There have been many people who have had long careers, but this is someone who had just about the longest career of any game show host on the TV and radio, lasting for over six decades. Nicholas Parsons first became a TV regular as long ago as the mid-50s. He would take part in comedy shows, and often played the straightman to various comedians, and this meant that he got to know some of the biggest stars of this era.
Even then he was hosting game shows, but it seems that most of these weren’t that great. In the late-60s, he became the host of one of his most popular shows, and little did he realise that he would still be in charge over five decades later. Just A Minute is a great example of one of those games that is easy to play, but difficult to master. After the format settled down, various regulars would take part for several years, and he managed to keep everything going.
His longest-running TV success launched in the early-70s, when he was the host of Sale Of The Century, where hundreds of questions were asked, and prizes were given away at prices that were rather ridiculous. He hosted this for over a decade, and this was one of the most successful game shows on ITV of its era. When this came to an end in the early-80s, he continued to host Just A Minute all along. He’d always let the panellists get the laugh they wanted, and give them too many bonus points for doing so.
By the late-80s, he was possibly hoping to host a new TV game show, and it turned out to be a rather unlikely one. Night Network was one of ITV’s first attempts at an overnight service, and he was in charge of The All-New Alphabet Game segment, hoping the celebrity panellists could answer the odd questions. In the mid-90s, there was the first of three attempts to bring Just A Minute to TV, and they were all different in their approach.
The first was on ITV in a late-night slot, and featured more comedians at the alternative end taking part than what you would hear on the radio version at the time. He proved that he could work with the younger generation, although by this point by comparison just about everyone was the younger generation. The second attempt was a more cosy affair on BBC1 in a daytime slot, with older panellists who looked like they were on the verge of falling asleep.
By the late-90s, most of the original contributors to Just A Minute had gone, but he kept going on. The third attempt was on BBC2 in an evening slot, this time mostly featuring the radio regulars, including Paul Merton, who by now was a veteran of the game. This was another short run though. He did seem to be unstoppable, still hosting when many other people would’ve long since retired, and it was clear that he liked to keep a sharp and always inquisitive mind.
Although they often mocked him, it was clear that panellists including Paul Merton and Gyles Brandreth definitely had a lot of admiration for him, and he even hosted a few shows with Merton about the history of comedy. When he did finally depart Just A Minute, there was the difficult task of choosing a new host, proving that essentially nobody is irreplaceable, but he would be pleased that the game is still played, and he deserves praise for his commitment to game shows.