The Unbelievable Truth (radio show)
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Home station||BBC Radio 4|
|Writer(s)||Iain Pattinson (Chairman's script, series 1-2)
Dan Gaster (Chairman's script, series 3-6 & 8-9)
Colin Swash (Series 7 onwards)
John Finnemore (Chairman's Script, series 7-8)
|Recording studio||Shaw Theatre, London|
|Air dates||since 19 October 2006|
|No. of series||11 + pilot and 2 specials|
|No. of episodes||66|
|Opening theme||"My Patch" by Jim Noir|
The Unbelievable Truth is a BBC radio comedy panel game made by Random Entertainment, devised by Graeme Garden and Jon Naismith. It is very similar to the occasional I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue game "Lies, All Lies", which was first played in 1985. The game is chaired by David Mitchell and is described in the programme's introduction as, "The panel game built on truth and lies." The object of the game is to lie on a subject, whilst also trying to include the truth without being detected. The series was first broadcast as a pilot on 19 October 2006, with the first actual series broadcast on 23 April 2007. Its eleventh series began airing in April 2013.
The panel is made up of four players. In the game each of the panellists is given a subject on which they give a short lecture. Most of the lecture is composed of lies, but during the course of the speech the lecturer must try to smuggle five true statements past the rest of the panel. The challenging panellists must buzz in when they believe that what the lecturer is saying is true. They must state what they believe the fact was. If it was true, the challenger is awarded one point. If it was a lie, then they are deducted one point. One point is given to the lecturer for each truth they smuggle successfully without it being detected at the end of the lecture. The winner is the panellist with the most points. A perfect score is 20 points (by hiding all five of their truths, and spotting the five truths in all three of the other players' routines without making any wrong challenges), plus additional points for "unintentional" truths revealed during the monologue. However, nobody has reached this score yet, and in fact many contests have been amusingly low scoring, with most panellists having a negative number of points.
The quirky scoring is part of the attraction of the game. While the maximum possible score is 20 (not including spotting truths accidentally included by the other panelists), contestants have many opportunities to lose points since they lose one for every incorrect challenge. The highest total score for any game was 9 by Graeme Garden (in Series 8 Episode 4), who also had the highest non-winning score of 6 (Series 1 Episode 6). The lowest game total was -6 in Series 4 Episode 4.
Of the forty-nine players who have appeared up to Series 6, the highest individual score is 11 by Graeme Garden in the pilot episode – Garden, who is the co-creator of the show, is also the most frequent player with 14 appearances. Lucy Porter has 5 wins from eight appearances and therefore has a better win rate than Garden.
The most successful players are Sandi Toksvig and Simon Evans who both have a 100% winning records and average scores over 4, but have only played two and three games respectively. The least successful player is Adam Hills, who has recorded -6 which is the joint lowest ever score (with Tony Hawks and Arthur Smith), but has also failed to post a positive score in either of his two appearances and has an average of -4.
The only players to win with a score of 0 were Rhod Gilbert and Reginald D. Hunter who tied at the top in Series 4 Episode 1. Series 1 Episode 4 featured the only ever four-way tie, described by Mitchell as a scenario called: "Everyone getting three".
Jo Brand, Alan Davies, Phill Jupitus and Rhod Gilbert are the only players to have ever managed to smuggle all five true facts past their opponents, although in Brand's case in Series 1, Clive Anderson scored a point during her lecture thanks to an incidental bonus truth she had written in. Davies has managed all five twice, once in the New Year's special, and once in Series 7. Jupitus managed his shut-out in the second episode of Series 8 and Gilbert in the second episode of series 10.
Reaction to the show is generally positive. Many reviews praised Mitchell's presentation of the programme, saying, "Mitchell's quick, intelligent wit gives it an edge that it would otherwise lack." Elizabeth Mahoney in The Guardian enthused that "From the first moments of its plinky plonky theme tune, ‘The Unbelievable Truth’ is a delight… the success of the format isn’t about how convincingly you can spin a tall story, but how well you can sneak incongruous true facts into a lot of silly nonsense. The pleasure here – David Mitchell’s endearing squareness apart – is the depths to which this silliness sinks". Jane Anderson in The Radio Times described the show as "the funniest thing I’ve heard on Radio 4 in years and I’m considering suing the network for irreparable damage to my sides"  and Chris Campling in The Times called it "The most consistently entertaining comedy panel show of the past few years" and praises David Mitchell's chairmanship.
