A panel game or panel show is a radio or television game show in which a panel of celebrities participates. Panelists may compete with each other, such as on The News Quiz; facilitate play by guest contestants, such as on Match Game/Blankety Blank; or do both, such as on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! The genre can be traced to 1938, when Information Please debuted on U.S. radio. The modern trend of comedy panel shows can find early roots with Stop Me If You've Heard This One in 1939 and Can You Top This? in 1940. While panel shows were more popular in the past in the U.S., they are still very common in the United Kingdom.
While many early panel shows stuck to the traditional quiz show format in which celebrities tried to get the right answers and win, the primary goal of modern panel shows is to entertain the audience with comedy, with the game or quiz structure merely serving up subjects that the celebrity panelists can play around with. With the panelists trying to be entertaining more than win points, scoring is often deemphasized. The American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? acknowledged this with the introduction, "Welcome to Whose Line Is It Anyway, the show where everything's made up and the points don't matter." QI's opaque scoring system is purportedly a mystery even to its creator, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue dispenses with points altogether, and many other shows reveal points only at the end or declare a winner without mentioning the score.
Panel games can have any number of themes. Many are topical and satirical, such as Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, Have I Got News for You, The News Quiz and Mock The Week. 8 Out of 10 Cats is based on opinion polling, What's My Line? is about occupations, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Face The Music center on music, A League of Their Own and A Question of Sport are sports-themed, Quote... Unquote and Who Said That? feature quotations, My Word! involves wordplay, I've Got a Secret is about secrets, To Tell The Truth and Would I Lie to You? deal with lies, and It Pays to Be Ignorant and I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue are parodies.
Some panel games are variations of classic parlor games. Twenty Questions is based on the parlor game of the same name, Give Us a Clue is modeled after Charades, and Call My Bluff and Balderdash are based on Fictionary.
Frequently, a panel show features recurring panelists or permanent team captains, and some panelists appear on multiple panel shows.
Most shows are recorded before a studio audience.
The first known example of a panel game in the world is the radio program Information Please, which debuted on 17 May 1938 on the NBC Blue Network. An evolution of the quiz show format, Information Please added the key element of a panel of celebrities, largely writers and intellectuals, but also actors and politicians. Listeners would mail in questions, winning prizes for stumping the panel.
U.S. panel games transferred to television and saw their peak of popularity in the 1950s and '60s, when, in addition to shorter-lived series on other networks, CBS ran the three longest-running panel shows in prime time: What's My Line?, I've Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth. At times, they were among the top ten shows on U.S. television, and they continue to experience occasional revivals on daytime television and cable. All three Goodson-Todman primetime shows were cancelled by CBS in 1967 amid ratings declines and trouble attracting younger viewers, although the programs were consistently profitable by being among the cheapest television shows to produce. Their cancellations came as attention to demographics and a focus on younger viewers gained currency among advertisers. The departures of these three New York-based shows were also part of a mass migration of television production to Los Angeles, leaving only one primetime show produced on the East Coast.
Later years saw several successes in the format, with Match Game; Hollywood Squares; The Gong Show; Win, Lose or Draw; Celebrity Sweepstakes; Password and Pyramid primarily running in the daytime and airing in their greatest numbers during the '70s and '80s. Later, the U.S. version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? had a primetime run from 1998 to 2004 on ABC, while Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! has become a popular weekend show on NPR since 1998.
There have been several attempts in recent years to bring the comedy-driven UK panel show format to the US. Three US versions of Have I Got News For You have been piloted, including for NBC in 2009 and TBS in 2012. A TV version of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! was piloted for CBS in 2008, and a televised special aired on BBC America as a backdoor pilot in 2011. Several episodes of a US version of The News Quiz have aired on BBC Radio 4 and WNYC public radio in 2012 and 2013. BBC America aired one season of Would You Rather...? with Graham Norton, a panel show recorded in the United States in 2011, and NBC aired both The Marriage Ref in 2010-11 and Hollywood Game Night in 2013. Whose Line Is It Anyway? was revived by The CW in 2013.
Panel games are particularly popular in the United Kingdom, where they've found continued success since the BBC adapted its first radio panel shows from classic parlor games. Perhaps the earliest UK panel show is the BBC radio adaptation of Twenty Questions, which debuted on 28 February 1947. Panel games can have decades-long runs in the UK: Twenty Questions lasted until 1976, while Just a Minute has remained on the air with the same host since 1967. Other long-running games on radio include I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue since 1972, The News Quiz since 1977, and My Word! from 1956 to 1990.
The British version of What's My Line? may have been the first television panel game in the UK, with an original run from 1951 to 1963, and several remakes in later years.
Current British panel games have become showcases for the nation's top stand-up and improv comedians, as well as career-making opportunities for new comedians. Regular comics on panel shows often go on to star in sitcoms and other TV shows. Popular television panel shows include Have I Got News for You, Would I Lie to You?, QI, Mock the Week, 8 Out of 10 Cats, and the annual special, The Big Fat Quiz of the Year. Many of the top panel shows air on BBC One, though BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4, Sky1 and others have all had successes in the format. The News Quiz, Just a Minute, I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and The Unbelievable Truth are just a few of many panel shows on radio, mostly, but not exclusively, airing on BBC Radio 4.
New Zealand panel games include the topical TV show 7 Days and the New Zealand version of Would I Lie To You?
French panel games include L'Académie des neuf ("The Academy of Nine", based on Hollywood Squares), Burger Quiz, Cluedo (based on Cluedo/Clue), Le Francophonissime, Incroyables Expériences ("Incredible Experiences") and Kamoulox (a portmanteau of the creators' names).
German panel games include 7 Tage, 7 Köpfe ("7 Days, 7 Heads"), Genial daneben ("Idiot Savant"), Kopfball ("Headball"), Die Montagsmaler ("Pictionary"), Noch Besserwissen ("Even Better Knowledge"), Pssst … (similar to I've Got A Secret), Die Pyramide (the German version of Pyramid), Quizfire, Sag die Wahrheit ("Tell the Truth", the German version of To Tell the Truth), Typisch Frau – Typisch Mann ("Typical Woman – Typical Man"), Was bin ich? ("What am I?", the German version of What's My Line?) and Was denkt Deutschland? ("What Does Germany Think?").
Japanese panel games include おしゃべりクイズ疑問の館 ("Chat House Quiz Questions"), 二十の扉 ("Twenty Doors", based on Twenty Questions), 話の泉 ("Source of the Story", based on Information Please), ABOBAゲーム ("ABOBA Game"), 一攫千金ヤマワケQ! ("Yamawake Fortune Q!"), おっちゃんVSギャル ("Uncle vs. Gal"), クイズ仕事人 ("Business People Quiz"), クイズ!紳助くん ("Shinsuke-kun Quiz"), 3・3が9イズ ("3.3 is 9", based on Hollywood Squares), 世界痛快伝説!!運命のダダダダーン! ("Thrilling World Legend! Fate! Da-da-da-da!") and 世界痛快伝説!!運命のダダダダーン! ("Thrilling World Legend! Destiny! Da-da-da-da!").
- Russell Davies, host (9 April 2011). "Episode 2". Let's Get Quizzical. 1 minutes in. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio4/2011/04/lets_get_quizzical_-_brains_pi.html. Retrieved 19 May 2011. "In the old days, quizzes and panel games were easy to tell apart, because quiz competitors were people you'd never heard of, and panellists were more or less well-known figures. More recently, though, the rise of the celebrity quiz has complicated the picture."
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