QI

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For other uses of "Qi", see Qi (disambiguation).
QI
QI Title Card.jpg
Also known as Quite Interesting
QI XL (extended repeats)
QI VG (compilation episodes)
Genre Comedy
Created by John Lloyd
Directed by Ian Lorimer
Presented by Stephen Fry
Starring Alan Davies
Guest panellists
Theme music composer Howard Goodall
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 12
No. of episodes 169 (plus 1 unbroadcast pilot) (List of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) John Lloyd
Piers Fletcher (Series F onwards)[citation needed]
Editor(s) Nick King
Richard Everton (Series A)
Location(s) The London Studios
Running time 30 minutes
(45 minutes for QI XL)
(30 minutes for QI VG)
Production company(s) Talkback
Quite Interesting Limited
Distributor FremantleMedia[1]
Broadcast
Original channel BBC Four (2003–08)
BBC Two (2003–08; 2011–)
BBC One (2009–11)
BBC HD (2010; 2011–13)
BBC One HD (2010–11)
BBC Two HD (2013–)
Picture format SD: 16:9 576i
(Series A to F)
HD: 16:9 1080i
(Series G and onwards)
Original run 11 September 2003 (2003-09-11) – present
Chronology
Related shows The Museum of Curiosity
No Such Thing As A Fish
The Unbelievable Truth
International versions
QI (Dutch version)
Intresseklubben (Swedish)
QI (Czech version)
External links
Website
Production website

QI (Quite Interesting) is a British comedy panel game television quiz show created and co-produced by John Lloyd, hosted by Stephen Fry, and featuring permanent panellist Alan Davies. Most of the questions are extremely obscure, making it unlikely that the correct answer will be given. To compensate, points are awarded not only for right answers, but also for interesting ones, regardless of whether they are right or even relate to the original question. Conversely, points are deducted from a panellist who gives "answers which are not only wrong, but pathetically obvious,"[2] typically answers that are generally believed to be true but in fact are misconceptions, or for obvious joke answers.[citation needed] These answers are known as forfeits, usually indicated by a loud siren, flashing lights, and the incorrect answer being displayed on screen. In addition, bonus points may be awarded or deducted for various challenges or incorrect references to a certain thing or place, varying from show to show.

The show has received very positive ratings from critics and has been nominated for multiple awards. Several books, DVDs and other tie-ins to the show have been released, and international versions of QI have been made in other countries. QI has a philosophy that "everything is interesting if looked at in the right way";[3] many factual errors in the show have been corrected in later episodes or on the show's blog.

For its first five series, corresponding to the first five letters of the alphabet and shown between 2003 and 2007, episodes premiered on BBC Four and received their first analogue airing on BBC Two a week later, with syndicated episodes of previous series shown on UKTV G2/Dave. QI has the highest viewing figures for any show on BBC Four and Dave.[4][5] From series F in 2008 the show moved to BBC One, with extended-length repeats on BBC Two (titled QI XL).[6] For series G, the regular show moved to a pre-watershed slot, with the extended edition still shown after the watershed. The ninth series saw the show return to a post-watershed slot on BBC Two.[7] The twelfth (L) series ended in January 2015.

Format and concept[edit]

The panel consists of four participants: three rotating and one regular, Alan Davies, who has the seat to the immediate right of the presenter, Stephen Fry. The show's other panellists mainly come from a stand-up comedy or comedy background,[citation needed] although there have also been guests from other fields, including actors, television presenters, poets and scientists.[8][9][10] Davies has appeared in every episode, although in "Divination" he was not able to appear at the studio but was still able to play "from beyond."[11] While Davies has the most wins on the show, having come out on top 17 times, he generally offers up most of the "obvious but wrong" answers and has by far the worst record among panellists.[citation needed] Davies has finished in last place 63 times and also holds the record for the lowest score on the show: −144.[12]

The questions that are posed to the panelists are often misleading or very difficult. Providing an "obvious but wrong"[13] answer results in a sequence of sirens and flashing lights; these answers are "forfeits". Davies is usually the panellist who gives these answers.[13] In the first two series, Fry produced the given answer on a card to show the panellists, while it also flashed on the large screens behind them (except in the pilot episode and the first show of the first series, when only the cards were used).[14] In the third series and onward, Fry's answer cards were dispensed with altogether, leaving only the screens as proof that such answers had been predicted.

