QI (BBC2, 2003-2008, 2011-present, BBC1, 2008-2011)
This is one of those shows that is more of a comedy panel game than a game show. After a short while, it would eventually join the elite group of the genre, becoming as successful as the likes of Have I Got News For You. The idea of the show is to challenge conventions, debunk myths, and try to establish the real answers to long-standing questions in a way that will make the viewers say “now that’s interesting”.
I remember reading about the original idea for the format that was rather, er, interesting. It was supposed to consist of a “stupid” team captained by Alan Davies, and a “clever” team captained by Stephen Fry, to determine who really knew the most about the everyday world. This would’ve been fun to watch, but it didn’t really turn out that why though. By the time QI came to TV in 2003, Fry was the host, and Davies became established as the regular panellist.
There would be three other panellists who changed every week, although Bill Bailey and Phill Jupitus turned up rather frequently (don’t they always). Every panellist’s buzzer made a different noise, which is a good touch. Questions would be asked (all thoroughly researched by the elves that live under the studio), and panellists would be challenged to come up with the most interesting response whilst trying to avoid making the most obvious joke. Doing this would set off lots of alarms and result in several points being deducted.
The scoring system is rather nonsenscial though and no-one really seems to know how it works, but a winner is declared at the end (and even Alan, who it is sometimes difficult to tell if he is putting on his dunderheadedness or not, has won occasionally). Every series also deals with topics on a different letter of the alphabet, and there will always be complaining about the somewhat out-of-place “cod-reggae” theme music that the show has been lumbered with since day one.
QI quickly became a big success, and there has been lots of merchandise. This includes some series being released on DVD, and also an interactive game. I remember Fry said in an interview that he had to sit in the studio all day and record about 50 variations of “yes, that’s right”, and “no, that’s wrong”. There have also been some annuals. These were very entertaining, but they have stopped doing them.
And there have also been books containing thousands of remarkable facts, along with books based around the General Ignorance round which have expanded on several of the stories featured in the show. For a short while, QI was promoted to BBC1, but it didn’t really sit comfortably there (partly because there was less scope to make rude jokes), and it quickly moved back to BBC2.
There have also been extended editions that have contained even more debate, and these have gone on to be repeated endlessly on various channels including Dave. Fry left after a while to be replaced by Sandi Toksvig, but the show has continued in the same style, and they are now on to series Q, by the end of the run they will have solved the world’s mysteries about everything.