Radio Memories – Just A Minute.

Just A Minute (BBC Radio 4, 1967-present)

I have already looked back at the three attempts to bring this comedy panel game to TV, but I thought that I would review the original radio version as well, as many people think that this is the definitive one, and it has brightened many a Monday evening. Just A Minute is based on a radio game from the 50s called One Minute Please, and this is another one that was created by Ian Messiter.

I have already gone over the rules of this one, but of course this is the game where the four celebrity panellists have to talk on a given subject for one minute without hesitation, repetition, or deviation. The original host was Nicholas Parsons, and although I wasn’t around at the time, it seems that the format as we know it now took about two or three series to establish itself.

A lot of people have taken the challenge over the years, only to discover that it isn’t as simple as it seems. I was more familiar with the ITV version before I heard the radio version, and I didn’t become a regular listener until the late-90s, so I was rather interested when there was a repeat run of some editions from the 70s and 80s on BBC7/BBC Radio 4 Extra a while ago, as I could hear these for the first time.

One of the most regular panellists who has contributed for over three decades now is Paul Merton, he first featured before Have I Got News For You had launched, and he is always good value. My mum was in the audience for an edition, when one of the panellists was some called Suki Webster. And it turns out that this is Paul’s wife, so I’m sure that she definitely got on the panel on her own merit with no influence from anybody else…

One remarkable thing was the longevity of Parsons, who was the chairman for over half a century and almost 1,000 editions, he was still in charge at an age when most people have long since retired, and it was clear that he had as much enthusiasm for the game as he always did. But after a gap when there was time to consider the next move, a new host was eventually chosen.

This was Sue Perkins, who once mistakenly told Gyles Brandreth that he had “34 minutes” to talk instead of “34 seconds”, but he probably could’ve still achieved this. Who knows how many more years Just A Minute can run for, as I said in my previous review, putting some funny people together and giving them interesting subjects to talk about means that you can stretch the idea almost infinitely.

There have also been some variations on the format, including going to different countries, as this show is indeed very popular around the world, a junior version with children playing, and several highlights have been released on cassette and CD. And there is also a comprehensive fansite (http://just-a-minute.info/) worth visiting with everything you could ever want to know, including statistics and transcripts.

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