Because the show's creators expected that hardly anyone would be able to give a correct answer without significant prompting, they instead encourage sheer interestingness, which is how points are mainly scored.[15] As such, tangential discussions are encouraged, and panellists are apt to branch off into frivolous conversations, give voice to trains of thought, and share humorous anecdotes from their own lives.[15] The number of points given and taken away are normally decided by Fry or beforehand by QI researchers known as "The QI Elves". For example, in one episode Davies was deducted 10 points for suggesting "oxygen" to the question "What is the main ingredient of air?"[16]

Negative scores are common, and occasionally even the victor's score may be negative. Score totals are announced at the conclusion of the show. Fry said "I think we all agree that nobody in this universe understands QI's scoring system."[17] John Lloyd, QI '​s creator, has, on one occasion, admitted that not even he has any idea how the scoring system works, but there is someone who is paid to check on the scores.[18] According to the Series 1 DVD, guests are allowed the right of appeal if they believe their score is wrong, but none has so far exercised that right.[15]

Buzzers[edit]

Each panellist has a buzzer, with the sounds of all four often being based on a theme. They are demonstrated at the beginning of the programme, but are sometimes changed in some way for repeated use.[citation needed] Davies "always gets the most demeaning sound" for his buzzer.[19] One example of a comical twist is in "Bats", when all the first three buzzers were bells, then Davies' buzzer turned out to be a male voice (Leslie Phillips) saying "Well hello! Ding dong!" Apart from the pilot, where the panellists used various objects to draw attention to themselves, two episodes have not used a buzzer system: "Denial & Deprivation" and "Green".

Sometimes, questions are based on the buzzers themselves, usually Davies'. For example, one of his buzzer noises the Series D episode "Descendants" sounded like a Clanger, and the panel had to try and guess what was being said (the answer being "Oh sod it, the bloody thing's stuck again.") In the Series F episode "Fakes and Frauds", all the buzzers sounded like ordinary household objects, but three turned out to be the sound of the superb lyrebird mimicking the noises.

General Ignorance[edit]

In a parody of ubiquitous general knowledge quizzes, the final round is off-topic and called "General Ignorance". It focuses on seemingly easy questions which have obvious but wrong answers, whereas in the main rounds of the show, the panelists' buzzer usage is not usually enforced. The "General Ignorance" questions are introduced by Fry's reminder to keep "fingers on buzzers". "General Ignorance" was featured in every episode until the I (ninth) series, but featured only occasionally in the J (tenth) and K (eleventh) series before appearing regularly again in the L (twelfth) series. Due to the large number of "obvious but wrong" answers, panellists, especially Davies, usually incur the greatest point losses in this round.[citation needed]

Extra tasks[edit]

In some episodes, the panellists are given an extra task to complete during the course of the game. Those who do the best are often awarded extra points. Past tasks have included drawing contests[20] or looking for a specific hidden thing over the course of the show, such as a squirrel or a cuttlefish.[21][22] Extra points may also be rewarded depending on the topic of the episode—for instance during the "France" episode of Series F, panellists were informed that they would receive extra points for any answers given in French.

In the fifth series, Series E, all the episodes had the same extra task: "The Elephant in the Room." In each episode, at least one of the answers was related to elephants. The panellists were required to wave an elephant on a stick when they believed it was the appropriate moment. In series I, the "Nobody Knows" placard—a simple purple card on a stick with a white question mark printed on it—was introduced. Every episode of Series "I" featured one question where nobody knew the answer. Series J introduced Stephen's "Jolly Japes", which involved scientific experiments with an unexpected outcome and odd contraptions. These became "Knick-Knacks" for Series K. During series L, panellists could use their "Spend a penny Bonus" if they thought the answer was related to lavatories.

Production[edit]

Writer and former BBC producer John Lloyd devised the format of the show, and it is produced by Quite Interesting Limited, an organisation set up by Lloyd. QI was originally seen as being an "Annotated Encyclopædia Britannica ... the world's first non-boring encyclopaedia."[15] As a panel game, it was conceived as a radio show, with Lloyd as chairman.[23] While developing the show with Peter Fincham and Alan Yentob, Lloyd decided that it would work better on television. The three pitched it to Lorraine Heggessey, controller of BBC One at the time. Heggessey passed on the format, opting to commission a similar panel game called Class War (which was never made). When Fincham became controller of BBC One, Lloyd pitched it to him, only to be turned down by his former collaborator. Eventually, he pitched it to Jane Root, then controller of BBC Two, who agreed to develop it.[24] When it was decided that the show would air on television, Michael Palin was offered the job of chairman with Fry and Davies as captains of "clever" and "stupid" teams, respectively. However, when Palin decided not to take the job, the producers opted to change the format; Fry became the host, with Davies as the only regular panellist.[23] Root commissioned a pilot and a further 16 episodes after that, although budget limitations reduced the first series to 12 episodes.[24]

Recording[edit]

Recordings usually take place over a few weeks in May or June at The London Studios; three episodes are typically filmed per week and sixteen are filmed for each series.[25]

