The Museum of Curiosity

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Not to be confused with The Museum of Everything.
The Museum of Curiosity
Lloyd and Bailey.jpg
John Lloyd and Bill Bailey hosting an episode from the first series of The Museum of Curiosity.
Other names The Professor of Curiosity (unbroadcast pilot)
Genre Panel game
Running time 30 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language(s) English
Home station BBC Radio 4
Starring
Creator(s)
Producer(s)
  • Richard Turner
  • Dan Schreiber
Air dates since 20 February 2008 (2008-02-20)
No. of series 7
No. of episodes 36 + 1 unbroadcast pilot
Opening theme
  • Bill Bailey (Series 1)
  • House of Strange (Series 2 onwards)
Ending theme
  • Bill Bailey (Series 1)
  • House of Strange (Series 2 onwards)
Website BBC Homepage

The Museum of Curiosity, formerly titled The Professor of Curiosity,[1] is a comedy panel game on BBC Radio 4 that was first broadcast on 20 February 2008.[2] It is hosted by John Lloyd (Professor of Ignorance at the University of Buckingham, and later at Southampton Solent University). He acts as the head of the (fictional) titular museum, while a panel of three guests – typically a comedian, an author and an academic – each donate to the museum an ‘object’ that fascinates them. The radio medium ensures that the suggested exhibits can be absolutely anything, limited only by the guests’ imaginations.

Bill Bailey acted as co-host of the programme in the first series,[3] under the title of curator of the museum. Bailey left the show after he initially decided to "retire" from panel games,[4] and was replaced by Sean Lock in the second series. Each subsequent series has seen a different comedian take over as the sidekick/curator, with Jon Richardson, Dave Gorman, Jimmy Carr, Humphrey Ker and Phill Jupitus assuming the role in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh series respectively. Gorman also stood in for Richardson for one episode of the third series, after Richardson was stranded due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. Ker also functioned as a stand-in, this time for Jimmy Carr, when Carr was unable to attend one episode in series 5.

The programme has often been compared to the television panel game QI. Both were co-created by Lloyd, several of the Museum's 'curators' and comic guests have appeared regularly on QI, and the QI Elves (QI's research team, who provide host Stephen Fry with live information as required during the programme) provide the research. As a result, some critics consider the radio show to be a spin-off of the TV programme,[3][5] and some have further ventured that The Museum of Curiosity is not as good as its forerunner.[6] Most reviews of The Museum of Curiosity, however, are positive.[7][8]

Format[edit]

In series one, the programme began with Bailey introducing the show and playing its theme tune, which he performed in a slightly different way in each episode. In subsequent series, the theme tune was, instead, performed by House Of Strange Studios of East London. The host/professor and the curator/sidekick introduce themselves. They then give a short guide to the museum, followed by the introduction of the "advisory committee", a guest panel made up of celebrities and academic experts, during which Lloyd reads their CVs aloud.[9]

Afterward, each member of the "committee" donates something to the museum. The donation can be anything, regardless of its size, cost, tangibility, or even existence. Examples of donations include a yeti,[10] the Battle of Waterloo,[11] and absolutely nothing.[12] Lloyd and the curator then decide what form the exhibit could take and where in the museum it could be displayed. In series one, the programme ended either with Lloyd and Bailey reading audience suggestions for additional exhibits or asking the audience curious questions [example needed]. Bailey ended the show by giving a humorous comment on a Bertrand Russell quote. Both of these ideas were dropped in series two.[9]

From series two onward, the show has maintained a standard format. It is presented in two halves; in the first half, Lloyd and the curator introduce the three guests, provide an explanation of who they are, and the five engage in a general discussion. In the second half, the curator declares the Museum open for donations, and each guest explains what they wish to "donate" to the museum (again, as the museum is fictional, nothing is actually exchanged). Questioning of all three guests ensures that everyone says something about each donation.

