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... but for once, let's put our heads down, and have an informative, popular, music-based quiz, without resorting to
jokes—the coward's way out.
A Panel Game or Panel Show is a variation on the Game Show
in which celebrities and comedians compete in teams to win points. Panel games are a mainstay of British television, perhaps due to the continued UK popularity of radio entertainment, from which the format was adapted; or to accommodate lower UK production budgets
. The games are a useful way for up-and-coming — or fast-descending — comedians to pay the bills.
The celebrity contestants are usually paid an appearance fee, but there is rarely a prize as an incentive to win, although the contestants may still be highly competitive. The focus is on comedy
; The Points Mean Nothing
, and some shows feature a joke prize that is mundane (Have I Got News for You
), bizarre (Shooting Stars
), or non-existent (I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue
Panel games feature a host who asks the questions and adjudicates, and often some of the panelists are regulars who appear every week. The host makes jokes between the rounds, of which there are up to six, some more gimmicky than others, including video clips and minigames.
Not to be confused with Celebrity Specials
of a Game Show
, where the celeb accrues prize money and donates it to a charity of their choosing.
- The one that is most familiar to American viewers is Whose Line Is It Anyway?, which had four comedians who would perform improv comedy to win points from host Clive Anderson (later replaced by Drew Carey for the somewhat-louder American version).
- A long-running British panel show is Never Mind the Buzzcocks, which is based around music and generally features pop and rock stars as well as comedians. After most of the original cast started having other commitments, the show bounced back with a very successful format of rotating guest hosts and temporary team captains. Phill Jupitus has appeared in every episode but one, making him pretty much the face of the show. The show is currently hosted by Rhod Gilbert, and the other team captain is Noel Fielding.
- Another mainstay of British panel games is Have I Got News for You, a political and satirical panel game that generally attracts politicians, journalists, and businessmen as its panelists, as well as more politically-minded comedians.
- A similar show is Mock the Week, basically Have I Got News For You meets Whose Line.
- One of the oldest British panel games is A Question of Sport, which — since it typically features sportsmen — is generally regarded as more niche and less funny than its competitors (there were a lot of restrictions on how funny they could be when Princess Anne turned up). It's headed a bit more towards the comedic in recent years (ever since Sue Barker took over the chair), which meant that...
- They Think It's All Over, also a sporting panel game but with more emphasis on the funny (each side had a regular sportsman, a regular comedian and one other random, usually a sportsman), was rendered slightly redundant. A change of panelists didn't kill the show; a change of hosts did. Rampantly most famous for the Feel The Sportsman round, where contestants were blindfolded and had to identify a sportsperson (or, in several cases, a team of sportspersons) by touch alone.
- The format was taken to its logical conclusion in Shooting Stars which dispensed with rules, order and sense, and featured questions such as "True or False: Bill Cosby was the first-ever black man" (the answer was false; it was actually Sidney Poitier). It also featured dream sequences, sketches, and other distractions from the boring business of actually hosting a show. The guests are more of an afterthought than anything.
- Subverted in Annually Retentive, a Two For One Show which shows both a traditional panel game and the (fictional) behind-the-scenes backstabbing that happens behind it. As far as the celebrities are concerned, it's a 'proper' panel show, and only the host and captains act in the behind-the-scenes bits.
- Wild N Out is an urban-themed improv comedy show. The players, who seem to be regulars with a single exception (the special celebrity guest), are divided into the Red Squad (led by host Nick Cannon) and the Black Squad (led by the special guest). They compete mostly for pride, as well as the opportunity to hold the pro wrestling-style "improv champion" belt.
- This format was once common on North American prime time; the tone was more serious, although there was still some joking going on. The best known of these were CBS's To Tell the Truth, Ive Got A Secret, and Whats My Line (all of which later went into syndication) and CBC's Front Page Challenge, which ran for 37 years (1958-95).
- Australia also has its fair share of these, many differing from their British counterparts only so much as is necessary to avoid paying the BBC for the rights.
- There are two Never Mind the Buzzcocks-alikes, the SBS's musically credible Rockwiz, trumped in popularity by the Adam-Hills-hosted Spicks And Specks which is noteworthy for the fact that of the four non-regular panelists, two are generally musicians, the other two being comedians who don't know the first thing about music. Doesn't stop them from being funny.
- Good News Week was originally a carbon copy of Have I Got News For You, but its political satire didn't survive the move to commercial television. After a ten year hiatus, the rebooted show focuses more on oddball stories, celebrity news and musical guests.
- Also Australian is Talkin' 'bout Your Generation, hosted by Shaun Micallef and featuring comedians Baby Boomer Amanda Keller, Generation X Charlie Pickering, Generation Y Josh Thomas, and their celebrity guests, in an attempt to determine the superior generation.
- QI, themed around general
knowledge ignorance, has become one of the biggest. (And funniest.) Notable for having no captains but a regular panelist in Alan Davies, who acts as a foil to host Stephen Fry and keeps things from getting too serious.
- You Have Been Watching, themed around television shows, hosted by Charlie Brooker.
- 8 Out of 10 Cats, about statistics, hosted by Jimmy Carr, regular team captain Sean Lock (either of whom tend to be CMOF-worthy separately), relatively new team captain Jon Richardson, and the occasional somewhat thematic celebrity (such as Chris Hoy, after he won Olympic gold).
- Dave Gorman's Genius, which is also a radio show, involves more audience participation than usual: the general public mails suggestions which could improve the world (or are just funny), and the best ones get invited onto the show to defend their idea to a guest, who is in charge of deciding whether or not the idea is genius. Ideas that have been declared genius before include breeding an elephant that is small enough to be a house pet, helium filled bubble wrap to make parcels lighter and postage cheaper, and to make parliament discuss things under the rules of Just a Minute.