In the morning on the day of recording, the studio has to be set up. Seven cameras are used to record QI.[26] To check images, forfeits, buzzers and lighting are working, the first technical rehearsal is hosted by floor manager Guy Smart with stand-ins for panellists. Fry, who has been given the list of questions roughly an hour beforehand,[15] hosts the second technical rehearsal at 2pm.[27] Guests may have time to practice with a set of warm-up questions.[26]

Warm-up comedians are used before recording began, frequently Stephen Grant, credited as the Audience Wrangler.[28] Stephen Fry records and tweets audience AudioBoos and introduces the guests before the show.[26] Recordings start at either 4:30pm or 7:30pm and last up to two hours, although only 30 minutes of footage is used for normal episodes and 45 minutes for XL episodes. By 10pm, recording has usually finished and the set has been disassembled.[26] Roughly 16 questions are asked and about half of these make it into the show;[26] 20% of material researched is used in the QI episode, while other facts may appear in the XL version, a QI book, on QI '​s Twitter feed or on their website.[27]

Questions seen beforehand[edit]

The makers of the show insist that the answers are not given to the panellists beforehand.[29] The host is given a list of questions set about an hour before the show, for preparatory purposes, but the guests are forbidden to ask for preparatory materials or other help.[15] It is known that Davies never does any preparation at all.[15]

In an interview with the Radio Times regarding the current state of the BBC, Fry revealed one of the regular panellists insists on seeing the questions before they appear in the show.

"There's only one regular guest who always insists on seeing the questions beforehand and prepares for them. I won't tell you his or her name," he said.

"It really annoys me. In fact, one day, I'll make sure that person is given a list from another programme because they don't need them."[30][31]

Following this comment people asked Fry to come out and say who it was, with several people posting their suggestions as to who it was. Fry later posted on his Twitter account that it was neither Davies nor Rob Brydon.[32]

Research[edit]

The research for the show is mostly carried out by seven people called the "QI Elves", a team which has included Justin Pollard, Vitali Vitaliev,[33] and Molly Oldfield. The "elves" devise the questions, and are able to contact Fry during the show to provide and correct information.[33] Other people involved in researching questions and compiling the scripts are John Mitchinson and Piers Fletcher, known (along with Justin Pollard, Molly Oldfield and James Harkin) as the Question Wranglers,[33] whose research utilizes both Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia.[34] The QI website also has a forum.[35]

A QI Elves podcast, "No Such Thing As A Fish" began on 8 March 2014. The title is taken from an entry into the "Oxford Dictionary of Underwater Life", which was used on the show. The audio from the first episode in which they discuss how they found this fact is used as an introduction.[36] The theme song is "Wasps" from the band "Emperor Yes", which is based on a fact about bees which was used on QI. The song is written as an exchange between the bees, as they defend their hive from attacking wasps by swarming the wasp, and using their body heat to boil the wasps.[37]

Theme tune[edit]

The theme tune was composed by Howard Goodall, who has twice appeared as a panellist on the show. The music for the unbroadcast pilot was planned to be "Wonderful World" by Herman's Hermits. However, the producers were unable to gain clearance to use the song and the DVD edition of the pilot features Goodall's composition.[15]

Different instrumentation occasionally reflects the topic of a particular programme. For example, the Christmas Specials include sleigh bells and have Jingle Bells as a counter-melody, and the "France" episode uses accordion music.[citation needed]

Episodes[edit]

Main article: List of QI episodes

In QI, every series is themed around a different letter of the alphabet, starting with the letter "A". Series are referred to by letter rather than number. The first series started on 11 September 2003, and consisted of topics beginning with A. The second series consisted of topics beginning with "B" and also saw the first attempts to pay attention to a particular theme throughout one episode, e.g. "Birds" (the overriding theme did not necessarily begin with "B", although the questions always contained an element that did). The only exceptions to the alphabet system have been the Christmas specials, where the topics are often just of a Yuletide nature and do not necessarily correspond to that series' letter (although greater attempts have been made to do so since series D.[citation needed])

Series D was the first to see all the episodes focus upon a single topic or theme beginning with the series letter, and for each to be given an official title. This trend has continued with each subsequent series; episodes from previous series were retroactively given titles. A video podcast (featuring the best moments with some out-takes) was planned to accompany series E, but this was instead turned into a set of "Quickies" featured on the QI homepage of the BBC's website. As this decision was not reached until after recording though, they are still referred to as "vodcasts" by whoever is introducing them (usually Fry but occasionally a panellist or even the audience).[38]

Points may be given to (or taken from) the audience, and four episodes have the distinction of being won by the audience: "Death", the 5th episode in series D; "England", the 10th episode in series E; "Flora & Fauna", the 10th episode in series F; and "Greeks", the 14th episode in series G. The audience's win in "Greeks" was only announced during the XL broadcast as their contribution was cut out of the main broadcast. In contrast, the audience lost the 5th episode of series E, "Europe", receiving a forfeit of -100 when they incorrectly sang the first stanza of the German national anthem.

