Nicholas Parsons has had a long career – and I mean LONG.
After a short stint as a pump engineer in the Clyde shipyards (no, really) he entered showbiz in 1947, with a bit-part in a long-forgotten film called “Master Of Bankdam”.
But my first recollection of him was in the late Fifties, when he was Arthur Haynes’ sidekick.
Arthur Haynes usually played a stroppy tramp, with Nic as a smooth-talking authority figure, whom Arthur would verbally duel with. Written by Johnny (“‘Til Death Us Do Part”) Speight, the sketches always ended with Haynes’ character coming out on top.
However, Haynes eventually parted from Parsons, as he figured he was getting too many laughs – then he died shortly afterwards.
But Nic went from strength to strength. He reprised his Haynes character in some Benny Hill shows – continued playing small parts in movies (my favourite of which was a doctor in a Miss Marple movie, who appeared to have imbibed some of his own meds) – finally getting the gig of chairing “Just A Minute” which, FORTY-THREE YEARS ON, HE STILL DOES.
However, “Just A Minute” doesn’t pay the rent, so Parsons has had a number of “day-jobs”, ranging from more movie bit-parts to the show most people STILL chiefly remember him for: “The Sale Of The Century”.
In this TV give-away, he was the INCREDIBLY SMOOTH host. Thus when he took the job of The Narrator in “The Rocky Horror Show”, complete with 6″ heels, fishnets and basque – people thought he’d lost his MIND.
But his residence was a TRIUMPH and made people realise he was more than just a side-kick and smooth TV presenter.
Nevertheless, to return to “Just A Minute” – despite, at EIGHTY-SEVEN, STILL having a number of day-jobs, Nicholas continues to chair this venerable show – having out-lived ALL its original regular panelists.
This is some feat, as the show requires ALL of its panelists – and the CHAIR – to have supreme mental agility. Which Parsons certainly continues to demonstrate. However, this writer has ONE QUIBBLE – and it amazes him that in forty-three years, no-one has ever raised it.
At the end of each show, Nicholas does a round-up of the scores (while pointing out that the CONTRIBUTIONS of the panelists are actually more important) and it is HERE that he makes his Cardinal Error.
Let us say that two of the panelists have scored fifteen points and the others have scored thirteen and ten, respectively. Parsons will announce that the panelists who scored fifteen are joint-winners (right) but will then announce that the panelist who scored thirteen is SECOND.
This is WRONG. In any competition, when two or more contestants have the same score – they are JOINTLY given the SAME number. But those who scored the NEXT highest number have to take the next number AVAILABLE.
For instance: in an Open Golf tournament, after the first day’s play has ended, there are often groups of people on the same scores. Thus if six people came in with four-under, they might be JOINT-LEADERS.
But then if there were two on three-under, they would be joint SEVENTH – not joint SECOND.
And if a single player was on two-under, they would be NINTH, alone.
And so on.
This means that in the unlikely event three hundred and fifteen players came in on par, with just one player on one-over – the three hundred and fifteen would be joint-leaders, while the unlucky sod on one-over would be THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTEENTH! Wacky maybe, but still CORRECT.
So Nic – in the unlikely event you ever read this – please remember that you (usually) have FOUR panelists on “Just A Minute” – and they MUST occupy ALL FOUR PLACES. Thus if three have the same highest score, they are joint-leaders – and the other is FOURTH – not SECOND!