Here's a fascinating piece of analysis that, according to The Guardian, is the "most comprehensive analysis ever carried out of comedy panel shows". Conducted by Stuart Lowe of the Open Data Institute it concludes that "only once in the history of British TV and radio has a programme had an all-female line-up".
Lowe observed that few women appeared on panel games and was determined to undertake a more scientific approach to analysing whether or not this was actually the case. The Guardian report continues: "Of more than 4,700 individual episodes examined ... 1,488 programmes since 1967 have been made up solely of men. But only on one occasion in 49 years has there been a programme in which the presenter and all the panel were women – an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Heresy in January 2012 presented by Victoria Coren-Mitchell".
Whilst Lowe appears to overlook Petticoat Line (1965-74) which arguably became a more comedic show - a sort of all-women Does the Team Think - and was always 100% female then in theory this edition from the eighth series of Heresy is a piece of broadcasting history.
According to Coren-Mitchell “the thing that surprised me is that it turned out to be the silliest episode of the series. My theory is that, because productions usually put one woman on a panel show (or none) and stop there, women get used to having to (at some wearisome level) ‘represent’ female humour when we appear on these shows ... but with four women the pressure was off. It was nobody’s individual responsibility to prove anything. So we all got the chance to just mess about, relax and make free jokes like men do.”
So here is that edition of Heresy from 4 January 2012 (though I think my recording is of a subsequent repeat). With Victoria Coren-Mitchell are Sue Perkins, Cerys Matthews and Maureen Lipman.
Since I first drafted this blog post last week I've been in touch with Stuart about the Petticoat Line and he's now updated his data and created a Wikipedia article on the show. I was pretty sure I had a couple of audio clips but so far I've only tracked this one down from 1969.
Petticoat Line aside Stuart's basic arguments remain that on radio and TV "nearly all these long-running shows under-represent women even if you ignore the regulars. Few shows have equal representation amongst guests."
You can drill down into Stuart's data here.