A special stand-alone episode was filmed between 1 and 2 am (GMT) on 6 March 2011 as part of Comic Relief's special 24 Hour Panel People featuring David Walliams, who appeared in various old and new panel game shows throughout a 24-hour period. The shows were streamed live on the Red Nose Day website, and parts of each show were shown during five half hour specials on Comic Relief. The QI episode featured panellists Sue Perkins, Jo Brand, Russell Tovey and David Walliams. Davies admitted through Twitter that he was asked to host the episode when it was not certain if Fry would be available, but Davies declined. Once Fry confirmed his participation, Davies did not hear back from the production team.[39] Unlike the classic format of the show where most questions follow a subject, this episode was instead an hour-long (including breaks) General Ignorance round.[40]

Guest appearances[edit]

Multiple appearances[edit]

The following have all appeared multiple times as one of the guest panellists on the show (as of 23 January 2015). This list only includes 'canonical' episodes of the BBC show. It does not include the unbroadcast pilot, nor the special editions for the Comic Relief and Sport Relief telethons, nor any live stage editions.

Number of wins are indicated in parentheses.

34 appearances

32 appearances

28 appearances

27 appearances

24 appearances

22 appearances

15 appearances

14 appearances

13 appearances

12 appearances

10 appearances

8 appearances

7 appearances

6 appearances

5 appearances

4 appearances

3 appearances

Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr and Phill Jupitus are the only remaining guests to have appeared in every series to date. Rich Hall has the highest number of guest appearances in a single series—6 times in series B (half of the episodes that year)—as well as the highest number of wins by a guest panellist, with 10.

Single appearances[edit]

The following have all made a single appearance as one of the guest panellists on the show (as of 23 January 2015). As above, this list only includes 'canonical' episodes of the BBC show.

a. 1 2 Also made an additional appearance in the unbroadcast pilot.
b. 1 2 Also made an additional appearance in the live Comic Relief episode.

International versions and broadcasts[edit]

As of 2011, QI is distributed by FremantleMedia.[1]

In Australia QI is shown regularly on the ABC. As of July 2014, it currently screens repeats every weekday at 6:30pm on ABC1 and new episodes on Wednesdays at 8pm. The programme was first broadcast on 20 October 2009 after the surprise ratings success of Stephen Fry in America. The ABC aired QI Series F first, but subsequently, in July 2010, ABC1 began broadcasting QI from the very beginning with series A.[41][42] QI has also begun broadcasting on pay TV channel UKTV.[43] ABC has been criticised for showing QI repeats, and other shows featuring Stephen Fry, too frequently.[44]

In March 2010, QI began a run in New Zealand on Prime.[45] On 27 May 2011, Series A of QI was broadcast in South Africa on BBC Entertainment.[46] QI series A-J has also aired on BBC Entertainment in the Nordic countries.[47]

There have been several attempts to broadcast QI in the United States. US networks that have tried to broadcast the series include Comedy Central, PBS, Discovery Channel and BBC America. Show creator and producer John Lloyd said that one factor in the failure to get the show broadcast is due to the cost. As QI features several images during each episode there are copyright issues. Lloyd said in an interview with TV Squad that: "No country in the world has bought the original show and this is partly a matter of cost. The pictures in the background of the show are only cleared for UK usage, so until the show is bought by a Stateside TV company and the rights cleared for World, the programme (is) unaffordable by smaller countries."[48] Amongst the famous names also to express anger over QI not being shown in the US include comedian John Hodgman, who appeared as a "fifth guest" in the second episode of Series G.[49] In 2013, QI was picked up in the US by the streaming video service Hulu.[50] On January 30, 2015, BBC America announced that they had acquired QI and planned on airing the show, beginning with Series J, on February 19, 2015.[51]

Davies has criticised QI being repeated so often, saying "QI being in a soup of shows on one of these repeat channels ... completely devalues the brand". Davies thought the show would gain more viewers when a new series aired if channels "[made] an audience wait for a couple of months".[52]

International versions[edit]

In 2008, the QI format was sold to the Dutch broadcaster VARA. Also called QI, the Dutch version of the show aired for the first time on 27 December and was hosted by the writer Arthur Japin with the comedian Thomas van Luyn taking the role of regular panellist.[53][54] Japin also appeared (in the audience) in a British QI episode, "Gothic", explaining how the name Vincent van Gogh should be pronounced. The series was discontinued after only 8 episodes.

