Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Why the Brits make the best TV panel shows

There is a great heritage of brilliant radio panel shows in the UK. "My Word", "Just A Minute", "The Unbelievable Truth" come to mind. Word play, anecdotes and witty personalities abound.
On television you have "Qi", "Never Mind the Buzzcocks", "Would I Lie To You?", news review panel shows like "Mock the Week", "8 Out of 10 Cats", "10 O'clock Live", endless "Big Fat Quiz" formats and "Have I Got News For You" (now up to Series 46). The Brits pioneered news satire with David Frost's "That Was the Week That Was" in 1962.
This week another panel show (Channel 4) was launched. Specialising in quotations, the sublime David Mitchell hosts "Was It Something I Said?". With team captains Micky Flanagan and Richard Ayoade, this show was a delight. I know the same faces pop up on various shows, Jimmy Carr, Dara O'Briain, Phill Jupitus, David Mitchell, Lee Mack, Jo Brand, but who cares, they are always good value.

There have been some classic US panel shows like "What's My Line?", but the tradition hasn't continued. "Chelsea Lately" and "Real Time With Bill Maher" is about as good as US panel shows get but these are probably classed as talk/tonight shows.

Australian panel shows have emulated UK shows. The ill-fated "Randling" (a tedious word game competition) was drawn out over 26 weeks. ABC might have better luck with Series 2 of "Tractor Monkeys", although Episode 2 was dire. Network 7's "The Unbelievable Truth" should never have made the transition to television. ABC had huge success with "Spicks and Specks" (modelled on "Never Mind the Buzzcocks"). In August 2013, Network Ten started the very witty, but low rating "This Week Live" (shades of Ten's classic "The Panel" and Channel 4's "10 O'Clock Live").

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