- Would I Lie to You?, hosted in the first two seasons by Angus Deayton, currently hosted by Rob Brydon, with team captains Lee Mack and David Mitchell. Slightly more emphasis on the game part of panel game, the contestants read out a card that either contains an unlikely truth about themselves or a lie made up by the researchers of the show, and they have to defend it as true, while the other team prods them for additional facts and then says whether it's the truth, or a lie. (A video link explains it better than that description.) There are also various other rounds, such as each member of one team claiming to know a mystery guest. It's one of the best panel shows on today, with very little scripted material, lots of funny stories and plenty of good-natured ribbing.
- The Bubble, hosted by David Mitchell isolates 3 celebrities in a country house for a week and shows them a variety of News Stories from the week, some real, some faked and the celebrities have to guess which is which. It's better seen than read about. Notable for the fact that while it's a BBC show they are banned from faking news from the BBC. Here's an interview about the program.
- Ireland has The Panel which dispenses with the quiz format altogether, while still attempting to feel like a panel game show. It used to work, until Dara Ó Briain left.
- The format is quite popular in the Netherlands, although not quite as mainstream as it is in the UK. Popular Dutch panel shows include:
- Waku Waku, a classic charity show with a focus on wildlife trivia. Although it was extremely popular for quite a number of seasons, it was cancelled well over a decade ago. It's the one panel show that all others take their cues from.
- Dit Was Het Nieuws (This Was The News), a carbon copy of Have I Got News for You.
- The Mike And Thomas Show, a rapid, very musical show not unlike Shooting Stars. It consists of the two titular hosts basically just messing about in the guise of a gameshow. And two grand pianos.
- Wie Ben Ik? (Who Am I?), a panel show based around celebrities trying to guess the object, character or concept they've been labeled as. The show made great use of its simplistic rules, letting the comedians run loose and never pretending to be more than it was, resulting in one of the most celebrated light entertainment shows in Dutch TV history.
- New Zealand's local programme Seven Days follows this format, focusing on news stories that happened in the last week. The amount of points awarded per round tends to reference recent news stories, often at impressively different scales (Team one, you can have the number of women that claim to have slept with Tiger Woods; Team Two, you can have the cost of repairing Qantas' air fleet. Team Two wins!).
- Figure It Out has four panelists try to figure out what a contestant's secret talent is before all three rounds are up. Being a Nickelodeon show, lots of slime is expected.
- Bunk, an IFC mock-gameshow with a panel of 3 comedians competing at strange tasks to win strange prizes.
- Comedy World Cup, hosted by David Tennant, which ran for only 7 episodes. In a twist of the normal formal, there were no regulars but four different teams that consisted of the same comedians. The teams were pitted against each other to answer questions regarding comedy history and trivia, and the winner would advance to the next level.
- In 2013, Comedy Central introduced @midnight, a panel game hosted by Chris Hardwick which is themed around internet culture and social media. While its format closer resembles a competitive quiz show, it still gets all the hallmarks down.
- I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is a parody of the panel show genre (featuring many intentionally surreal rounds where scoring points would be completely impossible even if they tried) and has been broadcast with most of the original panelists since 1972.
- The 99p Challenge is a radio panel show that offers up a prize of 99 pence (currently equivalent to US$50,000) to its winners.
- American example: NPR's Wait Wait Dont Tell Me. Not a pure panel game, as it also features segments in which listeners play to win an actual prize, but as the prize is an answering machine greeting from newscaster Carl Kasell, these are played for laughs as much as the ones with only the panelists.
- More panelly American example: NPR's Says You! where a regular cast, consisting mostly of media writers and producers, plays a series of games dealing with trivia and English vocabulary.
- Just a Minute, which, over the years, has placed more and more emphasis on joke-telling than on trying to speak for a minute without repetition, hesitation, or deviation, with the panel now generally composed of stand-up comedians (the original regulars included columnist Clement Freud and comic actors (but not stand-up comedians) Peter Jones, Derek Nimmo, and Kenneth Williams). Host Nicholas Parsons does insist that it is the contributions and not the point-scoring that is most important, but this has not stopped many panelists over the years from taking the "game" aspect very seriously.
- The Unbelievable Truth, hosted by David Mitchell. The three guests give a lecture on a particular subject that is full of lies, except for five truths scattered throughout, and the others have to pick out the truths as they go.
- The News Quiz, something of a radio counterpart to Have I Got News for You (which it predates by thirteen years). In its early years, it was a relatively straight panel game about the week's news, with the panel largely comprising journalists and politicians, but since around the mid-1990s there has been more emphasis on comedy.
- The Museum of Curiosity, which has been described as a sister show to QI.
- A very early example would be Information Please, first broadcast in 1938. Particularly interesting in that the listening public was responsible for sending in the questions asked of the panel members, and they were the ones paid if the panelists got the answer wrong.
- Fighting Talk, which airs every Saturday morning during the football season on BBC Five Live. More competitive than most examples, it features four panelists; usually sportspeople, comedians or journalists, discussing topical sporting news with points awarded for good punditry and passion as well as comedy.
- So Wrong It's Right, another panel show hosted by Charlie Brooker. Comedians (including several regulars such as David Mitchell, Rob Brydon, Holly Walsh, and Lee Mack) compete to tell the "worst" stories, such as the worst thing that happened to them at a party or the worst idea for a restaurant.
- David Firth of Fat-Pie.com doesn't appear to much like panel shows, as displayed in a cartoon he made for Charlie Brooker's show Screenwipe that mocks the pre-written jokes many of them use. It also makes a few jabs at internet videos. See the cartoon here.
- Caught Chatting is presented in this format.
- Guest starring on a Panel Quiz Show is a way for your up-and-coming star/starlet to earn money (and fame) in Star Dream.