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 Nicholas Parsons: Reg Shoe you have 60 seconds on the subject of Just a Minute, starting now.

A British Broadcasting Corporation Radio 4 comedy Panel Game which has been broadcast since 22 December 1967 and is hosted by Nicholas Parsons, who has appeared in every single episode since its inception. It began in the year that Radio 4 launched, and...

 Report Siht: (buzzes-in) Radio 4 twice.

Reg Shoe: Radio 8?

Report Siht: I mean you repeated yourself.

Nicholas Parsons: Ah, yes. I believe that is a correct challenge, so that's a point to Report Siht, and you have 50 seconds to explain Just A Minute, starting now.

Just A Minute is one of the station's longest running programs, with over 700 episodes as of 2009, and it won a Gold Sony Radio Academy Award in 2003. It has been adapted for television thrice; for ITV in 1994, the Beeb in 1999 and that same corporation again in 2012 for the forty-fifth anniversary.

The object of the game is for panelists to talk "for just a minute" on a given (often rather strange) subject, "without hesitation, repetition or deviation" (except they can repeat the subject or any words therein). These rules stemmed from creator Ian Messiter's old teacher, who told him to repeat everything he had just said without hesitating or repeating himself after accusing him of not paying attention to the lesson (Messiter added the rule about deviating personally).

 Trope-tan: (buzzes-in) Repetition of "deviating".

Report Siht: Deviation and deviating... two different words...

Trope-tan: Ah, yes.

Nicholas Parsons: Yes, yes, two different words. So we give Report a point for an incorrect challenge, he's still got the subject, 35 seconds on Just A Minute, starting now...

The game comes from attempts to try to keep within these rules, which whilst they appear to be simple, are very hard not to break. To speak for the full minute without being challenged is extremely difficult, and meritorious when achieved (though the most common cause is when the other players agree to ignore any mistakes in order to watch the poor sap struggle for a whole minute [or longer if Nicholas is feeling malicious as well]).

 That Troper: (buzzes-in) HESSITATION

Report Siht: How was that hesitation?

That Troper: U WERE SPEKING IN DOUBLE BARCKETS

Report Siht: That was clarifying, and don't type in capital letters!

Nicholas Parsons: Gentlemen, please, let's not argue. As long as he doesn't pause for any length of time, it doesn't count as hesitation. So Report gets another point for an incorrect challenge, he keeps the subject, 20 seconds on Just A Minute, starting now.

You score a point for a correct challenge (as well as all the rest of time left on that subject), being incorrectly challenged and for talking whilst the bell goes. You may also be awarded a bonus point for an incorrect challenge, if the audience likes it enough. The most common cause of a correct challenge is...

 Trope-tan: (buzzes-in) I'm sorry, but you were repeating the word "challenge".

Nicholas Parsons: Very good, Trope-tan. So you...

Report Siht: Oh, come on! I was talking about the rules, for crumbs' sake!

Nicholas Parsons: Report, I'm sorry, but that is the peril of this game. Trope-tan gets a point, and she has 12 seconds to talk about Just a Minute, starting now.

Repetition is the most common cause of disqualification, followed by Hesitation with Deviation quite rare. On more than one occasion individuals have challenged themselves.

If you don't believe how hard this is then try it for yourself. Talk for one minute about "Bunny Ears Lawyers I have known", without repeating yourself, hesitating, or deviating from the subject in a significant way.

A large number of people have appeared on the show, but there have been five "regular" players over the course of its history: Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Peter Jones, Clement Freud and Paul Merton...

 That Troper: (buzzes-in): Deviation no one cares who played this game anyway!!!!

(audience boos and hisses)

Nicholas Parsons: Oh, That... That Troper, you haven't won any friends in this audience with that challenge! No, I think a history of the panelists is a very important part of Just A Minute, so Trope-tan gets a point for an incorrect challenge, she keeps the subject, there are 2 seconds left to talk about Just A Minute, starting now.

Paul Merton is the only current regular panelist, though others like Tony Hawks and Gyles Brandreth appear often as well...

 (whistle blows)

Nicholas Parsons: So Trope-tan was speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point. That was a good round, lady and gentlemen. Trope-tan, congratulations, that was some fast speaking back there.