A Swedish version of QI started airing on SVT1 8 September 2012, and is called Intresseklubben. Comedian Johan Wester is hosting Intresseklubben, and Anders Jansson is featured as the regular panellist.[55] A second series covering the letter B started airing in September 2013;[56] series C was recorded in June 2014 and is aired in late 2014.[57]

The Czech version of QI was first broadcast on TV Prima on 14 August 2013. The programme is hosted by Leoš Mareš, with Patrik Hezucký appearing as a guest in every episode.[58][59]

Mistakes and corrections[edit]

Some of the answers on the show have been disputed and shown to be incorrect. For example, in Series A, the show claimed that the longest animal in the world was the lion's mane jellyfish,[60] but this was later corrected in Series C, saying that the longest animal in the world is the bootlace worm.[61] Another episode in Series A, "Astronomy", stated that the Earth's second moon was discovered in 1994 and its orbit was discovered in 1997. In fact, Cruithne was discovered in 1986 and is actually a quasi-satellite.

Members of the public and members of the QI website contact the show to correct information. The error that has attracted the most complaints to date was made in Series B, when it was claimed that the Welsh language has no word for blue. In fact it is glas.[62] The error was explained on the "Banter" section of the series B DVD as a mistake on the part of John Lloyd himself. Another episode in Series B claimed that the language spoken by children's TV characters Bill and Ben was called "Flobbadob" and was named after the onomatopoeic phrase that creator Hilda Brabban's younger brothers (after whom the characters were named) gave to their bath farts during their early childhood.[20] However, in Series D, Fry read out a letter written by Silas Hawkins, the son of veteran voice-over talent Peter Hawkins, who provided the original voices of the characters:

The fart-in-the-bath story was trotted out last year in an episode of Stephen Fry's otherwise admirable quiz show QI. It (the story) first appeared some twenty years ago in a newspaper article, to which my father immediately wrote a rebuttal. This was obviously ferreted out by some BBC researcher. It may be quite interesting, but in this case, it just isn't true.[63]

Fry then apologised and corrected the error, saying, with mock gravitas, "Their language is called 'Oddle poddle'. 'Flobbadob' means 'Flowerpot' in Oddle poddle." [63]

At the end of the third series, Dara Ó Briain was deducted points for having stated, in the previous series, that the triple point of water is zero degrees Celsius, an answer which earned him 2 points at the time.[64] Viewers however, wrote in to say that the triple point of water is in fact 0.01 degrees, and so the 2 points awarded Dara in the previous series were revoked and he received a further deduction of 10 points for "saying a now obvious answer".[65]

Various other retractions are made by the producers of the show on the special features of the DVD releases. The origin of the error may also be explained. (Information contributed by a panellist during a discussion, but which has since been found to be false, is also corrected here.) For instance, Fry made a mistake when explaining why helium makes your voice higher, in the series B Christmas special. He claimed that the gas only affected the frequency, but not the pitch, despite them being the same thing; in actuality, the timbre is affected.

The "Knowledge" episode in Series K included point refunds for the three panellists who had appeared previously; it was explained that facts only last so long before they are proven to be wrong, and that roughly half the facts presented in the episode will be found to be incorrect within around a decade. As an example, they took the Earth's moons question from series A and B, in which it was stated there were two and six respectively, and corrected the answer to that there are now at least eighteen thousand natural objects in orbit of Earth. The largest point refund went to Davies, who received in excess of seven hundred wrongly deducted points.[66] Fry made other corrections in the episode, relating to lobster ages,[67] the evolution of giraffe's necks[68] and millipede legs.[69]

More recently, the online forum now includes a "QI Qibbles" blog, which aims to rectify further mistakes in the series.[70]

Culture[edit]

QI has stated it follows a philosophy: everything in the world, even that which appears to be the most boring, is "quite interesting" if looked at in the right way. The website states that:

We live, they say, in The Information Age, yet almost none of the information we think we possess is true. Eskimos do not rub noses. The rickshaw was invented by an American. Joan of Arc was not French. Lenin was not Russian. The world is not solid, it is made of empty space and energy, and neither haggis, whisky, porridge, clan tartans or kilts are Scottish. So we stand, silent, on a peak in Darien a vast, rolling, teeming, untrodden territory before us. QI country. Whatever is interesting we are interested in. Whatever is not interesting, we are even more interested in. Everything is interesting if looked at in the right way. At one extreme, QI is serious, intensely scientific, deeply mystical; at the other it is hilarious, silly and frothy enough to please the most indolent couch-potato.[3]

On 28 December 2009, the BBC Radio 4 panel game The Unbelievable Truth, hosted by frequent QI guest panellist David Mitchell, broadcast a New Year's Special which paid tribute to QI. The show featured Fry, Davies and Lloyd on the panel, as well as Rob Brydon, another regular QI participant.[71]

Controversy[edit]

