Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. TV & Radio
1 September 2021updated 06 Sep 2021 6:00pm

Can Sue Perkins fill Nicholas Parsons’ shoes on Just a Minute?

In her first episode as chair, she proves herself a deeply reassuring choice. 

By Anna Leszkiewicz

The success and longevity of Just a Minute is something of a puzzle. The BBC’s long-running comic game show – in which panellists must try to speak on a particular topic for a full minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation – is far too gimmicky and silly to make for an intellectual listen, and yet it’s mentally demanding enough that its participants are often concentrating too hard on monologuing to be spontaneously, laugh-out-loud funny (in fact, less practised guests are often almost deliberately dull).

And yet Just a Minute endures; because it endures. Having remained almost unchanged for more than 50 years – with the same rules and theme tune, familiar panellists and even, until recently, one long- running host – its fixed formula is the key to its appeal.

Stepping into the shoes of Nicholas Parsons, who died in 2020 after more than five decades of continuous chairing, must be a daunting prospect for Sue Perkins, despite her many years of experience hosting programmes as high-profile as The Great British Bake Off. After taking on a few episodes as a guest host alongside Jo Brand, Stephen Fry and the popular panellists Paul Merton and Gyles Brandreth, Perkins was announced as Parsons’s permanent replacement earlier this summer.

[See also: BBC drama Vigil is brutal, bonkers and chilling]

But in her first episode as chair (Monday 6 September, 6.30pm), she proves herself a deeply reassuring choice: slick, enthusiastic, unwaveringly professional. Joined by the actress Shelia Hancock, Jan Ravens of Dead Ringers, first-timer Daliso Chaponda and the veteran Merton, she doesn’t over-perform, makes her panellists feel at ease, and drops in the occasional joke. She is the ultimate professional.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

“One should never, ever, ever feel sorry for applying a format to a show,” Perkins quips, when Ravens is apologetic in her challenging of Chaponda. Here is someone who clearly understands her assignment and the appeal of the series more generally. “I haven’t lost the thrill of it,” she says of listening to Hancock complete a full minute, uninterrupted, as the episode comes to a close, “and I hope I never do.”

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?

[See also: BBC Radio 6 Music’s The Happiness Map is pure escapism disguised as a chat show]

Just a Minute 
BBC Radio 4

This article appears in the 10 Sep 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Labour's lost future