are all either comedians or comedy actors and they're all people who do already do comedy panel shows. They're all people who could well have been on the lists of the radio producers for doing the radio show. That doesn't guarantee success on Just A Minute, but it's a good sign.

The only show I'm a bit concerned about is the one with Paul Merton, Shappi Khorsandi, Jason Manford and Hugh Bonneville. Shappi is not an especially strong player, and Jason and Hugh are new. Jason has a pile of panel game experience so hopefully he will be okay. Still I would have kept Josie Lawrence on the second panel at that recording as she is such a good player these days.

But let's be honest - if Paul Merton is at his brilliant best, these will be funny shows. It's noticeable that all of the audiences seem to have loved the shows. Of course its the fans who will have turned up but I have yet to see anyone who came away from one of the recordings disappointed.

I see Andy is described as being from "BBC Comedy Entertainment Development". Does this mean that if these shows are successful, it could "develop" into something more? If he does agree to a chat, I'll ask him!

November 23, 2011

last TV recordings

the two panels were Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence, John Sergeant and Jason Manford.

And then Paul, Jason, Shappi Khorsandi and Hugh Bonneville

some more thoughts on the TV shows to come

November 22, 2011

piccies from the TV recordings

Some great pics from one of the JAM recordings - hope you enjoy them...

The old master back in the saddle again

Newcomer Russell Tovey picks up some tips on playing the game from Stephen Fry

Long shot of the set with Paul, Julian, Nicholas, Russell and Stephen

Another long shot

Paul Merton and Shappi Khorsandi look to the audience for inspiration.

Nicholas hams it up

Shappi and Nicholas hanging on Paul's every word

Julian Clary and Stephen Fry want the subject back!

November 21, 2011

JAM panel

one of them for today’s recording is Paul Merton, Sue Perkins, Marcus Brigstocke and Stephen Mangan.

I’m expecting someone will replace Stephen at the second recording.

UPDATE: First panel was Paul, Sue, Marcus and Ruth Jones. Stephen Mangan replaces Ruth for the second recording. So two newbies, Stephen and Ruth.

November 19, 2011

today's shows

The panels for today's TV recordings

Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Gyles Brandreth and Liza Tarbuck

Paul, Gyles, Liza and Miles Jupp

The flash set for the TV version

November 17, 2011

second day of TV recordings

The team for the first show was Paul Merton, Julian Clary, Stephen Fry and Shappi Khorsandi. The team for the second show was Paul, Julian, Stephen and Russell Tovey.

It'll be Russell's JAM debut and creates some sort of record with three openly gay performers (Julian, Stephen and Russell) joining Paul.

Again, experienced players and the involvement of Stephen Fry is a huge plus for the show.

So far, so good... in fact, so far, more than good.

November 15, 2011

first TV panel

The first show recorded featured Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Graham Norton and Sue Perkins.

then for the second show they had Paul, Graham, Sue and Phill Jupitus.

The reaction I've heard has been that these were two very funny shows and the signs that they are going to use people who know how the game works are very promising.

I'm particularly pleased Graham is doing at least a couple of shows and maybe more as he is one who could surely attract new viewers.

A very good start!

November 14, 2011


is an important day – the first TV recording of JAM in 12 years will be filmed!

Good luck to Nicholas, Paul, and whichever others are appearing.

If you’re lucky enough to be going, I hope you’ll send us a message with the cast and so on.

November 07, 2011

The Guardian on Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry does not merely bestride our narrow world like the proverbial colossus. His bounty to us is also as boundless as the sleepless airwaves. Switch on your radio or television any day, and the great immanent polymath will be there, giving of himself. Tonight it will be in the latest episode of QI XL, a show that gets better and better. The other day he was Napoleon's horse. But that's merely the iceberg tip of his serial benefactions.

In recent times, Mr Fry has been in California to say farewell to Steve Jobs, in New Zealand to film the Hobbit, backed the new Jarrow march, supported efforts to save a crab-processing factory in Cromer, opined to Australians that Adam Gilchrist would make a good president, and got into an unfortunate spat with the Observer about female sexuality. At the end of the month he will be a voiceover at Southwark Playhouse. And then, of course, there is Twitter, on which it comes as something of a surprise to discover that Mr Fry has only 3 million followers.