Production[edit]

The programme's pilot episode was recorded on 16 April 2007 and was the entitled The Professor of Curiosity. The guests for this episode were Alastair Fothergill, Victoria Finlay and Simon Munnery. This pilot, recorded at the Rutherford Room at the institute of Physics, has not been broadcast.[13] The first series was recorded at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington and, since then, the show has been recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre, with occasional recordings at other venues, such as the Shaw Theatre and RADA Studios (formerly The Drill Hall), all in London.[13] The series was created by Lloyd, Richard Turner and Dan Schreiber. Turner and Schreiber also produce the show. The show's researchers are James Harkin, Xander Cansell (for series one), Molly Oldfield (from series two onward) and Stevyn Colgan (Series 5 onward).[3][13]

A live version of the show was staged at the Natural History Museum, London on 9 November 2012 for charity. The guests for this edition were Terry Pratchett, Dave Gorman, Alan West, Baron West of Spithead, Helen Keen, Richard Fortey and Erica McAlister. The show was hosted by John Lloyd, with Producer Dan Schreiber taking the role of curator.

Further live shows were staged at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe featuring a number of top comedians and other guests.

Episodes[edit]

The front covers of the scripts for The Professor of Curiosity and episode three of The Museum of Curiosity.

Series 1[edit]

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 20 February 2008
2 27 February 2008
3 5 March 2008
4 12 March 2008
5 19 March 2008
6 26 March 2008

Series 2[edit]

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 4 May 2009
2 11 May 2009
3 18 May 2009
4 25 May 2009
5 1 June 2009
6 8 June 2009
  • A P-51 Mustang (James)
  • Tempting fate (Minchin)
  • Inventions being used for things they were not designed for (Pullman)

Series 3[edit]

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 10 May 2010
2 17 May 2010[fn 1]
3 24 May 2010
4 31 May 2010
5 7 June 2010[fn 2]
6 14 June 2010
  • Pictures of animals in clothes (Millican)
  • International Ignorance Day (Eagleman)
  • Jack Benny's vault (Gaiman)

Series 4[edit]

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 3 October 2011
  • God (Stavrakopoulou)
  • A Curta calculator (Bellos)
  • A book containing all the jokes in the world (Carr)
2 10 October 2011
3 17 October 2011
4 24 October 2011
5 31 October 2011
6 7 November 2011

Series 5[edit]

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 1 October 2012
2 8 October 2012
3 15 October 2012
4 22 October 2012
5 29 October 2012
6 5 November 2012

Series 6[edit]

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 30 September 2013
2 7 October 2013
3 14 October 2013
  • A sandbag (Stringer)
  • A funnyometer (Bussmann)
  • A machine to give judges electric shocks if they slept in court (Ingrams)
4 21 October 2013
5 28 October 2013
6 4 November 2013

Series 7[edit]

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 6 October 2014
2 13 October 2014
3 20 October 2014
4 27 October 2014
5 3 November 2014
6 10 November 2014

Reception[edit]

Reaction to the series was mixed. Phil Daoust in The Guardian described the show as being "unusual" and "eclectic".[22] Chris Campling, who wrote a preview of the first episode, highlighted it in his "Radio Choice" column for The Times.[7] Gillian Reynolds highlighted the programme as one of her radio choices in the Daily Telegraph.[23] Rosanna Chianta in Scotland on Sunday compared the show positively to QI, also created by Lloyd,[24] while Frances Lass from the Radio Times said it was better, claiming it was, "QI with even more jokes. Made me bark with laughter",[25] that, "Lord Reith would be so proud" and the programme was, "Pornography for the brain!"[26]

Miranda Sawyer of The Observer criticised the show, saying that, "it's no QI, because the joy of that programme rests almost entirely in the host, Stephen Fry, and his subversion of the prissy, clever character we're familiar with (in QI, Fry is clever, but relaxed). The Museum of Curiosity is presented partly by Bill Bailey and mostly by John Lloyd, producer of QI (are you getting a theme?). Lloyd may well be a nice chap, but we haven't a clue who he is, and, on the evidence of this, he isn't a big or witty enough character for us to feel desperate to get to know him."[6]

Nicholas Lezard in The Independent on Sunday was lukewarm about the show, saying that the combination of comedian and scientist guests "more or less worked", but he felt the show may not have been greenlit without Lloyd and Bailey's involvement.[5]

Kate Chisholm in The Spectator found the show a welcome change from the "smutty jokes and banal innuendo" usually associated with the timeslot, and compared the series to Paul Merton's Room 101, "but without the ego".[8]

Elisabeth Mahoney in The Guardian was critical of the second series. While praising the discussion between the guests as, "funny and flowing, and quite endearingly quirky", she found that the programme "fizzled away when it reached what ought to have been its crux: the donation of kooky items to the imaginary museum. Instead, we had a reminder of what they were, and then a sudden ending that was both limp and abrupt."[27]