However, some critics have complained that the programme is "Too scripted" and would benefit from more improvisation. One review said, "However most of the programme is essentially listening to four rather silly pre-scripted stories, as if it's story time at primary school, and as such the real facts are often rather easy to spot in comparison. It may [sic] have been more dangerous fun if the contestants were supplied with their facts to be smuggled just before going on air, to allow even the pretence of some improvisation."
Ian Dunn for One Giant Leap also wrote a mixed review of the show saying that it, "may not be the best panel game in the world, but it is enjoyable. It is a way of merrily passing away half-an-hour." He commented on how the show managed to be successful in the same slot as other Radio 4 panel games Just a Minute and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (ISIHAC), although he mentioned there was a connection between ISIHAC and The Unbelievable Truth as the latter is created by the producer and one of the regular panellists from ISIHAC. Dunn also referred to the lack of input from Mitchell despite him being well known for good performances on other panel games, saying: "This sadly means that Mitchell is almost redundant and is reduced to the roll [sic]) of an umpire."
Zoe Williams was more critical in The Guardian. In an article attacking Mitchell in general, she wrote: "The Unbelievable Truth, for instance, should never have been recommissioned. It's only funny when Clive Anderson is speaking. They could more profitably devise a show that was just Clive Anderson, speaking. Its failures as a quiz are admirably demonstrated by the fact that the scoring is now inverse to the drollery, so that Clive scores no points at all, and Lucy Porter sometimes wins. I don't care about scoring when it's like I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and it's meant to mean nothing, but they can't all be spoof game-shows. Some of them have to be actual games that work."
The BBC received "almost 50" complaints after Mitchell opened the 26 October 2009 episode with the line, "There is absolutely no truth in the rumour that the last line in Anne Frank's diary reads: 'Today is my birthday and my dad bought me a drum kit.' " Complainants branded the line "insensitive".
Recent series of the show have been described in The Guardian, The Independent and The Daily Mail as a pick of the week, being "brilliantly chaired as ever by David Mitchell. More wide ranging and inventive than its TV equivalent ... this is a classic format which might well just last as long as say, Just a Minute, " and Sarah Montague on Pick of the Week describing series six as "Radio 4 doesn't always get comedy right, but its comedy series The Unbelievable Truth is so funny that most presenters of this programme want to include a clip". In addition, the show received the highest AI, or Appreciation Index, figures of any comedy show on Radio 4 for 2010, and has been nominated for the 2011 Sony Radio Academy Awards. It won the category of "Best Radio Panel Show" in the British Comedy Guide's 2011 awards.
The show's accuracy was playfully rebuffed in an episode of the television program QI, itself having been forced to accept corrections at times, when Mitchell, one of the panelists on the subject of film and fame (Series F, Episode 11), found himself supplying answers based on information gathered from The Unbelievable Truth. The answers received klaxons on QI, causing Mitchell to acknowledge that some of the show's "unbelievable truths [turn] out, unbelievably, to be untrue." Mitchell then added in comic resignation, "People give you this shit and you read it out", and later accused QI's host Stephen Fry of trying to "kill off the medium" of radio. The show was nonetheless praised by Stephen Fry and fellow panelist Emma Thompson.
