Will UK Panel Show ‘Have I Got News for You’ Work in the US?

Published 2 years ago by

have i got news for you logo Will UK Panel Show Have I Got News for You Work in the US?

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.

have i got news for you uk Will UK Panel Show Have I Got News for You Work in the US?HIGNFY (UK) cast - Ian Hislop & Paul Merton

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. 

have i got news for you us cast Will UK Panel Show Have I Got News for You Work in the US?HIGNFY (US) cast – Sam Seder, Michael Ian Black & Sherrod Small

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.

Source: Deadline

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  1. One of the things that’s kept the show going for this long, in my view, is having a different presenter every week. It seemed to gain a new lease of life when former regular host Angus Deayton left a full ten years ago; you never quite know what you’ll be getting now (within certain limits obviously) – comedian, actor, politician, news anchor, whatever. Some more open to what’s thrown at them by the teams than others. That’s a format any new version would struggle with even with a receptive audience. Not to mention the whole concept of which team wins or loses being fairly irrelevant anyway…

    • The problem with guest hosts is that the show often becomes more about them than about being satirical about the news.

      Getting a good permanent host means you get good dialogue between the host and the team captains every week. Having guest hosts means you get a mixed bag – making some shows very tedious.

      Alexander Armstrong or Victoria Coren would make good permanent hosts.

  2. kind of seems like whose line is it anyway except different lol but if they have good comedians and guest hosts go on and it gets a good time slot it might be work. It would have a better chance on comedy central, nbc, cbs, or abc rather than tbs though

  3. Oh come on what is it with Americans and copying British shows, can’t Americans do what we do and watch the original? That being said thank you for The US Office, that was way better on account of not having Ricky Gervais in the show…or writing the show.

    • To be fair, half the references wouldn’t travel at all though.

      • That’s very true.

    • Plus, this really isn’t about copying British shows. Even American versions of panel shows have failed. Panel shows are a new genre of show, essentially. Remember a time when found-footage films didn’t even exist. It’s like that, except weirder and more complicated.

      I really don’t know why panel shows never broke in the US. If you check out any clips of that BBC America show, you’ll see how odd US audiences react to them. You almost need to have an audience stacked with Anglophiles to get people to understand the rhythm.

  4. The short answer is no. The long answer is also no…

  5. There have been some stand-out shows in HIGNFY’s cheaquered history; the two that spring to mind for me are the one that aired directly after original host Angus Deayton was “found ou” to be a Cocaine/hooker user and the team ALL ripped him to shreds for the entire 30 minutes…the other one which JUST tops that was the utterly SURREAL episode where classically-trained AC-TOR Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon) was asked to host and totally ran amok with little regard for the mechanics of the show or the guests and team captains….see below for his “best bits”

  6. Sorry- that should have read, “found out”. TYPO.

  7. I think this would be a pretty fun show to watch but sadly it probably won’t work here.
    Because most American actors, actresses or the bigger named comedians won’t do the show. Most of them would be so afraid to say something that would offend someone or god forbid they be seen on a cable TV “game” show.
    Personally I love comedians like Michael Ian Black and Small so I’ll check it out if it airs but I’m betting that it won’t last long…

  8. Just tune into Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR each weekend :)

  9. Isn’t this the same thing Chelsea Handler does on her (….) late-night show? Nothing “new” to America…

    • Not really.

      I’ve seen Chelsea’s show and she’s more like Conan O’Brian from what I’ve seen.

      There really isn’t an American show that comes close to what HIGNFY is like. Over here though…..8 Out Of 10 Cats and Mock The Week are the closest in the “topical news panel show” format.

  10. Harry Shearer was noticably quiet on last week’s episode, probably explains why the most regular American on the show is Reginald D Hunter but that’s only because he’s lived in the UK for years and is a pretty well known comedian here now.

    I still remember the episode when politician Roy Hattersley famously refused to go on the show at the last minute so Paul Merton had to team up with a tub of lard and still won.

    With the topics and jokes we have on our version though, I can imagine it wouldn’t work in sue-happy America. Too many libel suits waiting to happen probably.