The BBC's premier panel game show, as well as its best political satire programme. Headed up by a solid regular cast and with interesting guests from the worlds of politics, journalism, theatre and showbusiness, this is a programme on which one can rely for clever weekly entertainment.
Have I Got News For You was invented by Hat-Trick Productions' Jimmy Mulville and Denise O'Donoghue, who made a pilot episode which was never aired. The first episode was shown on the 28th of September 1990, a Friday night, on BBC2, a slot it remained at until October 2000, when it was moved to BBC1. The show was also moved to a 9pm time slot to place it at the very peak of primetime. Today, there have been 21 series following largely the same format. The first series had 8 episodes, a number which was increased to 10 and then reduced to 8 once again at the start of the fifth. Series 8 and 12 had nine episodes, the former incorporating a Christmas special.
Format and Cast
The show is anchored by Angus Deayton, an Oxford graduate in Modern Languages, also known for his roles in KYTV and One Foot in the Grave. He has also presented The End of the Year Show, TV Hell and The History of Alternative Comedy, along with many other one-off programmes. His role on Have I Got News For You is to provide continuity and flow, as well as to add his own spin on events and participate in some of the captains' banter. He has a certain knack for convincing the viewer that the opinions he airs are not, in fact, his own. Allegedly.
On Angus' right is Ian Hislop, another Oxford graduate, and the editor of Private Eye, a position he gained in 1981, then the youngest ever editor of the publication. He has always resisted the temptation to make a career out of television, although he has been a guest on other programmes, and he authored the script to The Vicar of St. Albion's, a Private Eye-inspired send-up of Blair's "New Labour" Government. His role is to provide jokes and his own take on events, which is shaped by his seemingly total lack of knowledge of pop. culture.
Facing this worthy adversary weekly is Paul Merton, who left school at 16 to join the Civil Service, later joining Equity after a name change from Paul Martin due to a duplication. He joined the Comedy Store Players and landed a regular part on Channel 4's Whose Line is it Anyway?. He has had his own sketch show on Channel 4, and presents Room 101 for the BBC, along with regular advertising work. Merton's role is to act as the voice of the working classes on the show in contrast to the 'smarmy' Messrs. Deayton and Hislop, providing the best one-liners on the show in the process.
Joining these each week are two guests. With Hislop it is normally a personality from the world of theatre or showbiz, with Merton a journalist or politician. Some notable examples of guests from the past are Harry Enfield, Dom Joly, Maureen Lipman, Melvyn Bragg, John Diamond, Loyd Grossman, Trevor McDonald, Michael Parkinson, John Simpson, Neil Hamilton and Charles Kennedy.
The show is split up into six rounds, which are as follows:
- Two samples of news footage are shown to each team, who must identify the story and add their own, no doubt irreverent, views.
- Each individual is shown a tabloid headline and asked to explain the story. Hilarity frequently ensues.
- Each team is shown a pastiche of clips with no obvious relation which link to refer to the story of the week, which must be identified.
- The ubiquitous 'What Happened Next' round.
- Each competitor is shown four famous faces and asked to find a link, although this one often gets thrown open to all competitors, showing them at their most (or least) witty and inventive.
- Five newspaper headlines, including 'some or none' from the week's guest publication are shown to each team, with the object being to fill in the missing words.
In addition, a photograph is shown to both teams at the start, for which they are required to invent a caption. However, this is used as a passing shot, and does not count on the scoreboard
, unless there has been a rare tie in the scores up to this point.
In order to keep as up-to-date as possible, the show is recorded 24 hours before broadcast. It is then quickly edited down to a 28 minute duration, as the show is very open to improvisation. It is not clear even to die-hard fans how much of the show is scripted, and how much is spontaneity.
Each show opens closes with assorted pictures of celebrities in compromising positions with Deayton's punchlines said beforehand. The show is filmed in front of a live studio audience at Television Centre.