Just a Minute



Nicholas Parsons

Guest chairman (see Trivia for dates): Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Geraldine Jones, Ian Messiter


Regular panellists (all at least 200 appearances): Clement Freud, Peter Jones, Paul Merton, Derek Nimmo, Kenneth Williams

Frequent guests (at least 30 appearances): Gyles Brandreth, Julian Clary, Jenny Eclair, Sheila Hancock, Tony Hawks, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Aimi Macdonald, Andree Melly, Graham Norton, Tim Rice, Wendy Richard, Tony Slattery, Linda Smith


BBC Radio 4, 22 December 1967 to present (717 episodes by 16 March 2009)

BBC (unaired TV pilots) 1969, 1981

Mike Mansfield Productions for Carlton/ITV (partly networked), 6 January 1994 to July 1995 (28 episodes in 3 series)

BBC Birmingham for BBC1, 19 April to 26 May 1999 (20 episodes)


Simple but skilful panel game where celebrities have to talk on a given topic without hesitation, repetition or deviation. It is heavily based on the 1951 BBC radio format One Minute Please.

Breaking any one of these rules allows one of your three opponents to challenge and, if a correct challenge is made, you get the topic for the remainder of the minute. You pick up one point for each correct challenge, and a bonus point if you're the person still speaking when the whistle blows at the end of the minute.

Image:Justaminute_ianmessiter_nicholasparsons_team.jpgClockwise from bottom left: devisor Ian Messiter, Clement Freud, Derek Nimmo, Kenneth Williams and host Nicholas Parsons

Parsons was not the first choice of host. Originally, the moustached wonder Jimmy Edwards was lined up, but as the show was recorded on a Sunday he refused to give up his game of polo! Parsons had originally been down to be one of the panellists, and was looking forward to getting after various link man/straight man roles on other radio and TV comedies. However, BBC producer David Hatch was insistent that Parsons should have the job.

Regular panellists Paul Merton and Clement Freud

The first series was not much of a success, and Hatch had to make a stand and threatened to resign unless it got another go. Series two had an experimental feel to it, with three of shows involving a musical chairs kind of format with Parsons playing the game and letting the other contestants chair one show each. This series also saw the introduction of Kenneth Williams, who became a popular guest on the show. The "repetition" rule regarded repeating ones ideas and thoughts, rather than individual words. Also "penalty rounds" where a common word such as "I" or "they" were banned were in force. It's only until series three that the four contestant format finally beds down.

Most of the fun comes from the clever challenges made by the celebrities. The television version works, but whether it's as good or better than the original radio version is rather doubtful.


The programme was based on One Minute Please which in turn was devised by Ian Messiter, reputedly while he was riding on the top deck of a number 13 London bus.

Theme music

The introductory music is The Minute Waltz by Chopin.


In the first series, the "time up" noise was a cuckoo. In series two, this changed to a bell or hooter, but this was too similar to the buzzer used by the contestants to challenge. From the third series onwards, a whistle has been used.

Kenneth Williams often did his best to put off Clement Freud while he was speaking, by flashing his leg or snuggling under his beard.

Early programmes were introduced thus: "Here to tell you about it is the Man of the Minute, Nicholas Parsons", later adapted to: "As the Minute Waltz fades away, here to tell you about it is our Chairman, Nicholas Parsons". Now no voiceover is used, Nicholas Parsons now says "Welcome to Just a Minute! (cheer) Hello, my name is Nicholas Parsons and, as the Minute Waltz fades away, it is my huge pleasure to welcome..." (etc.)

Until about 1980, the show's billing in Radio Times usually said that it was "A panel game controlled (!) by Nicholas Parsons, featuring" that week's contestants.

Guest chairmen:
7th October 1968: Kenneth Williams
14th October 1968: Geraldine Jones
21th October 1968: Kenneth Williams
16th February 1970: Clement Freud
23th February 1970: Kenneth Williams
12th January 1977: Ian Messiter (Clement Freud was delayed by the weather, Parsons took his place and so Messiter was asked to chair)
9th May 1983: Clement Freud
15th October 1983: Kenneth Williams

Just a Minute has usually been transmitted in the winter months, with series of up to 26 episodes. As the years ran, the series became shorter, settling at about ten programmes by the early '80s. The current pattern - with one series running at the start of the year and more new episodes over the summer - was established in 1997.

Two special episodes aired in July 1992, and anniversary specials went out on New Year's Day 2003 (35th anniversary), and New Year's Eve 2007 (40th).


Just a Minute (volume 2) Audio cassette from the Radio 4 version

Just a Minute (volume 3) Audio cassette from the Radio 4 version

Just a Minute (volume 4) Audio cassette from the Radio 4 version

Web links

BBC Radio 4

Wikipedia entry


<param name="movie" value="http://uk.youtube.com/p/4303C84DB355C99A" /></param>Arena presents a celebration of Just A Minute


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