Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Think I Should Clarify Two Things...

• The show that premiered Monday on BBC2 is NOT the first Just A Minute TV show. There was a short-lived version on ITV in 1994 and an even shorter-lived version on BBC1 in 1999.
• Nicholas Parsons has NOT hosted every version of Just A Minute since 1967. He has missed several. If is anything to go by, there was even an episode in 1977 where Clement Freud couldn’t make it, forcing Nicholas to play the game and Ian Messiter to host.

OK, the new Just A Minute TV show on BBC2…

89-year-old Nicholas Parsons, wearing ridiculous brightly colored suits that really only serve to make him look like a stereotypical career game show host (not that he isn’t one – this is, lest we forget, the man who hosted the original British version of Sale Of The Century for eleven years), plays host to four panelists…no, I’m not explaining Just A Minute this time either. It’s not worth it. I would explain the differences between the TV show and the radio show, but that’s not worth it either…because there aren’t any. As with Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, the Just A Minute TV show really just amounts to “point a camera at a taping of the radio show”.

It’s funny, of course – Nicholas is in his usual fine form, and admittedly (unlike Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me) there aren’t many ways Just A Minute could be made into a visual game – but they could at least have displayed the panelists’ scores on their podiums. It really makes no sense that Nicholas is shown pushing a button on his podium at the start of each round to start the clock, and yet at the same time, there is no on-screen clock. I was half expecting a giant clock display in the vein of Countdown, but you’d think they’d at least have a little timer in the corner of the screen.

You’d think after this and the BBC America version of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, I’d be tired of half-hearted attempts to make TV versions of radio shows. You’d think after the India-taped episodes of Just A Minute and the supposed American pilot for The News Quiz, I’d be tired of half-hearted attempts of transferring radio shows to other countries. You are apparently wrong, as I’m still desperately trying to figure out the premiere date of the upcoming Australian television version of The Unbelievable Truth.



Friday, March 23, 2012


Yes, I am a day late. I like to think it is not my fault. I had my post all typed up and ready to go last night, and for whatever reason, Blogger deleted it. I retyped it, and the same thing happened, after which I just gave up and got some sleep. So here we are a day late.

Moving on…

“Could radio game shows be exported the way television game shows are?

I like to think some could - for example, Just A Minute and The News Quiz seem to me to be such straightforward concepts that they'd work in any country if you found the right host and panelists.” – From my post on December 24, 2009.

I was wrong. Oh boy, was I wrong.

BBC Radio 4’s comedy panel game show Just A Minute recently taped two episodes in Mumbai, the first of which aired Monday. Nicholas Parsons traveled to India to host, with panelists including both British and Indian comedians.

I’m not explaining Just A Minute. Considering that it originally premiered in 1951 and has been on continuously for forty-five years, it would be a bit like trying to explain The Price Is Right. Honestly, I’m guessing if you’re reading this blog, you know exactly what Just A Minute is; if you don’t, go look it up. I will say, however, that this whole thing just felt…awkward. It’s not that it wasn’t funny – it was. Certainly Nicholas was in his usual fine form – yet at the same time, the Indian comedians on the panel seemed rather out of their element, the audience at the Comedy Store in Mumbai seemed like it wasn’t entirely sure when to laugh, and the whole thing came across as the sort of lame ratings stunt an American TV game show would pull during a sweeps month. If a big-money primetime television game show in America, Britain, India or really any country were to do something like this, I wouldn’t be complaining nearly as much. It’s primetime TV. We’re used to that…but BBC Radio 4? That’s a bit like Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me suddenly announcing a TV special on a BBC-owned channel…oh yeah, right.

That terrible joke leads me rather nicely to the supposed American pilot of The News Quiz, which was recorded Tuesday at the Greene Space in New York and, for whatever reason, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last night. The whole thing is apparently being done with NPR in mind, but as I’ve said, wouldn’t any show called “The News Quiz” on public radio in America be dismissed as a Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me clone?

