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.


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