qi

Fans of the supremely talented Stephen Fry will be happy to hear that two seasons of his comedy panel game, QI, are currently available on Hulu for free viewing.

Now 56 years old, Fry is something on a national treasure in the UK for his incredible wit and intelligence which has taken the form of numerous radio and television shows, movie appearances, stage productions, books, articles and blogs.

A Bit of Fry & Laurie, Jeeves and Wooster and Blackadder, all with best friend and former Cambridge University contemporary Hugh Laurie brought Fry to the attention of the public in the late 80’s and early 90’s .  An inspired performance in Wilde and an often overlooked turn as the title character in Kingdom also dot the thespian landscape for Fry who more recently has graced our screens as psychiatrist Dr. Gordon Wyatt in Bones and, in an inspired casting choice, as the English Prime Minister in 24: Live Another Day.

Since 2003 however, Fry has also been the host of QI (Quite Interesting) a comedy panel on the BBC that serves essentially as a platform for the dissemination of curious facts and obscure information all wrapped up with more laughs in a single 30 minute episode than an average season run of a network sitcom these days.

Alan Davies, possibly most familiar to viewers as Jonathan Creek in the drama of the same name, is a permanent panelist with three other places usually occupied by clever, and quick, British comedians. The show is infamously not scripted with Davies in particular known for doing zero preparation on the subject matter at hand. Regular viewers of English television via PBS, BBC America, Hulu and Netflix will recognize the likes of Jack Dee, Clive Anderson and Jeremy Clarkson among guest panelists that appear multiple times. Bill Bailey, Dara O Briain, David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr and Rich Hall are just a few of the comedians who really shine.

Each season features a single letter of the alphabet as its anchor starting with the letter A in Season One, B in Season Two etc. with a subject matter then selected for each episode such as Astronomy, Advertising, Africa etc. It all works quite well although of course the framework is essentially just the opportunity to deliver the overall material.

Panel games have become something of a lost art in the US over the years, other than the quite magnificent Whose Line Is It Anyway that was consistently the funniest show on television during its previous nine year run on ABC. Viewers in search of some quality old television can still find episodes of the venerable What’s My Line? on Youtube with the likes of Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis and Bennett Cerf all moderated by the dapper John Charles Daly.

Fortunately these shows have never disappeared in the UK with numerous comedy panel versions on television and radio, such as Have I Got News For You and Sorry I Haven’t a Clue offering comedians a forum in which to excel. Curiously the seasons on Hulu have been labeled Season 10 and 11 and yet by all accounts they should be 9 and 10. Whatever; it doesn’t spoil the appreciation of wondrous talent in full flow.

For those of you who are fans of twitter, I’ve created a list of QI guests who have appeared on the show along with Fry and Davies. @wallacepoulter/qi-tv-show

– Wallace Poulter