Just a Minute is simply not Just A Minute without Nicholas Parsons
Our good chum Nicholas Parsons unwittingly caused a mighty flap recently when he ducked out of chairing two editions of BBC Radio 4’s Just A Minute because he was suffering from a bout of flu.
The trouble was the veteran broadcaster is 94 years old, has been presenting the show since its inception in 1967 and had never missed an episode before. The BBC figured it would alarm people to announce that Nicholas was ill and decided in its dubious wisdom to casually announce that he had taken a couple of days off.
Bad move! With Nicholas’s good friend and regular Just a Minute panelist Gyles Brandreth quickly recruited to the hot seat the show went ahead.
Nicholas’s absence was more or less brushed aside.The message effectively said there was no great mystery, no serious problem, the man had simply fancied taking a break.
The listeners weren’t convinced. This was a man who had never missed a show in more than 50 years and he’d presented more than 900 of them. Speculation and rumours were rife.The BBC’s ‘damage limitation’ strategy, if indeed that’s what it was, backfired badly.
Instead of reassuring his fans there was panic across social media. The Twittersphere was alive with fears for his health and well-being.
No one was more annoyed than Nicholas Parsons himself who actually did have a simple bout of flu. Quickly fully recovered, he went on Radio 4’s Today programme and called the BBC "ridiculous" for its bizarre cover-up. He told presenter John Humphrys: "I had flu…for some reason the BBC gave out that I had taken a couple of days off, which is ridiculous. In our profession you don't take days off. You are terrified someone is going to take the job from you.”
Was that his way of saying that Gyles was a bit too good at the job for comfort? He needn’t worry. Gyles Brandreth may be a safe pair of hands who knows the show inside out and he did a splendid job but Just A Minute really isn’t Just as Minute without Nicholas Parsons.