|Pilot||19 October 2006||Graeme Garden, Andy Hamilton, Jeremy Hardy, Neil Mullarkey|
|1x01||23 April 2007||Frankie Boyle, Marcus Brigstocke, Tony Hawks, Neil Mullarkey||Michael Jackson, Coffee, Cats, Beards|
|1x02||30 April 2007||Clive Anderson, Jo Brand, Alan Davies, Jeremy Hardy||Carrots, Morris dancing, Coca-Cola, Human body|
|1x03||7 May 2007||Clive Anderson, Jo Brand, Alan Davies, Jeremy Hardy||Ancient Egyptians, Queen Elizabeth I, London Underground, Chickens|
|1x04||14 May 2007||Jo Caulfield, Graeme Garden, Dara Ó Briain, Sandi Toksvig||Ants, Olympic Games, Women, George W. Bush|
|1x05||21 May 2007||Frankie Boyle, Marcus Brigstocke, Tony Hawks, Neil Mullarkey||Hemp, The Queen, Bras, Barcodes|
|1x06||28 May 2007||Jo Caulfield, Graeme Garden, Dara Ó Briain, Sandi Toksvig||Prince Philip, Trousers, Rats, Denmark|
|2x01||5 May 2008||Alan Davies, Simon Evans, Tony Hawks, Phill Jupitus||Beards, Queen Victoria, Tennis, Bears|
|2x02||12 May 2008||Graeme Garden, Fred MacAulay, Michael McIntyre, Lucy Porter||Sandwiches, Cows, Toilets, Giraffes|
|2x03||19 May 2008||Adam Buxton, Ed Byrne, Lee Mack, Tim Vine||Hair, Kissing, Potatoes, Hedgehogs|
|2x04||26 May 2008||Alan Davies, Simon Evans, Tony Hawks, Phill Jupitus||Frogs, William Shakespeare, Skateboards, Bananas|
|2x05||2 June 2008||Graeme Garden, Fred MacAulay, Michael McIntyre, Lucy Porter||Sweden, Beds, Pigs, Leonardo da Vinci|
|2x06||9 June 2008||Adam Buxton, Ed Byrne, Lee Mack, Tim Vine||Marriage, Left-handedness, Fleas, Napoleon Bonaparte|
2008 Christmas Special
|Sp.||15 December 2008||Jack Dee, Graeme Garden, Armando Iannucci, Sean Lock|
|3x01||23 March 2009||Chris Addison, Clive Anderson, Graeme Garden, Lucy Porter|
|3x02||30 March 2009||Simon Evans, Tony Hawks, Milton Jones, Johnny Vaughan|
|3x03||6 April 2009||Chris Addison, Clive Anderson, Graeme Garden, Lucy Porter|
|3x04||13 April 2009||Jack Dee, Jeremy Hardy, Fred MacAulay, Will Self|
|3x05||20 April 2009||Miranda Hart, Sean Lock, Sue Perkins, Arthur Smith|
|3x06||27 April 2009||Jack Dee, Jeremy Hardy, Fred MacAulay, Will Self|
|4x01||5 October 2009||Rhod Gilbert, Adam Hills, Reginald D. Hunter, Shappi Khorsandi|
|4x02||12 October 2009||Clive Anderson, Fi Glover, Dom Joly, Henning Wehn|
|4x03||19 October 2009||Graeme Garden, Tony Hawks, Phill Jupitus, Arthur Smith|
|4x04||26 October 2009||Rhod Gilbert, Adam Hills, Reginald D. Hunter, Shappi Khorsandi|
|4x05||2 November 2009||Clive Anderson, Fi Glover, Dom Joly, Henning Wehn|
|4x06||9 November 2009||Graeme Garden, Tony Hawks, Phill Jupitus, Arthur Smith|
2009 New Year's / QI Special
|Sp.||28 December 2009||Rob Brydon, Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, John Lloyd|
|5x01||29 March 2010||Marcus Brigstocke, Graeme Garden, Lucy Porter, Henning Wehn|
|5x02||5 April 2010||Tony Hawks, Phill Jupitus, Arthur Smith, Catherine Tate|
|5x03||12 April 2010||Charlie Brooker, Susan Calman, Fred MacAulay, Liza Tarbuck|
|5x04||19 April 2010||Marcus Brigstocke, Graeme Garden, Lucy Porter, Henning Wehn|
|5x05||26 April 2010||Tony Hawks, Phill Jupitus, Arthur Smith, Catherine Tate|
|5x06||3 May 2010||Charlie Brooker, Susan Calman, Fred MacAulay, Liza Tarbuck|
|6x01||27 September 2010||Chris Addison, Susan Calman, Rufus Hound, Armando Iannucci|
|6x02||4 October 2010||Graeme Garden, Tony Hawks, Arthur Smith, Henning Wehn|
|6x03||11 October 2010||Kevin Bridges, Rhod Gilbert, Lucy Porter, Tom Wrigglesworth|
|6x04||18 October 2010||Chris Addison, Susan Calman, Rufus Hound, Armando Iannucci|
|6x05||25 October 2010||Graeme Garden, Tony Hawks, Arthur Smith, Henning Wehn|
|6x06||1 November 2010||Kevin Bridges, Rhod Gilbert, Lucy Porter, Tom Wrigglesworth|
|7x01||4 April 2011||Marcus Brigstocke, Alan Davies, Jack Dee, Lucy Porter|
