QI XL: History

Watching QI is kind of a Sunday morning ritual for me. If you’ve never seen the program before, it’s one of those vaguely pointless but amusing BBC panel quiz shows where no prizes are involved and participants vie for arbitrary “points” that are tallied up at the end of the game.

As the name suggests, QI is always “quite interesting” and filled with obscure trivia; in this week’s edition, on the general theme of history…

On the subject of how points are awarded, the Wikipedia entry for QI quotes Stephen Fry outlining how it works:

Now, the rules are simple. Points are given and points are taken away. They are taken away for answers that are both obvious and wrong, and they’re given not so much for being correct, as for being interesting. Their level of interestingness is impartially determined by a demographically-selected customer service focus consultancy, broken down by age and sex – i.e. me. Erm … because there is no-one more broken down by age and sex than me.

It’s curious that of all the imports from British TV programs that have migrated to America (and Canada) over the years, the panel quiz show has, to the best of my knowledge, never made it on this side of the pond.

5 Replies to “QI XL: History”

  1. The points system is impossible to figure out.

    To my great suprise I actually watched one the other week when Alan Davies didn’t actually come last…

  2. It is odd, really. We do have pub quiz nights here, and these panel shows are basically an extension of that. However, I think it is more of the material and irreverence some of these shows have (HIGNFY being a great example).

    Also, Qi balances a sort of nerdy high-mindedness with playful folly (hence why there are comedians on the panel). This is just my impression, but for some reason, while British programing currently is hardly devoid of the crap we get, there is alway a sliver where ‘knowing for the sake of knowing’ is revered and respected. I contrast this though with the gameshow format over here where there is less emphasis on the pursuit of knowledge and more on the entertainment of winning a new car of a million dollars. University Challenge, for example, has maintained the same format for such a long time and has felt never to include more flashy lights and crazy musical effects to keep the audience interested.

    I can possibly imagine Christopher Plummer doing a Qi version here, but then, we would need Canadian comedians (most of whom are down south or in the U.K. as in the case with Stewart Francis)

  3. While there’s plenty of utterly disgusting crap on British TV (Charlie Brooker’s wickedly critical show that dissected the entertainment media is ample testament to that!), you’re right about the more playfully “high-minded” content that also seems to abound. And even more so on the radio! We have a bit of that, courtesy of the much-maligned CBC, but it’s a marginal exception rather than the rule.

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