TBS is attempting to bring one of the UK’s longest-running panel games, Have I Got News for You, to America. Is America finally ready to welcome one of the UK’s most popular television genres (currently absent from US television)? And can TBS succeed where other networks (including BBC America) have failed?
TBS’s version of Have I Got News for You – which will likely keep the same name – is already “in the can,” as they say, having already filmed a pilot with comedian Sam Seder serving as host and comedians Sherrod Small and Michael Ian Black as the team captains. Seder previously served as host of NBC’s pilot of How I Got News for You in 2009.
The purpose of Have I Got News for You, essentially, is to bring on two guests (three, if you’re including a guest host), pair them up with comedians and allow them to hilariously go through the week’s worth of news, providing their own humorous commentary on current events. As they play different games in each round, points are awarded for a variety of reasons, leading to a “winner” at the end of the show.
If you’re not familiar with the original BBC series (or panel games in general), the rules, points and teams don’t actually matter. The purpose of the show is to create an environment where topical subjects can be talked about, and where comedians and guests (political, Hollywood, etc.) can have an entertaining conversation about recent events. The whole “game” backdrop is simply what allows them to do that.
Whenever talking about a new panel show coming to American television, you always have to wonder whether or not it’ll work this time. The answer almost always ends up being “no.” No matter how hard the networks have tried (and they have), the UK panel show is one genre American audiences just haven’t accepted yet. The only versions of a panel show you’ll find in America right now are on NPR. But even those are somewhat dry in comparison to the panel shows on UK TV (though not UK radio, interestingly enough).
Most recently, BBC America brought over UK TV staple Graham Norton to host their attempt at an an American panel show, Would You Rather? The entirety of TBS’ cast, Sam Seder, Sherrod Small and Michael Ian Black, all served as guests on that show at some point. Guess what? The show wasn’t good. Which is surprising, really, considering Graham Norton is considered one of the best talk show hosts in the world.
The problem with the show wasn’t Norton however, it was with his guests and the studio audience. People in America aren’t used to the relaxed conversations that happen a lot on UK TV, so the live audience was polite (and slow) in their laughter – which didn’t help build a comedic atmosphere for anyone at home. Audiences react better to more-produced segments, perhaps because that’s just what they have become accustomed to. Either way, that’s what happening now.
BBC America’s Would You Rather? was boring, over-produced (while still being under produced) and just not fun to watch. Now that TBS is using three of the guests from that show, could Have I Got News for You be any better? Possibly.
After all, Hat Trick Production, the original production company behind the 22-year-old BBC version, is working on the TBS version. But in what capacity, we’ll never know. The fact that this is Sam Seder’s second pilot with this show isn’t promising. But maybe the production company liked what he was doing with it? Maybe he’s not what NBC passed on? Michael Ian Black and Sherrod Small are both funny comedians. But are they who Anglophiles would choose to spearhead the “quiz show” revolution in America? Probably not.
Still, you never know. All it takes is for one to work, and then the panel game barrier for American television is broken forever. So even if you don’t think TBS’s version of Have I Got News for You will do well, you should still hope it does – because American audiences are missing out on too many quiz shows already. Q.I., 8 Out of 10 Cats and Celebrity Juice, to name a few.
You can watch a clip of Homeland star Damian Lewis hosting the UK version below:
Check back to Screen Rant for more news on Have I Got News for You as it’s announced.