Tsutomu Yamaguchi comments[edit]

In December 2010, panellists on QI made jokes during a discussion about Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who survived both atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.[72] Yamaguchi had died only earlier that year.[72] The Japanese embassy in London wrote a letter of complaint to the BBC about the content of its quiz show after being alerted to the offensive content when viewers in Japan contacted diplomatic staff.[72] Yamaguchi's daughter also made known how upset she was as a result of the comments broadcast on the BBC.[73] She said that Britain, as a nuclear power, had no right to "look down" on her father.[74]

In January 2011, the BBC issued an apology for "any offence caused" to Japan by the incident, recognising "the sensitivity of the subject matter for Japanese viewers".[72] In February 2011, the BBC blamed a "strength of feeling" in Japan following its atomic bomb joke broadcast for the cancellation of the filming of part of its Planet Word documentary in Japan,[75] which was due to be presented by Fry.[76]

Baroness Thatcher comments[edit]

In February 2011, the BBC received several complaints about jokes made in an episode of QI about Baroness Margaret Thatcher. A panellist, Jo Brand, commented that Lady Thatcher sounded like "a device for removing pubic hair". Later, panellist Phil Jupitus shouted "Burn the witch!" when a digitally altered picture of Thatcher was shown on-screen. Several Conservative politicians condemned the remarks; Baron Norman Tebbit complained that "Lady Thatcher has been treated like this by the BBC for the past 30 years". A spokesperson for the BBC said that the episode was filmed in June 2010 and had no relation to current events.[77]

Episode featuring Jeremy Clarkson[edit]

In 2011, an episode of QI featuring Jeremy Clarkson as a guest was pulled, as Clarkson had recently made controversial comments about people committing suicide by jumping in front of trains. The QI episode did not contain anything offensive, but was postponed "to avoid putting Clarkson in the spotlight". The episode, on the subject of "idleness", was aired later.[78][79]

Reception[edit]

You feel like you're at the pub with the funny, clever people, ear-wigging on their slightly tipsy meanderings, rather than standing against a wall while they fire their joke cannons at you. It draws you in, all that familiarity and casual pontification.

Julia Raeside of The Guardian[19]

QI was received very positively by its viewers. It was the most popular programme on BBC Four in 2005,[80] and one of its books, The Book of General Ignorance, became a global bestseller for Christmas 2006.[81][82]

QI has been supported by nearly all critics. Peter Chapman said, "When the schedules seem so dumbed-down, it's a delight to encounter the brainy and articulate Stephen Fry. He excels in this format, being both scathing and generous."[83] Another critic, Laura Barton said, "QI and its canny coupling of Stephen Fry and Alan Davies, which manages to condense tweedy goodness, cockney charm, pub trivia and class war into one half-hour."[84]

Julia Raeside from The Guardian reviewed the show during its tenth series, calling it "still rather more than quite interesting" and complimenting it for being "one of the last truly popular programmes on mainstream television where comedians are allowed to be clever". Raeside noted ratings were still high, as four million viewers (in total) watched the first J series episode of QI and QI XL.[19] An American critic, Liesl Schillinger described QI as, "Jeopardy with Stephen Colbert as host, with Steve Martin and Ellen DeGeneres as guests, working off a game board loaded with unanswerable questions."[85][86]

Matt Smith gave QI Live a positive review, calling it "funny, educational, and ... quite interesting"; Smith noted there was a "great deal of Fry worship" and that, due to high ticket prices, "only the most dedicated Fry fans ... would come to this show". He commented that "much like the television show, your enjoyment of the stage version will be affected by how you perceive the guests", but went on to say that he enjoyed the line-up in the show he saw.[87]

Awards[edit]

Year Ceremony Category Outcome Notes
2004 BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Nominated [88]
2005 BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Nominated [88]
BAFTA Awards Lew Grade Award
John Lloyd
Ian Lorimer
Nominated [88]
2006 British Comedy Guide Best British TV Panel Show/Satire Won [89]
Rose d'Or Light Entertainment Festival Best Game Show Host
Stephen Fry
Won [90]
2007 British Comedy Guide Best British TV Panel Show/Satire Won [91]
BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Nominated [88]
British Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievers Award
Stephen Fry
Won [92]
British Book Awards TV and Film Book of the Year
The Book of General Ignorance
Nominated [93]
2008 Royal Television Society Entertainment Won [94]
Royal Television Society Entertainment Performance Nominated [95]
Televisual Bulldog Awards Best Panel, Quiz or Chat Show Won [96]
BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Nominated [88]
British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Panel Show Won
2009 Televisual Bulldog Awards Best Panel, Quiz or Chat Show Won [97]
2011 BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Nominated [88]
British Comedy Awards Best Female TV Comic
Sarah Millican
Nominated [98]
TV Quick Awards Best Entertainment Show Nominated [99]
2012 Comedy.co.uk Award Best TV Panel Show Won [100][101]
National Television Awards Most Popular Comedy Panel Show Nominated [102]
2013 National Television Awards Most Popular Comedy Panel Show Won [103]

Media releases[edit]

QI has entered a number of different media, and has seen an increasing number of tie-in DVDs, books and newspaper columns released since 2005.

