Have you ever tried playing Just A Minute? If so you’ll have some idea of the degree of difficulty in the “no repetition, hesitation or deviation” challenge that several young people aged between 10 and 13 are about to face. They’ll be taking part in a junior version to be broadcast in the autumn as part of The 4 O’Clock Show, Radio 4 Extra’s afternoon programme for children presented by Mel Giedroyc.
When attempting to while away long car journeys with our own edition of the 46-year-old panel game, my family and I have found that although avoiding deviation isn’t much of a problem, it is difficult not to repeat words; and the real killer is the injunction against hesitation, which seems built into everyday speech patterns. Most adults would find that a tough one, never mind the 10-13 bracket. Which is probably why each child will be paired with a seasoned veteran (including Jenny Eclair and Josie Lawrence, apparently).
It’s good to know that the format – to these ears, unimprovable – won’t otherwise be diluted or dumbed-down for the younger participants, and that Nicholas Parsons, the show’s host since its inception, will be on board (which given his age – 89 – will surely create some kind of record for the age gap between a programme’s host and its guests). It might also (we can only hope) undermine the notion that the young generation is busy plumbing new depths of inarticulacy, and perhaps instead prove my theory that most young people of today are perfectly well able to express themselves, but simply won’t when there's a grown-up within earshot.
It’s not the first time the show has spread its wings. It’s been on television a few times (including a brief excursion on ITV), and last year a couple of shows were recorded in India. There they give the lie to the idea that it’s too difficult for the layman, with their “JaM sessions” – bunches of friends who gather together to play the game. Couldn’t we do something similar over here, in schools at least? Wouldn’t inter-school JaM leagues be a brilliant idea? Discuss. In one minute, without repetition, hesitation or deviation...