In order to stay with a show for 40 years, you have to like the panellists, or the chairman. The format alone is not enough.
I began listening to Just A Minute simply because I liked Kenneth Williams. I enjoyed “rooting for him” in the shows, and over a couple of years I gradually got to know and like the other regulars.
Similarly, I enjoyed watching Call My Bluff because I liked Frank Muir. And I enjoyed Brain of Britain (which has no regular panellists) because I like Robert Robinson.
I don’t believe you can like the format of a show, and follow it just because of its format. The format is simply a pretext for getting the people in the show together. If the people are not interesting, the show won’t capture the involvement of the audience.
Just A Minute worked because Kenneth Williams had a lot of interesting things to say, and was witty with it. Derek Nimmo, Peter Jones and Clement Freud were also people with a lot of experience, who could tell a good anecdote. Paul Merton is a first class stand-up comedian.
If these people had been dull – if they had not had interesting personalities in real life – it would not have mattered that they were great actors when given someone else’s script: the radio show would have failed.
You can’t build a success out of a spontaneous panel game, which needs wit and improvisation and intelligence, without panellists who have those qualities. Which is why Just A Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue have succeeded, and why modern panel games tend not to last.