My Top 5 Favourite British Panel Shows

While this format isn’t as popular in North America it appears to be very popular in UK and I quite enjoy it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with panel shows, basically the set up is that there is generally a host and sometimes team captains (sometimes not) and they ask celebrity guests different questions based on the theme of the show; some shows ask questions based on popular statistics, others are focused more on music and so on. Here are my top 5 favourites to give you some examples of the different types of panel shows out there.


Big Fat Quiz of The Year – Unfortunately for me (and likely other fans of the show) this one is only on once a year. This picture is a shot of the host Jimmy Carr (who I follow on Twitter, he’s hilarious! He’s the one in the middle with the grey suit) and the guests for the 2011 Quiz’s cast which featured Jaimie Oliver, Miranda Hart, Jonathan Ross, David Mitchell, Eddie Izzard, and David Wailliams. This quiz style show asks the celebrity contestants questions based on news events that occurred over the past year. They divide the year up into four sections, and the celebrities are placed on to teams of two that compete for points, scoring one point for each correct answer – although the incorrect answers are often more hilarious to listen to than the right ones. In this year’s 2011 edition it was quite entertaining watching Eddie Izzard try to defend why he was trying to use his Blackberry at the beginning of the show to find answers and explain why that wasn’t really cheating Winking smile


Mock the Week – Another one of my Twitter comedians, and a hilarious Irishman, Dara O’Briain is the host of this  stand up based panel show that relies on current events and thankfully airs more than once a year, as the name would indicate, it is a weekly program. They have a rotating panel of celebrity guests although many of the panellists are regulars. Currently the show features two teams of three; the teams are made up of regulars Hugh Dennis, Chris Addison, and Andy Parsons along with three celebrity guests. The participants engage in various segments related to news items or situational comedy bits. The first half of the program is largely topical comedy based as they will discuss current events in a comedic and often critical fashion, and the later portion of the show is more stand up comedy driven.


Nevermind The Buzzcocks – This show is centred around popular music and has no fixed host but rather has two permanent team captains (pictured here) Phil Jupitus and Noel Fielding. They instead have guest hosts and each team captain gets two celebrity guests for their team. The show has a number of music themed sections that make up the show including asking trivia questions about various music artists, the “Identity Parade” where they bring out a line up of 4 very similar looking people, one of whom used to be a famous musician, and the panellists have to select which is the real musician. Then there is next line where the host will read the line from a song and the contestants will have to say the next line to get a point. The show is known for its sarcastic humour and hilarious irreverence. Two of my personal favourite episodes include the one that Sir Terry Wogan hosted (I think I was in tears for most of the episode from laughing so much) and the episode where Josh Groban hosted was also quite good – Phil Jupitus and him had a special sort of chemistry going on, not so much as a cooperative one but more of the sort where you mix baking soda and vinegar; it made for a very enjoyable and humorous viewing experience none the less, and if you follow Josh on Twitter like I do you will know what sort of weird sense of humour the guy has, he is really quite strange (in a good way Winking smile).


8 out of 10 Cats – This show is also hosted by Jimmy Carr but it is a weekly feature and it focuses on  opinion polls and surveys. Not surprisingly it gets its information from Harris Polls and derived it’s name from a Whiskas’s cat food company advertising slogan (ie.  “8 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas”). Currently Jimmy hosts with two team captains, Sean Locke and Jon Richardson who are each joined by a pair of celebrity guests on each show. The teams compete for points by answering questions based on the polls and statistics provided by Harris research based on current events and popular items in the news. Common segments include “What are you talking about” where contestants have to guess what the top five news items are that people are talking about that week; “Pick of the Polls” where they are given four pictures to choose from and then from that picture they are given a question based on that picture; and “Believe it or Not” where they are given a statistic and the teams have to debate and decide whether or not the statistic is true or false. While the topical humour in regards to the current events by itself can be quite humorous, I enjoy watching the interactions between Sean and Jon with Jimmy more than anything. Sean can be very irreverent and nonsensical, whereas Jon has a very dry and cynical sense of humour – put them together with Jimmy’s more upbeat bubbly host persona on the show it’s quite the melting pot of personalities that results in comedic genius, at least in my mind.


QI (Quite Interesting) – Number one on my list, and while still comedic, this one also has a focus on intelligence. It’s hosted by Stephen Fry (another excellent person to follow on Twitter if you aren’t already) and features a permanent panel member in the hilarious Alan Davies, and then they have 3 other celebrity guest panellists per show. The questions are more obscure in nature and are based on academic subjects relating to a theme mentioned at the beginning of the show. On this show they not only give out points for right answers, but take away points for really horribly wrong, or extremely obvious (but still in essence wrong) answers. Like many of the above mentioned shows, a lot of the guest hosts become regulars and that is the same case for QI, many of these shows seem to have their favourite guests that they keep coming back again and again. One of the features of QI is that on each show each guest gets their own distinct buzzer sound that matches with the theme of the show and is generally tailored to the guest as well. Towards the end of the show they go into what is called a “General Ignorance” round which is a play on the term ‘general knowledge quiz’ where contestants try to get as many points as they can before the end of the show. I think I enjoy this show best because not only do they bring on fascinating guests who are both entertaining and informative (everyone from comedians to astronomers) I usually end up learning things as well as laughing hysterically, and that’s a great bargain for my time. Additionally, as the name of the show would suggest – it’s really quite interesting!

4 thoughts on “My Top 5 Favourite British Panel Shows

    • I have to wonder if I’ve already seen some of those – we just look up individual comedians we like and if they’ve done stand up at the Apollo I’m sure we will have seen them. It’s weird because they have an Apollo theatre in the US too but the style of comedy is quite a bit different than the stuff they do in the UK ;) I will have to look into that show, thanks for the tip!

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