The Unbelievable Truth (BBC Radio 4, 2006-present)
The Monday evening slot on BBC Radio 4 has been filled by comedy panel games for several years. These include Just A Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, which have both become institutions, although there doesn’t seen to be too much overlap in fans, do you really have to come down on either side and only like one or the other?
But in more recent years, another one has come along and managed to establish itself as a long-running success too. The Unbelievable Truth is hosted by David Mitchell, taking a day off from his many other comedy projects including Would I Lie To You. The co-creator of this is Graeme Garden, so it’s no surprise really that when he has been a panellist he has done rather well.
The basic idea is based on truth and lies, and trying to make your opponents work out what the truths and the lies are. Four panellists take part, who are usually comedians. They are given a subject, such as maybe an item or a famous person, and they have to give a short lecture (if it is an item, David will also offer a dictionary or encyclopaedia definition).
The lecture is mostly nonsense, but there are five truths that are concealed within, and the panellists have to be able to spot them. If they think that they have, they buzz in and explain why they think it’s a truth. If they are right, they score a point, but if they mistake a lie for a truth, they lose a point. The panellist also scores points based on how many of the truths they managed to smuggle past the others.
A lot of the humour in the show comes from panellists buzzing in, insisting that they have found a truth, when they are totally wrong. Unlike other shows, there is also time spent picking apart the format (although there aren’t a huge amount of rules really). And of course there is also the interesting “is that really a fact?” element too.
Points are awarded and a winner is declared. Minus scores can often be achieved, but whoever does have the most points is always declared to have a total that is “unassailable”. It’s clear that there is something worthy in The Unbelievable Truth as there have now been over 25 series that have managed to keep up the standard of mixing bizarre facts with funny moments.