That Troper: i could have done better

Nicholas Parsons: Report Siht, it is your turn to begin the next round, our next topic, something you may or may not have heard of, TV Tropes (Wiki). Will you talk on that subject for sixty seconds as usual, starting now...


This show contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Panellists will often be given subjects which in some way refer to their careers outside Just a Minute, whether directly or indirectly. For example, Kenneth Williams, when given the subject of "Julius Caesar", took the obvious bait to quote his famous line "Infamy! They've all got it in for me!" from Carry On Cleo, to huge audience applause.[1]
  • Bad News in a Good Way: Nicholas tends to tell people that they're in a "very strong" fourth place, or that they've given "great value". This often gets him accused of being patronizing, although he insists he's just trying to be kind.
  • Blatant Lies: Panellists frequently resort to this if they get a historical or cultural subject about which they know nothing and yet about which they must now speak. Paul Merton is particularly fond of this device, using it to pursue surreal flights of fancy and/or play up his Book Dumb persona.
  • Butt Monkey: Nicholas is frequently the target of good-natured but relentless abuse from the contestants (and, one feels, often somewhat less good-natured in the case of Kenneth Williams). Not only do the panellists constantly mock him, both during their monologues and in response to his judgements as chairman, but the game itself will often deliberately provoke this, setting subjects such as "The chairman's darkest secret".
  • Christmas Episode: Over the show's history there have been very occasional Christmas-themed episodes, using appropriately festive subjects.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Clement Freud and Paul Merton.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first series in 1967-68 featured a number of rounds where the panellists had to avoid using certain common words such as "and", "the", or "I"; also, instead of using a whistle to mark the end of sixty seconds, Ian Messiter would use either a cuckoo machine or a bicycle horn. The second series from 1968 only featured three panellists per episode, and for three of the six episodes, Nicholas rotated the position of chairman with each of the three regular panellists (Clement Freud, Kenneth Williams, and Geraldine Jones), while Ian had moved on to using a bell when the sixty seconds were over. It wasn't until the third series from 1968-69 that the programme settled into its current format.
  • Foreign Remake: Sweden has had its own version, På Minuten, going for almost as long as the UK version (albeit with a six-year hiatus from 1988-94).
    • India has had a few versions as well.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Many panellists over the years have peppered their speeches and/or banter with double entendres or otherwise suggestive language (often involving Nicholas somehow); notable "offenders" include Stephen Fry, Julian Clary, and Graham Norton.
    • One of the most well remembered examples of this occurred in a 1992 episode in which Clement Freud won the subject of "records" with two seconds to go:

 Clement: The great thing about Virgin Records is that they have no holes in them.

    • In a 2012 episode, Ross Noble started on the subject of "Elvis Presley" with the following:

 Ross: Elvis Presley, or, as he was often known, Elvis the Pelvis, not many people know that he was almost called Enos...

  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A panellist will sometimes win the subject on a particularly picky or controversial challenge, only to be picked up on the same error once they begin speaking and lose the subject again. Nicholas will also often use the phrase on these occasions.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The words of the subject can be interpreted however the panellists choose; this can lead to some very creative wordplay, particularly from Clement Freud.

 (on the subject of "dim sum")

Clement Freud: If you buy a really expensive car that has lots of buttons and pushers which make the car go faster or more slowly, and there is one that illuminates the headlights and another "dim sum"...

