According to the British Comedy Guide, the long-running British ‘panel/quiz’ show, QI (which stands for Quite Interesting), is finally headed to America for broadcast. Hosted by Stephen Fry and co-starring resident panelist Alan Davies (Jonathan Creek), the series has had its challenges in years past crossing the Atlantic, largely due to rights issues with the images that appear on-screen associated with the myriad of topics and questions posed to the panelists. The series was created by the great John Lloyd who has also had a producing hand in several other notable British comedy series such as Not the Nine O’Clock News, Spitting Image, Blackadder and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. While a majority of the questions border on impossible or, at least, extremely obscure, virtually insuring that a correct answer will not be given, points are awarded to the panelists for not only for right answers, but also for interesting ones, regardless of whether they are right or even relate to the original question. Conversely, points are deducted from a panelist who gives “answers which are not only wrong, but pathetically obvious“.
QI takes a bit of a cue from Sesame Street in that each series corresponds to a letter of the alphabet. Season one, which premiered in 2003 was themed around the letter “A”. Now in its’ 12th season, the “L” season of QI continues its’ practice of Davies’ as the resident panelist with three revolving guest panelists from the world of stand-up comedy or having a comedy background. While much of the program may be very British-centric, it is brilliant and should translate well in the States. What I’ve always found amazing (or puzzling) is the fact that panel shows that are such a big part of the BBC schedule do not travel well across the Atlantic. Nor are they duplicated. Save for Who’s Line is it Anyway?, no American broadcaster tries to re-make a British panel show. Programs such as QI, Have I Got News for You, Mock the Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Would I Lie to You? have never seen the light of day in the U.S., in their original form or as re-makes.
On any given show or series, you are virtually guaranteed seeing some of the sharpest, quick-witted, most intelligent minds of the British comedy world such as Rob Brydon, Bill Bailey (who, btw, holds the record for most appearances on QI with 34), Sue Perkins, David Mitchell and Jo Brand. I have a hard time believing that you would get the same participation from equivalent comic minds in the U.S. to appear on weekly programs of this nature. If you need a quick look at QI, here’s a clip that will be perfect for you next time you’re at a party and need to know the difference between a cake and a biscuit.
In case you need a more comprehensive printed download before the first broadcast on February 19 on BBC America, the British Comedy Guide has put together perhaps the most detailed guide to all 186 (plus the pilot) episodes of QI with their brilliant episode-by-episode details on all the facts revealed by the show since 2003. That should keep you busy until the series premiere. As the QI Elves (series researchers) get ready for ‘series M’, it’s not clear as to what letter of the alphabet BBC America will start with. Whatever series it is, this is well worth checking out if you aren’t familiar with it.