Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #44 / Radio Weekly #8 – Just a Minute

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Gigglebox Weekly With Ian Wolf

This week I’ve decided to combine both my regular Gigglebox column with my occasional radio column to cover Just a Minute, which appeared on both mediums this week as part of the celebration of its 45th anniversary.

For starters, there was the last of two special episodes on BBC Radio 4 that were recorded in India (a documentary about the India episodes is on Radio 4 at 11.30 on Monday 2nd April), featuring regulars Nicholas Parsons and Paul Merton, English comedian Marcus Brigstocke, and Indian comedians Cyrus Broacha and Anuvab Pal. Topics for discussion included “It’s just not cricket” and “Mumbai traffic”.

The main difference between this and the normal British edition is that the Indians appear to be much more competitive. Although there are those who will like the faster-paced action, there are those, including myself, that feel it disturbs the flow too much with so many challenges. Still, it makes for an interesting change…

Then there is the move to television. This is the third attempt to put JAM on the box, the BBC having done it previously in 1994 and 1999. Parsons and Merton appear in each episode, with guests appearing being Sue Perkins, Gyles Brandreth, Stephen Fry, Liza Tarbuck, Graham Norton, Josie Lawrence and Julian Clary. There are also a fair number of new contestants: Jason Manford, Miles Jupp, Ruth Jones, Phill Jupitus, John Sergeant and Russell Tovey.

The format is the same, but there are some obvious changes; for a start, there’s no scorer sitting next to Parsons. Instead he just has the scores on a screen, and the clock is started by a large button next to him. There’s also a little bell rang to indicate they are moving into the final round.

Some things do remain the same, though. The studio is designed to look like the art deco BBC Radio Theatre, where the radio series is normally recorded. For some reason, however, the studio lights change from blue to purple when the subjects start. Why they need to do this I have no idea. I find the camerawork even more irritating. There’s no need to cut from here to there every three seconds.

However, there’s still much to enjoy from this show. I for one enjoy the little amusing asides that go through out each episodes. My personal favourite was in the fourth episode when the panel kept making jokes about Miles Jupp being the supposed love child of Gyles Brandreth. The jokes just kept snowballing throughout.

With regards to the TV adaptation, I know that there will always be people who will insist that it’s not as good as the one on radio, but there are always people who complain about TV adaptations of radio shows. If we rejected every TV adaptation of a radio adaptation out of hand we wouldn’t have had the TV successes of shows like Whose Line is it Anyway? or Little Britain.

I’d love to see more episodes of the TV version of Just a Minute; but I doubt they’ll produce them. Unless they want to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary, that is, and given that Parsons is 88 years old that might be a bit dangerous.