A culture blog, mostly focused on film and television. Warning: spoilers!!!
British Quiz Shows
December 23, 2014
I haven't had a chance to see a lot of this season's blockbusters in theatre yet, but I have been keeping up with a bunch of my favourite British comedy quiz shows, a number of which are super popular in their home across the pond but are virtually unknown over here. I'd like to introduce these televisions shows to my fellow North Americans and hope they find them as hilarious as I do. As an added incentive, you can start watching at any time, thanks to the quiz format (which is really just a jumping off point for the comedians to start riffing) which means there's very little to "catch up" on.
The strength of these quiz shows rely heavily on the comedians, all of whom seem to have circuited through each show multiple times and who have cultivated their own brands of comedy through personas based on their real selves. Some of my favourites are Sean Lock (the grumpy dad/crazed psychopath), David Mitchell (the raging pedant), Jon Richardson (the OCD dweeb who's actually quite adorable), Lee Mack (this dude's got a really quick mind but also a Northern accent, which, in the UK, stereotypes him as lower-class. He plays it up for laughs though, so it's okay), Rhod Gilbert (Welsh, enough said), and Joe Wilkinson (clueless and off-beat but also super creepy in the best way).
1) Never Mind The Buzzcocks (1996-current)
This is a music-themed quiz show, where two teams go through three rounds of questions about musicians, songs, albums, etc. Every week, half the guests are comedians and the other half are members of the music industry. There are also permanent team captains (currently Phil Jupitus and Noel Fielding) and a host (currently Rhod Gilbert). Episodes are usually raunchy but also hilarious. Guests on the show have been known to get offended and walk off (such is the nature of British insult humour) which means that things can also get scandalous! Be warned of the crazy, sometimes R-rated antics, but expect some interesting tidbits about famous entertainers as well.
2) 8 Out of 10 Cats (and bonus episodes!) (2005-present)
A quiz show about current events and about random statistics sounds boring but the comedy powers of show regulars Sean Lock, Jimmy Carr, and Jon Richardson turn this into one of the most popular shows in Britain. Like Buzzcocks, two teams compete for points and there are weekly guests. This show cycles through a lot of British comedians and is where I discovered a number of my favourites, such as the ones listed above. Plus, you kind of get to fall in love with Jon Richardson, who is terribly neurotic and is constantly made fun of for being single (until last year, when he got a girlfriend. He got engaged a little while ago but the comedy still stands). Occasionally, there are mash-up shows (8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is one, and the best) which are also amazing. Warning: almost anything Jimmy Carr says is innuendo.
3) Would I Lie to You? (2007-present)
My particular favourite as it was one of the first British quiz shows that I watched. David Mitchell and Lee Mack act as team captains for their weekly guests as they tell outrageous truths or believable lies about themselves and allow the other team to guess which is which. The comedy personas of the two men work really well, factoring in the British stereotypes of the posh middle-class (not quite the same as the upper-class. That's Downton Abbey territory) and the uncouth, uneducated Northerner, as they appear to be polar opposites. David Mitchell's ranting is legendary and Lee Mack always astounds with his lightning fast comedy reflexes (he's admitted to probably having ADHD). WILTY, as it is abbreviated, has fewer episodes than the two shows already mentioned, which makes it quite binge-watch-able.
QI, short for "quite interesting", is helmed by the well-loved and well-educated actor Stephen Fry. More of a trivia show, each season is alphabetically themed (season one was the letter "A", season two was "B", etc.), and there are four contestants every week, including regular Alan Davies, who acts as a dunce. I love random trivia, so I personally really like this show. Once you get to know the comedians who have appeared often on a bunch of other British humour-based quiz shows, then it becomes more enjoyable to follow and watch them when they appear on QI and such. Plus, QI is kind of a keystone in British television. I'm pretty sure everyone in the UK watches it as Stephen Fry is a national treasure.