Lewis Black plays host to four panelists…you know what, no, I’m not explaining The News Quiz either. Not only has it been running for thirty-five years, it’s barely a game to begin with. The host reads a question about a news story, and that question starts the panelists off on several minutes on discussion\jokes\ranting about that story. Was it funny? Sure – but really only as a British radio special. The overall joke – and this was true of the Indian-taped Just A Minute episodes as well – seemed to be “aren’t cultural differences weird?” That joke is kind of going to get old fast.

There are some things that just aren’t meant to be exported, and I should have realized that British radio comedy panel game shows are one of them. As I put it later in that same post in December 2009 “I have this horrible vision of an American ISIHAC taping where the audience is given preprinted sheets telling them when to laugh.”

Next week – the Just A Minute TV show! My expectations for it just went way down.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

TONS Of Radio News

Deep breath...

  • BBC Radio 4's Just A Minute has taped two episodes in Mumbai, the first of which will air on March 19. On April 2, the station will broadcast Just A Minute's Indian Adventure, a documentary about the supposed large following the show has in India. 
  • Sticking with Just A Minute, BBC2's attempt at a TV version premieres March 26. After BBC America's take on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me amounted to "point a camera at a taping of the radio show",  I'm honestly doubting this will be any different, but we'll see.
  • I don't usually pay much attention to Australia here, but this jumped out at me - a version of BBC Radio 4's The Unbelievable Truth is being produced for Australian television on Network Seven. The host is Craig Reucassel. There's no word on when it will premiere.
  • In what seems to me to be an incredibly bizarre move, the BBC is attempting to produce an American version of its long-running topical comedy panel game show The News Quiz. The pilot will be taped in New York and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on March 22 (yes, the supposed American pilot is being broadcast on British radio). The host is Lewis Black. The whole thing is apparently being done with NPR in mind, but wouldn't any show called "The News Quiz" on public radio in America just be dismissed as a Wait Wait Don't Tell Me clone?
  • Speaking of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, the spin-off podcast How To Do Everything (hosted by Ian Chillag and Mike Danforth) is holding a March Madness bracket pool on CBS Sports's website. I clicked the link just to see, and in doing so accidentally signed up to play. I ended up just clicking the "automatically generate bracket" button. I'll give you an occasional update, but given that my Fantasy Survivor and Fantasy Amazing Race teams have half the score of the leaders at best, I somehow doubt I'll be any better at Fantasy College Basketball. In the incredibly unlikely event that my automatically generated bracket is the best on, I'll win a trip to Atlanta, Georgia to see the 2013 March Madness Championship game. 
  • Finally, WSIN (the radio station at Southern Connecticut State University) is holding a 24 Hour Game Show Marathon to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Beginning April 27 at 3PM Eastern Time, the station will attempt to stage twenty-four famous game shows in twenty-four hours. I'm not posting the full list of shows, but I'm certainly going to donate and tune in for as long as possible. 
...exhale. I'll review Just A Minute from Mumbai and The News Quiz from New York next week.


UPDATE: Here's the trailer for WSIN's 24 Hour Game Show Marathon, in which twenty-three of the twenty-four shows that will be used are represented. The show that isn't represented, for whatever reason, is The Big Showdown.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

So If You Want To Guess What Show's Been Revived, Cover Your Ears And Close Your Eyes...

...come on, remember that? REMEMBER THAT?

Yes, Nickelodeon is reviving Figure It Out, one of the last game shows of their 1990s era. As I am an avowed 90s kid, this is one of the last kids game shows I consider myself to have grown up watching (probably the last: Double Dare 2000. Read the title. Like I said, avowed 90s kid).

It's good news in my book. This is a show I liked a lot as a kid. Unfortunately, this is also the problem. No matter what game show you revive, you are going to get a million people saying "It's not as good as the original!", but it only gets worse when you revive a kids game show that people supposedly grew up watching. In fact, I'm guessing the complaints are already starting, as they've already announced the host: Jeff Sutphen.