On Friday, the fact that his Qantas plane was diverted to Dubai after pilots decided to shut down one of its engines was global news. Whether it is cricket, the Greek bailout, new technology, Oscar Wilde, Chekhov or Wagner, Mr Fry always has more to say than anyone. He is inexhaustible. The rest of us, sadly, are not. Can he not grant mere mortals an annual Fry-free Friday? If only, of course, to allow us to savour the other 364 days all the more keenly.

November 06, 2011

Ray Alan

This JAM guest is featured on the new Classic Collection - here he is working, believe it or not, two dummies.

November 05, 2011

JAM on TV thoughts

Since the announcement a couple of weeks ago that JAM is returning to the TV screens, I've been fascinated by the generally negative reaction.

I've hardly seen a soul who thinks this is a good idea.

I do find this more than a bit baffling. It is 12 years since JAM has been on the TV screen and since then if anything it has been gaining in popularity. Many of the current JAM teeam are definitely more known for their TV work than their radio work. Is there any reason why people wouldn't turn their TV on to watch say Paul Merton, Graham Norton, Stephen Fry and Jenny Eclair? I don't think that there is.

Some information that may help reassure the fans who are worried about what we might see. It is pretty clearly going to be very similar in style to what we hear on the radio. I'm told Paul Merton has signed up for all 10 TV shows and that all of the JAM semi-regulars - that is Tony Hawks, Graham Norton, Gyles Brandreth, Sue Perkins and Julian Clary have all signed up to appear too. Also while TV people are in charge of the production, Nicholas and the current radio producer Tilusha Ghelani are signed up as consultants to the show. Obviously all this suggests the production team are keen to get advice from people who know how the show works.

The principal problem with the earlier attempts to bring the show to TV are that they based the casts around people who didn't know how to play the game. The second show in 1994 featured three people making their debut, as did another in the series. In 1999 the cast included someone who had never even heard of the game. And the show clearly needs an anchor, someone who can get the show back on track when it starts to get dull. Tony Slattery had a good try but having Paul there is as close as you can get to having a guarantee that the shows will work.

The reasons people are expecting this version won't work seem vague to me. I saw someone write that Just A Minute is particularly suited to radio because it means people focus on what is being said. This sounds to me like someone trying to make up a reason for me. Do people watching QI or Have I Got News For You or Would I Lie To You watch because of the beauty of the panellists? They watch to listen to the humour.

The success of so many panel games on TV shows these things can work. There is nothing at all especially visual about Would I Lie To You or QI past the pleasure of watching people talk. The same applies to countless TV chat shows. It's interesting watching people chat on The View, but if you turned down the sound, all you would see is people sitting on a couch.

It is interesting watching people chat and it will be interesting to watch JAM. In the end whether or not the show succeeds will depend on the same things as on the radio, how funny the panellists are, and how much they interact. If they do interact well, and if they are funny, the show will work.

I believe it will work.

November 03, 2011

JAM fans in India

I’ve been asked by the BBC to see if I can find any fans in India, in particular ones who play the game.

If this is you, or you know how to contact someone who is, please email me

UPDATE: The BBC's PM programme went ahead and interviewed Nicholas. Go here, hit Wednesday's edition and it's on at about 52 minutes in.

November 02, 2011

panel news

if my info is correct the panel for the recording taking place about now is Paul Merton, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Liza Tarbuck and Josie Lawrence.

But the other bit of news is that the show is not back on radio until Boxing Day. I assumed it would be back in mid-November but apparently it’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue that starts then.


The Guardian is reporting that as part of the 45 year celebrations, JAM will record shows in India.

BBC Radio 4 panel show Just A Minute is to go to India for its 45th anniversary next year – but the future of The Archers spin-off Ambridge Extra is in doubt.
Radio 4 controller Gwyneth Williams said long-running Just A Minute panellist Paul Merton and its chairman Nicholas Parsons would travel to India for the special edition of the show.
She said it was hugely popular in India with "clubs there who play the game with a fantastic passion".
It remains to be seen how the change of scene will come across on radio for the show, which will also transfer to BBC2 to mark next year's anniversary.