I recently had the opportunity to play a couple rounds of Just a Minute.
But a few months ago I listened to it for the very first time, not knowing anything about it, and wrote a little review. This was early on in my Arts Criticism class, and my time here in the UK.
Click through for that review.
I spent the first part of BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute trying to avoid being mesmerized by the bantering and buzzing long enough to figure out what exactly the rules were. As it turns out, the rules aren’t very important; they are just a loose structure to give the wit and whimsy of the panellists a place to play. Once I realized this I relaxed. In fact, I may have relaxed too much.
The point of the long-running panel game show is simple: the host gives a panellist a topic. The panellist has to speak on this topic for one minute. This is not as easy at it might sound. Any of the other panellists can ‘challenge’ on the basis of hesitation, deviation, or repetition.
If the challenge is upheld (and it seems to be rather arbitrary – at one point ‘charity’ was deemed an acceptable challenge) then the challenger takes over. And so on. There are some other rules, and a points system, but again: they are there merely to allow the guests and host to trade banter, barbs, and tangents.
The topics were quite eclectic: the first one was ‘porcupine gestation’. There were others too, only I don’t remember any of them. I was so engrossed that not only do I not remember a single other topic discussed, neither do I remember the names of the guests, nor did I take a single note. This is what is known in critical circles as a ‘rookie mistake’, though I prefer to view it as an ‘emphatic endorsement of the programme’.
There is one other specific thing I remember: at one point host Nicholas Parsons became so frustrated with the lacklustre end-of-round whistling of his assistant Elaine Wigley that he halted the proceedings. He then insisted she give the whistle a hearty pea-rattling. After some gentle teasing she managed, and the game resumed.
Though this could be considered a deviation from the game itself, the whole point of the programme really is amusing diversions, and this was yet another example. There was also a possibility that it would be embarrassing for Wigley, but as with all aspects of the show, the teasing was affectionate.
The camaraderie and humour of Just a Minute made for a very enjoyable half hour. After which the show disappeared back into the BBC iPlayer, never to be retrieved, leaving gaping holes in my research.
That’s OK. I may not remember the names of the panellists, or the topics, but I did learn a valuable lesson: just because you don’t know (or remember) all the specifics about your subject should be no impediment to speaking about it.
Sometimes it’s more fun that way.