|7x02||11 April 2011||Clive Anderson, Graeme Garden, Sue Perkins, Henning Wehn|
|7x03||18 April 2011||Charlie Brooker, Rhod Gilbert, Tony Hawks, Arthur Smith|
|7x04||25 April 2011||Marcus Brigstocke, Alan Davies, Jack Dee, Lucy Porter|
|7x05||2 May 2011||Clive Anderson, Graeme Garden, Sue Perkins, Henning Wehn|
|7x06||9 May 2011||Charlie Brooker, Rhod Gilbert, Tony Hawks, Arthur Smith|
|8x01||26 December 2011||Jack Dee, Graeme Garden, Rufus Hound, Lee Mack|
|8x02||2 January 2012||Ed Byrne, Phill Jupitus, Mark Watson, Henning Wehn|
|8x03||9 January 2012||Alan Davies, John Finnemore, Tony Hawks, Tom Wrigglesworth|
|8x04||16 January 2012||Jack Dee, Graeme Garden, Rufus Hound, Lee Mack|
|8x05||23 January 2012||Roisin Conaty, Alex Horne, Mark Watson, Henning Wehn|
|8x06||30 January 2012||Alan Davies, John Finnemore, Tony Hawks, Tom Wrigglesworth|
|9x01||2 April 2012||Graeme Garden, Tony Hawks, Lucy Porter, Arthur Smith|
|9x02||9 April 2012||John Finnemore, Danielle Ward, Henning Wehn, Tom Wrigglesworth|
|9x03||16 April 2012||Marcus Brigstocke, Susan Calman, Alan Davies, Miles Jupp|
|9x04||23 April 2012||Graeme Garden, Tony Hawks, Lucy Porter, Arthur Smith|
|9x05||30 April 2012||John Finnemore, Danielle Ward, Henning Wehn, Tom Wrigglesworth|
|9x06||7 May 2012||Marcus Brigstocke, Susan Calman, Alan Davies, Miles Jupp|
|10x01||31 December 2012||Ed Byrne, Tony Hawks, Charlie Higson, Lucy Porter|
|10x02||7 January 2013||Rhod Gilbert, Lloyd Langford, Celia Pacquola, Henning Wehn|
|10x03||14 January 2013||John Finnemore, Arthur Smith, Holly Walsh, Henning Wehn|
|10x04||21 January 2013||Ed Byrne, Tony Hawks, Charlie Higson, Lucy Porter|
|10x05||28 January 2013||Marcus Brigstocke, Phill Jupitus, Lloyd Langford, Celia Pacquola|
|10x06||4 February 2013||John Finnemore, Arthur Smith, Holly Walsh, Henning Wehn|
|11x01||8 April 2013||Graeme Garden, Lloyd Langford, Katherine Ryan, Henning Wehn|
|11x02||15 April 2013||Lucy Beaumont, John Finnemore, Rhod Gilbert, Richard Osman|
|11x03||22 April 2013||Ed Byrne, Tony Hawks, Lucy Porter, Mark Watson|
|11x04||29 April 2013||Graeme Garden, Lloyd Langford, Katherine Ryan, Henning Wehn|
|11x05||6 May 2013||Lucy Beaumont, John Finnemore, Rhod Gilbert, Richard Osman|
|11x06||13 May 2013||Ed Byrne, Tony Hawks, Lucy Porter, Mark Watson|
- Wolf, Ian. "The Unbelievable Truth - Episode Guide". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
- Wolf, Ian. "The Unbelievable Truth". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 14 November 2008.
- Radio Times, 14-20 October 2006
- "The Unbelievable Truth". BBC. Retrieved 10 September 2007.
- "The Unbelievable Truth". BBC. Retrieved 10 September 2007.
- "Pilot". The Unbelievable Truth. 19 October 2006.
- Widdicombe, Henry (23 April 2007). "The Unbelievable Truth". Such Small Portions. Retrieved 10 September 2007.
- Mahoney, Elisabeth (30 March 2010). "The Unbelievable Truth – Radio review". The Guardian (London).
- Asthana, Anushka. The Times (London) http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article3863395.ece/
|url=missing title (help).[dead link]
- "The Unbelievable Truth". UK Game Shows.com. Retrieved 10 September 2007.
- Dunn, Ian (24 March 2009). "Radio Review: The Unbelievable Truth". One Giant Leap. Retrieved 24 March 2009.
- Williams, Zoe (25 March 2009). "Radio head". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
- Elgot, Jessica (4 November 2009). "Peep Show's David Mitchell in Anne Frank row". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-11-04.
- The Daily Mail, TV Guide 27/09/2010
- Pick of the Week, Radio 4, broadcast 10/10/2010
- BBC MC&A, 18/03/2011
- Sony Radio Award Nominations 2011
- The Comedy.co.uk Awards 2011 - British Comedy Guide
- The Unbelievable Truth (radio show) at BBC Programmes
- The Unbelievable Truth (radio show) at the British Comedy Guide