Just A Minute – 1967 – Present

Just a Minute is a BBC Radio 4 radio comedy panel game chaired by Nicholas Parsons.

The idea for the game came to Ian Messiter as he rode on the top of a number 13 bus.  He was recalling Percival Parry Jones, a history master from his school days.  He remembered how Jones , upon seeing the young Messiter daydreaming in a class, instructed him to repeat everything he had said in the previous minute without hesitation or repetition.  To this basic idea he added another rule that barred players from from deviating from the subject, as well as a scoring system based on panellists’ challenges.

Messiter’s idea was first used in a show called One Minute Please, chaired by Roy Plomley, this ran from 1951 – 1957.  Apart from the host the other major difference was the game was played in two teams of three rather than with four individual contestants.

A pilot for the show was recorded in 1967, featuring Clement Freud, Derek Nimmo, Beryl Reid and Wilma Ewart as panellists.  The chairman was originally planned to be Jimmy Edwards but he was unavailable on the proposed recording dates and was replaced by Nicholas Parsons.  Whilst executives at the BBC disliked the pilot, it’s producer, David Hatch, threatened to resign if he could not oversee a full series. Not wishing to lose Hatch, the BBC gave in and the rest was history.

Apart from continuing on Radio 4, regular archive repeats are broadcast on Digital Radio Station BBC Radio 4 Extra.

There have been a number of TV versions which we’ll cover in a later post.


The four panellists are challenged to speak for one minute on a given subject without “repetition, hesitation, or deviation”.  Over the years, the application of these rules has been inconsistent and is thus the focus of much of the banter on the programme as Parsons’ rulings are challenged.

In the first three series, the rules were more complicated and sometimes applied on a one-off basis — a ban on the word “is” might apply in a round, for example   But the basic rules remain quite straightforward.










Channel: BBC Radio 4
Hosted By: Nicholas Parsons
Original Transmission: 22nd December 1967 – present


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