Sociological Perspective of Just a Minute:
The theoretical framework offered by Conflict Theory is the most conducive to studying Just a Minute. Though it is presented in the garb of humour one could discern conflicts across gender, social class, region, age, profession, etc. Usually Conflict Theory is used to discuss major dialectical tendencies in society. Just a Minute is not a forum for such heavy and rigorous discourse. Hence what we witness in the program are casual exchanges that heighten gender stereotypes, expected gender roles, idiosyncrasies identified with social class, etc. (Daily Mail, 2007, p.63) For example, Clement Freud and Kenneth Williams are two of the iconic participants in JAM. But they come from very different backgrounds. The former is the grandson of Sigmund Freud and hails from an elite political background. He was elected to Parliament many times and had a distinguished political career till his death in 2009. Freud’s humour reflects this background – he gained followership for his deadpan delivery of dry, sardonic wit. His oration is measured and betrays training in the Parliament. Kenneth Williams, on the other hand, comes from a working class background. He has revealed in numerous interviews about the dysfunctional family atmosphere in which he grew up and how this has led to bouts of depression in his adult life. His humour, again, reflects this conditioning. He is very provocative, petulant and his oration is loud and accented. It should be noted that despite this rowdy image, there is no real malevolence emanating from Kenneth Williams. Also, as Williams’ memoirs reveal, there is reason to believe that he was homosexual – if not in behaviour at the least in thought. Despite contrasting backgrounds in class, upbringing and sexual orientation, Williams and Freud entertain the audience in their own inimical ways. But a sociological analysis of their interactions would reveal subtle conflicts. The following observation highlights how diversity and contrast is evident in the persona of panel members:
“If the audience themselves look as though they have been chosen merely by geographical accident, the panellists (with the exception of Parsons, who is both archetypal and sui generis) look as though they have been elected as representatives of the audience. Clement Freud is suited; Ross Noble is in a t-shirt with “norks” written on it; Linda Smith is neutrally smart, and Tony Hawks is wearing a casual pullover. Their ages range from Noble’s 24 to however old Freud is.” (Lezard, 2000, p. 12)
In sum, Just a Minute is an item from popular media that lends rich material for sociological study. The entire set up of the program, right from the impressive studio at Buxton to its extensive reach to audiences, offers several tiers of socialization. Not only do these avenues for socialization create solidarity among diverse groups of citizens, but they also give expression to conflict in its watered-down state. In other words, while conflict is at the root of the humour and banter, it is stripped of malevolence. In all these respects Just a Minute can be considered a successful social project that also offers great entertainment.