Just a Minute: a format worth repeating on television?
Nicholas Parsons opens by declaring that after 45 years ‘the BBC have finally decided’ to let the Just a Minute team have a television slot. We could call this a deviation from the truth as the show has actually been televised before, both by ITV and the BBC. With a radio show that has become a household name and has lasted for 45 years, why is there a need to transfer to TV now, given that it’s never lasted before?
For those of you not familiar with the radio programme, Just a Minute is a panel show on which players are expected to talk for a minute on a given subject, without repetition, hesitation or deviation. If a player slips up, the other players can buzz in to point out the blunder, win a point and continue to talk about the subject.
But does it work on TV? Parsons was joined by a pretty entertaining group of people – Paul Merton, Sue Perkins, Graham Norton and Phill Jupitus – but, it took all of 60 seconds on the Bermuda Triangle for me to feel utterly bored. The players seemed to be approaching the game like it was a test at school, as if doing well actually mattered. Part way through the second subject of ‘unwanted presents’ Paul finally instigated some comic interplay as he buzzed in on Sue simply to declare ‘No’ in response to her description of Parsons in the nude.
It was Graham who really sustained the show, he was throwing around amusing facial expressions and was feigned dissapointment whenever he had to carry on talking about a subject because another player’s challenged was incorrect. He remembered that the show should be entertaining more than the other players. Unfortunately, he decided to barely contribute to the final round, which to my mind should have been a chaotic series of ridiculous and hilariously unlikely challenges, but instead was an unamusing let’s-pity-Phill fest.
All things considered, this show was pretty dry. There was no variation; there were no rounds, just 60 seconds on each subject for half an hour. This is the format of the radio programme, which is perfectly entertaining if you’re listening in the car or getting ready to go out, but I expect TV to do more, I expect TV to engage me fully. Rounds were used by the ITV version in the early 90s; a player had to talk about a surprise object or a subject suggested by an audience member. Occasionally on the successful radio version an additional rule is added for just one round. Any one of these variations could have been injected to keep the show feeling fresh, but as it stands I had no reason to keep watching.
Just a Minute is best left to the radio, but you can check out the BBC Two version for yourself, weekdays at 6pm.