Cue the screams. Cue a million game show nuts and another million 90s Nickelodeon fans shouting "WHAT! ARE YOU MAD! BRING BACK SUMMER SANDERS!" Summer did a great job, and I'm certainly hoping to see her back as a panelist or something, but if you were seriously expecting her back as host, you were deluding yourself. This does not mean, however, that Nickelodeon should have gone with the guy they've had under contract for years (and not just for Brain Surge - he was Pickboy). Good for Jeff to be willing to do another kids game show (or perhaps not since...well, I'll explain at the end), but couldn't we have some variety here? Jeff is admittedly not the first person to host two Nickelodeon game shows, but  even the famously awful Phil Moore (who did both Nick Arcade and You're On) didn't do two in a row!

Still, I'll look forward to this, and try to reserve judgment until after I've seen it. I will also leave you with one final thought:

"ABC has pushed back the premiere of 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show from June 16 to June 21. Frankly, this sounds to me like it should be a kids game show, a fact not helped by the casting of Jeff Sutphen off Brain Surge as host. Of course, if you were capable of going back in time, you could easily scare me out of my wits by telling me what would become of Jeff Probst off Rock And Roll Jeopardy...or Chris Harrison off Mall Masters...or Ryan Seacrest off Click...or Tom Bergeron off Hollywood who knows, maybe this is Jeff Sutphen's big break. " - From my post on May 19, 2011

Pretty wrong there, wasn't I? Come on Jeff, even Nickelodeon's own Mike O'Malley is on Glee now. 


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Don't Forget BBC Radio 4...

OK, where to begin...

In Wordaholics (which premiered February 20), an...exuberant...Gyles Brandreth plays host to four panelists. At the beginning of the show, these panelists are asked to give their answers to a question like "What word do you overuse the most?" or "What word should be banned from the English language?" This is followed by a round called "The Letter Of The Week" which begins with Gyles describing said letter as if it were a fashion model walking down the runway. "Here comes the wonderful letter Q! Oh, that  perfect round body that is beautifully complemented by the extra line..." If that sounds vaguely Sesame Street to you...well, it sounded vaguely Sesame Street to me too. The actual round then consists of the panelists having to define obscure words that begin with that letter.

A few more rotating rounds are played after that, most of which involve coming up with the definitions of unusual words of some form - for example, a "Name The Phobia" round in which Gyles gives a word like "dromophobia" and the panelists have to name what it's the fear of (for the record, dromophobia is the fear of crossing streets). Whatever category of words is being defined in each round, it is inevitably followed by the panelists making up their own words to fit that category, some of which sound like they came straight out of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

Honestly, there isn't a whole lot more to say. There's nothing wrong with this show, but there's nothing to make it stand out from countless other BBC Radio 4 comedy panel game shows either. Believe me, I'm tired of typing that.

It's Not What You Know premiered three days later - Miles Jupp plays host to three panelists who have each nominated a friend or relative as their partner. The panelists must try to predict the answers their partners gave to a bunch of questions. Miles asks a question - which can be anything from "Where did you first meet?" to "Would you rather spend five minutes with God or a lifetime with George Clooney?" - and after the panelist makes his\her prediction, we hear his\her partner's prerecorded answer.

A few rounds are played like this, after which a round is played in which Miles reads a statement and the panelists much predict which of the prerecorded partners said it. There is also an occasional round featuring  a prerecorded celebrity guest who has no connection with any of the panelists. It's better than Wordaholics, and did make me laugh very hard at points - but as I said, I'm getting pretty tired of shows that are not particularly good or particularly bad.

As I always say, I'm being too critical - these are far from bad shows. Still, there are twenty-two shows listed on the Games And Quizzes section of BBC Radio 4's website, some of we haven't heard from in years. I seriously doubt either Wordaholics or It's Not What You Know will get very far.

Frankly, I won't miss them.