Books[edit]

UK[edit]

The first QI book was 2006's The Book of General Ignorance, published in hardback on 5 October by Faber and Faber. (ISBN 9780571233687)[104] Written by producer and series-creator John Lloyd and QI's head of research, John Mitchinson, it includes a foreword by Fry and "Four words" by Davies ("Will this do, Stephen?"). Most of the book's facts and clarifications have appeared on the programme, including its list of 200 popular misconceptions, many of which featured during the "General Ignorance" rounds. On 8 December 2006, the book "became a surprise bestseller over the Christmas period, becoming Amazon's number one Global bestseller for Christmas 2006."[105] By the end of January 2007, it had sold more than 300,000 copies (and subsequently over half a million[106]), paving the way for subsequent (projected) annual book releases to capitalise on the UK Christmas book market.[105] The Official QI website notes that it will soon be published in 23 countries.[106]

Pocket-sized and audio versions of General Ignorance went on sale the following year. In 2008, a newly revised version was published under the title of The Book of General Ignorance: The Noticeably Stouter Edition. This edition corrected and updated some of the information from the first print, while adding 50 new sections (and extra illustrations) to the original 230. It also included quotes from the series, new "Four Words" by Davies and added a complete episode listing from Series A–F, along with an index.[107]

QI's second book, The Book of Animal Ignorance, was released in the UK (in the same hardback format) by Faber & Faber on 4 October 2007. (ISBN 978-0-571-23370-0)[108] It promised to be a "bestiary for the 21st century,"[109] and contains almost completely new quite interesting facts.[110] The book includes "400 diagrams and cartoons by the brilliant Ted Dewan", another Foreword by Stephen Fry and a "Forepaw" by Alan Davies.[110] This publication has also been followed by a pocket-sized version.[111]

On the Factoids feature of the Series A DVD, John Lloyd mentioned an idea he'd had for a QI book of quotations, under the working title Quote Interesting. This book was eventually published in 2008 as Advanced Banter.[107] Similarly, on the Banter feature of the series B DVD, Lloyd also previewed the title of QI's fourth book, The QI Book of the Dead, which went on sale on 15 October 2009.[112]

7 October 2010 saw the publication of QI's fifth book—The Second Book of General Ignorance. Written by the same authors, this book covers a whole new series of questions on a wide variety of topics, which promises to prove that "everything you think you know is (still) wrong".[113]

The sixth QI book, 1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off, a list of facts, was published on 1 November 2012. James Harkin, QI's chief researcher, co-wrote the book with Lloyd and Mitchinson.[114]

QI's first annual, The QI "E" Annual or The QI Annual 2008 was published by Faber and Faber on 1 November 2007, to coincide with the initial airing of the TV show's E series (ISBN 978-0-571-23779-1).[115] Succeeding years have seen the publication of F, G and H annuals, concurrent with the BBC show's chronology, though retrospective annuals on the first four letters of the alphabet have yet to be published. The covers, which feature various cartoon scenes starring caricatures of Fry and regular QI panellists, are produced by David Stoten (one of Roger Law's Spitting Image team), who also contributed to the annuals' contents. Many of said cover stars are also credited with contributing content to the annuals, which also provide a showcase for Rowan Atkinson's talents as a 'rubber-faced' comic, as well as the comic stylings of Newman and Husband from Private Eye, Viz's Chris Donald, Geoff Dunbar, Ted Dewan and The Daily Telegraph's Matt Pritchett.[116]

France[edit]

A French edition entitled Les autruches ne mettent pas la tête dans le sable : 200 bonnes raisons de renoncer à nos certitudes ("Ostriches don't put their heads in the sand: 200 good reasons to give up our convictions") was published by Dunod on 3 October 2007. (ISBN 978-2-100-51732-9)[117] It is released as part of Dunod's "Cult.Science"/"Oh, les Sciences !" series, which also includes titles by Robert L. Wolke, Ian Stewart and Raymond Smullyan.[118]

Italy[edit]

An Italian edition entitled Il libro dell'ignoranza ("The book of ignorance") was published by Einaudi in 2007 and in 2009 the same publisher published Il libro dell'ignoranza sugli animali ("The book of ignorance about animals").

