Hidden Gems: British Panel Shows are the best thing you’ve never heard of

This cross between a talk show and game show is procrastination-worthy

Panel shows are light-hearted, funny, and completely unique.
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If you turned on the television, or “tube,” in Britain, you’d find TV programs similar to those we have on this side of the pond. The Brits have many genres you’d recognize: sitcoms, dramas, sci-fi epics, and trashy reality shows. They also have delightfully odd crosses between a talk show and a game show called “panel shows.”

For this article, I dog-paddled across the Atlantic Ocean to bring Queen’s students the most binge-worthy British TV they’ve never heard of before.

Basically, panel shows feature a panel of British (and sometimes international) celebrities, ranging from popstars to academics to comedians. These celebrities play pub-style games or quizzes while bantering with each other.

Each show has a different premise, style, and atmosphere, so there’s something for everyone.

Other than the hilarious chatter and silly games, the best thing about panel shows is that they’re all over YouTube. Hundreds of hours of content, compilations, and full episodes are freely available online, so you’ll never run out of dry wit and cutting banter.  

If you’re not on board already, below are a few examples of the best panel shows around.

8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown

8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown, hosted by comedian Jimmy Carr, brings together a panel of comedians to (badly) figure out spelling and math puzzles against the clock while mocking Carr and one another.

The show might have a zany name, but it definitely has staying power—it’s a combination of two long-running panel shows (8 Out of 10 Cats and Countdown) that have long been staples of British television.

Unlike regular game shows, there’s no prize to be won: the games largely serve as catalysts for humour.

Mock the Week

Mock the Week, hosted by Irish funnyman Dara Ó Briain, quizzes comedians on the weekly news cycle, giving them a platform to promptly mock and satirize it.

This show is infamous for its guests’ controversial jokes and one-liners, which frequently earn them the wrath of the press.

QI: Quite Interesting

My personal favourite is QI: Quite Interesting. A panel made up of a diverse guests (academics, public intellectuals, actors and comedians) are quizzed on obscure questions about history, geography, biology, and more. The point isn’t to get the right answer, as the questions are purposefully impossible, but it provides funny and interesting remarks on the subjects.

The show was hosted by Stephen Fry and his assistant Alan Davis before Sandi Toksvig took over after Fry’s retirement.

It’s full of lighthearted nerdy discussions and tidbits on everything weird and wonderful across every branch of human knowledge. Some of these facts have actually helped me in coursework and to impress professors in lecture, so watching it can be an excellent way to up your keener game.

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I love panel shows because they offer a space for some of the funniest, most interesting people in the world to hang out and bounce off each other in unexpected ways. They take the best part of talk shows, interesting conversations between famous people, and the best part of game shows, letting audiences play along at home. The result is something completely different, yet familiar.

If you’re looking for some light entertainment to aid your midterm procrastination, look no further than British panel shows. 

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