  • Large Ham: Many panellists have moments of this, since overacting is seen as an easy way to deliver a small number of words in a manner that eats up a lot of time. Kenneth Williams practically made an art form out of stretching every single word, while Gyles Brandreth and Graham Norton are among those who have most proudly carried on this tradition. Paul Merton tends to opt for another form of hamming it up by talking very loudly and energetically if he gets a subject with less than five seconds left on the clock.
  • Long Runners
  • Memetic Sex God: In-universe, a Running Gag is for players (especially female ones) to imply that Nicholas is this when the cameras aren't running. He played this up himself when he guest hosted Have I Got News for You.
  • Nice Guy: Nicholas is always hugely complimentary to all the panellists, barring the occasional instance where he returns their affectionate ribbing, or when things start getting...
  • Off the Rails: There are many instances where the show will descend into chaos over arguments as to whether or not a challenge is valid. One memorable instance ended in Nicholas being given the subject for the rest of the round, while another ended with Nicholas changing the subject of the round with four seconds to go.
    • In a notable incident from the 2012 TV series, the subject of 'The Owl And The Pussycat' came up. Before starting the round, Nicholas, a huge fan of Edward Lear, decided to spontaneously recite the entire poem, causing the panelists to walk off in search of help...
  • The Points Mean Nothing: Nicholas is quick to remind everyone that it is the contributions that really matter, and indeed some of the most fondly remembered panellists have been those who were consistently funny but seldom won (most notably Kenneth Williams and Peter Jones). Not that this has stopped many panellists over the years from taking the competitive aspect seriously and chasing every last point.
    • Calling Clement Freud... Paul Merton also has been known to have quite the interest in scoring. Recently, there have been series where he's won or tied for the win in just about every episode. Even Kenneth Williams would be ecstatic when he won and more than usually short-tempered if he had gone for a long time without a win.
    • The idea of panellists' contributions meaning more than points was brought in full force of the last episode of Series 62; after some persuasion from Cyrus Broacha, who pointed out that letting the foreign guy win isn't done in India, Nicholas decided that Cyrus and Anuvab Pal were in fact the joint winners, given how well they contributed. The two Indian men rejoiced... then pointed out how this was "yet another victory not legitimately earned!"
  • Sound to Screen Adaptation: Several attempts have been made at this over the years.
    • Two pilots were shot in 1969 and 1981, but apart from furnishing footage for documentaries on Kenneth Williams (who participated in both pilots)[2], neither has ever aired.
    • A television adaptation did air for two 14-episode series on ITV in 1994-95 and one 20-episode series on the BBC in 1999, but mostly with guests who were visibly unfamiliar with the game[3] and with various peculiar gimmicks (such as having the panellists talk about a mystery object or, in the second ITV series, dividing them into teams captained by Tony Slattery and Dale Winton).
    • A more straightforward adaptation aired for ten episodes in spring of 2012 to celebrate the radio version's 45th anniversary. In contrast to the previous adaptation, the panellists were mostly veterans of the radio version (Paul Merton appeared in every episode).
      • Mostly veterans. The majority of episodes featured at least one guest who had never played before, such as Russell Tovey, Jason Manford, Hugh Bonneville, and Stephen Mangan. All of them were either respected comedians, respected actors, or somewhere in-between.
  • Swapped Roles: There were a few special episodes in which Nicholas was on the panel, with one of the regular panellists (usually Clement or Kenneth) taking over as chairman. In these episodes, Nicholas tended to showcase just how good he had gotten at detecting hesitation, repetition or deviation (although when Clement Freud was chairing, this didn't help him much).
  • Thematic Theme Tune: Frédéric Chopin's "Minute Waltz".
  • Verbal Tic: Well, Peter Jones frequently started his speeches with "Well..." when he had the subject. This led to many challenges of repetition if he lost a subject and then won it back, only to begin with "Well..." again, and eventually challenges of deviation when he didn't start a speech with "Well..."
  • The Voiceless: The scorer/whistle-blower.
    • For the most part, anyway; during Ian Messiter's tenure as scorer/whistle-blower, he was occasionally heard speaking, and in the final episode of the 1976-77 series, Clement Freud even insisted that Messiter be given the final subject ("When we meet again") with two seconds left.
    • Also, Clement Freud was delayed for the recording of one episode in 1977, thus forcing Nicholas to take his place on the panel alongside Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, and Peter Jones, while Ian Messiter took over as chairman. In another episode in 1982, it was Messiter who took Clement's place on the panel alongside Kenneth, Derek, and Peter. (He finished last.)

Notes

  1. Clement Freud promptly buzzed him for repetition of "infamy".
  2. The Just a Minute scene in the television movie Fantabulosa! with Michael Sheen as Williams and Nicholas and Clement Freud as themselves is a recreation of a round from the 1969 pilot, albeit presented as a radio episode
  3. Clement Freud, Derek Nimmo, and Peter Jones made a handful of appearances each across all three series, while Paul Merton was completely absent
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