Half a century ago this evening, the only partially suspecting Radio 4 audience were first treated to ‘the sound of time wasting’, the all-new quiz show spin-off from the most ribald and funky comedy show of the 1960’s, I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again. Admittedly, the very first pilot had been recorded the previous November – and everyone involved had sworn “Never again”, a mantra repeated by Tim Brooke-Taylor before every one of his 48 years of Clue recordings. But it’s still a far more epochal marker than Just a Minute’s Golden Anniversary five years ago – partly because Just a Minute was only a rehash of an existing quiz, and partly because it’s never been 10% as funny as Clue.
Despite producing the pilot, the beknighted Saint David of Hatch would never have dreamt of this wonderful anniversary ever coming round, having insisted that the pilot would only ever get broadcast “…possibly, but only on Boxing Day, after lunch, when everyone’s pissed.” O ye of, in this specific instance, little faith, Sir Dave the Rave!
To celebrate this lackadaisical excuse for not writing an ISIRTA script carrying on for half a century, my very first book has been fully updated to cover the last fourteen years of Jack Dee’s watch, and transformed into audio for download from popular evil corporation, Audible. The process of creating the audiobook, and of trying to give Clue the bumps it deserves, can be read in my piece for the British Comedy website.
As ever, Audible has failed to make the audiobook live in time for the intended birthday date, despite this project kicking off before Christmas, and being delivered with heaps of time for their weird system to be navigated. Keep checking my Author Page on there, it must pop up soon… Ah, here it is, two days late: THE CLUE BIBLE!
I’m sorry, but ultimately – although it was a singular honour to be involved with making next Saturday’s Archive show for Radio 4 (originally to be presented by Graeme Garden, who then excused himself as he was worried there was too much of himself in the hour – I suggested that nobody below the level of Duke would be good enough to replace him. With apologies to Greg James, I am nearly 44 and had to google his name), I know that I have failed to help make the 50th the big blow-out it should have been. Of course, the timing of the loss of Barry has been the biggest factor, which I’m almost certain isn’t my fault, but when it occurred to me that the big 5-0 was on the horizon, I swore that the worst case scenario would be just a load of repeats for 4xtra. And that’s pretty much what we have. You can hear almost any episode at any time by googling “isihac mp3”. We did at least get repeats of Willie and Humph’s Desert Island Discs out of it, though.
Actually, why don’t you join me this evening at 6.30pm, and put on any one of the 500+episodes of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, of your choice, whether played from one of the wonderful official BBC CDs, a dodgy mp3 website, YouTube, or even off an old cassette recording in 1973 (There’s STILL several episodes Missing Believed Wiped!)? We all know nothing makes a Monday evening like Clue.
Oh well, we’re still all winners, really, because the most important thing is, the show goes on. Nobody’s claiming it’s the same show it was, the loss of the old guard forces a change upon the whole spirit of the programme which was never going to come along via gentle evolution. I even went so far as to hint to Jon Naismith that Zoom gave Graeme the option of being in every single show from now on, as the creator and last remaining original player, to give each episode that crucial and otherwise now lost continuity and old school approval for all the newbie player’s gags. From the comfort of his own armchair in the Cotswolds, wherever Jack and the Teams travel, Dr GG could even become a kind of Gamesmaster figure, keeping scores and just throwing in gags wherever there’s a gap for them (I for one am happy for Samantha to finally have the blissful retirement she deserves after 37 years). That was always Graeme’s greatest strength as player anyway, the unplanned barb which tops all the previous lines and comes out of nowhere. Nobody cheers from the sidelines more than I do at the show’s ongoing campaign to bring a little light to people’s lives of a Monday evening, and nobody deserves a semi-retirement where he gets to do whatever he likes as much as Graeme. But like many long-standing fans, I can only hope he’ll be around as much as possible as Clue thankfully carries on into the 21st century.
As I say in The Clue Apocrypha, whatever you may feel, when I hear the Schickel Shamble crash in on a dreary Monday evening, no matter who’s on the Teams (my patience has yet to be tested beyond endurance, as it has been with The Unbelievable Truth’s championing of GB News turns), I still know that I’m going to spend a significant amount of the next half hour cheering, groaning, and above all, laughing. At 50 years old, I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue is still working.*
Now, it’s Blackadder’s 40th next year… I hate to think what will happen to spoil this big comedy party…
*No, I have no idea why I’ve spent at least a decade co-opting this phrase from an otherwise forgotten Gary Olsen toothpaste advert to refer to the lasting greatness of ISIHAC. But I’ll probably keep on doing it.