US[edit]

On 7 August 2007, The Book of General Ignorance was published in America by Harmony Books. (ISBN 0-307-39491-3) It features a sparser cover downplaying its links to the TV series, which has yet to be broadcast in the US. The book received glowing reviews from both Publishers Weekly[119] and the New York Times, which recommended it in its "Books Holiday Gift Guide".[120] (It subsequently entered the New York Times' "Hardcover Advice" best-seller charts at #10 on 9 December,[121] falling to #11 two weeks later where it stayed until mid-January, before falling out of the top 15 on 20 January.)[122]

DVDs[edit]

A number of DVDs related to QI have also been released, including interactive quizzes, and complete series releases.

Interactive quizzes[edit]

On 14 November 2005 an interactive QI DVD game, called QI: A Quite Interesting Game, was released by Warner Home Video. A second interactive game, QI: Strictly Come Duncing followed on the 26 November 2007, from Warner's Music division.[123] Both games feature Fry asking questions, and then explaining the answers in full QI-mode.

Complete series releases[edit]

A DVD release for the first series was the direct result of an internet petition signed by 1,821 people, which persuaded the BBC of the interest in such a move.[124] Series A, was therefore released by BBC Worldwide's DVD venture, 2 entertain Ltd. on 6 November 2006 (as "QI: The Complete First Series").[125] It contains a number of outtakes as well as the unbroadcast pilot.[125] Sales over the Christmas period, however (in stark contrast to The Book of General Ignorance, which topped the Amazon.co.uk best-seller list), were not as strong as hoped.[105] A lack of adequate advertising is thought to be to blame (and subsequent episodes of QI have since trailed the DVD), and may have factored in the label change for Series B.[105][126][127] Series B was released on 17 March 2008,[126][127] followed by Series C on 1 September.[128] In Australia, a box set of series 1–3 (Series A-C) was released in September 2011.[129] Additionally, a single DVD titled "The Best Bits" containing clips from Series G was released 3 June 2010.[130] Two years later a three DVD set labelled as "Series 9" was released in August 2012, containing the Series H episodes.[131] The Series 9 DVD title was later changed to "The H Series"[132] and The Series J was released also in Australia on 5 March 2014.[133]

DVD Title No. of Discs Year No. of Episodes DVD release
Region 2 Region 4
Complete Series A 2 2003 13 6 November 2006[125] Complete Series
1–3 (A-C)

14 September 2011[129][134]

Complete Series B 2 2004 12 17 March 2008[126]
Complete Series C 2 2005 12 1 September 2008[128]
The Best Bits
(Series G)
1 2009 & 2010 Various
episode clips
3 June 2010
[130][135]
The H Series 3 20102011 16 2 August 2012[a][131][132]
The J Series 3 20122013 16 5 March 2014[133]
  1. ^ This DVD was originally released as "Series 9" but later had its name changed to "The H Series".

Online releases[edit]

QI XL series F, G, H and I are available on Netflix but can only be streamed in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Series H and I are available in High Definition.[136]

QI series I, J and K are available on Hulu but can only be streamed in the United States.[137]

Other media[edit]

Since 10 February 2007, a weekly QI column has run in The Telegraph newspaper. Fifty-two columns were planned, originally alphabetically themed like the TV series and running from A to Z twice, but the feature is ongoing and was recently re-launched in the newspaper's Saturday magazine and online.[138] A QI feature has appeared in BBC MindGames magazine since its fifth issue, and revolves around facts and questions in the General Ignorance-mould. There is also a weekly QI linked multiple choice question featured in the Radio Times, with the solution printed in the feedback section. QI also has an official website, QI.com, which features facts, forums and other information. It also links to QI's internet show QI News, a parody news show which broadcasts "News" items about things which are "quite interesting".[139] QI News stars Glenn Wrage and Katherine Jakeways as the newsreaders, Bob Squire and Sophie Langton.[139]

On 22 December 2010, Faber and Faber released a QI App. Amongst the features of the App are a library containing the complete contents of The Book of General Ignorance, The Book of Animal Ignorance and The QI Book of the Dead, arranged as 56 "themed book" on a customisable scrollable shelf. There is also a rolling selection of quotes from Advanced Banter. The App also allows users send interesting information to the QI elves in the form of "postcards" and can be rated on the "Interestingometer".[107][140] The top 10 most popular facts every week are listed on the QI website.[141]

The QI Test[edit]

The QI Test was a planned spin-off version of QI that was to be broadcast on BBC Two. Created by Lloyd, Talkback Thames' Dave Morely and former QI Commercial Director Justin Gayner, The QI Test differed from QI in that it would have featured members of the public as contestants instead of comedians and celebrities. It would have been broadcast during the daytime schedules. The pilot was not hosted by Fry and was recorded in November 2009, but a series has yet to materialise.[142]

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External links[edit]