After appearing on the show in series 6, Richard Herring wrote on his blog: "What a delightful and fascinating programme this is (and one that I think might benefit from an extended podcast release - two hours of material is recorded for the 27 minute show and it's pretty much all gold!). At times I was so enjoying listening to the others talking that I almost forgot that I was meant to be taking part. It was a wide-ranging discussion taking in ants on stilts, pianists with crippling, mechanical little fingers, the changing meridian and okapi sex (can you guess what I contributed?). The show has a dedicated team of nerds behind it who have dug out amazing facts and I love the way it has a panel comprising of comedians, scientists and experts and attempts to link each contribution to similar areas of the different disciplines. While most TV panel shows (including to some extent even QI) gravitate to putting in the same well-known comedy faces, you get a lot more interesting stuff by mixing it up a bit. The zoologist, Dr Christofer Clemente, came up with the funniest lines of the show. But would they book him on Mock The Week? It's intelligent and stimulating programming that is increasingly being edged out of TV and even radio, leaving a gaping open goal for independent internet productions to score in. I discussed this with one of the razor-minded team after the show. The TV companies insist on getting big names into all shows, which takes up all the budget and seems to ignore the fact that the pool of possible contributors gets smaller and more boring. But glad that a few shows designed to expand the mind rather than crush the spirit still exist."[28]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Richardson was unable to attend the recording as he was stranded in Australia due to the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. His role was taken over for the show by Dave Gorman.[20]
  2. ^ For this episode, the museum was looking for "new members of staff", so all the donations were curious people.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Pilot". The Professor of Curiosity.
  2. ^ Lavalie, John (2008-03-30). "The Museum of Curiosity". epguides.com. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  3. ^ a b c "Curious commission: R4 to make QI spin-off". Chortle.co.uk. 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  4. ^ Maxwell, Dominic (2008-11-11). "Bill Bailey: I don't mock the weak". The Times. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  5. ^ a b Lezard, Nicholas (2008-02-24). "The Museum of Curiosity, Radio 4: Try pitching this to the boss". The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  6. ^ a b Sawyer, Miranda (2008-02-24). "Whatever the Doctor does is fine by me". The Observer. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  7. ^ a b Campling, Chris (2008-02-20). "Backstage at the Brits; The Museum of Curiosity - Radio Choice". The Times. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  8. ^ a b Chisholm, Kate (2008-03-05). "An English malady". The Spectator. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  9. ^ a b Wolf, Ian. "A Guide Around The Museum". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  10. ^ "Episode 1". The Museum of Curiosity. Season 1. Episode 1. 2008-02-20.
  11. ^ "Episode 4". The Museum of Curiosity. Season 1. Episode 4. 2008-03-12.
  12. ^ "Episode 3". The Museum of Curiosity. Season 1. Episode 3. 2008-03-05.
  13. ^ a b c Wolf, Ian. "The Museum of Curiosity - Production Details, Plus Regular Cast and Crew". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 2008-05-04. 
  14. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 20 February.". BBC. 2008-02-20. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  15. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 28 February.". BBC. 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  16. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 5 March.". BBC. 2008-03-05. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  17. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 12 March.". BBC. 2008-03-12. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  18. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 19 March.". BBC. 2008-03-19. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  19. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 26 March.". BBC. 2008-03-26. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  20. ^ Wolf, Ian. "The Museum of Curiosity - Meeting Fourteen: The Great Exhibition, 10,000 Tigers, Spider-Man". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 10 May 2010. 
  21. ^ Wolf, Ian. "The Museum of Curiosity - Meeting Seventeen: Barry Marshall, Humphry Davy, Saul Bellow, Mapun". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 7 June 2010. 
  22. ^ Daoust, Phil (2008-02-20). "Pick of the Day". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  23. ^ Reynolds, Gillian (2008-02-20). "Wednesday's TV & radio choices". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  24. ^ Chianta, Rosanna (2008-02-17). "Radio". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 2008-02-21. 
  25. ^ Lass, Frances (2009-04-28). "The Museum of Curiosity". Radio Times. 
  26. ^ Lass, Frances (2010-05-10). "The Museum of Curiosity". Radio Times. 
  27. ^ Mahoney, Elisabeth (2009-05-05). "Radio review". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  28. ^ http://www.richardherring.com/warmingup/?id=3892

External links[edit]