Friday, 16 January 2009

Dutch QI episode 3 "Lust and Love"

Not content with just two people's opinions of the new Dutch QI, we decided to go a find a third one. This week The Great Prickly of Pear provides us with her opinions of the third show in the new series.

This episode was all about "Love and Lust", with guests Claudia de Breij, Ronald Goedemond, Silvester Zwaneveld, and of course Thomas van Luyn. I think that this show was the first in the run to really shine in terms of the comedy. It hasn't only been Arthur Japin (much improved this time) that needed to get used to his role, but the guests as well. The programme has placed too much emphasis on being funny in the early shows. As a result the guests try to answer the questions by leading off with a joke. That created plenty of forfeits, but it didn't lead into much banter. This time however, the panellists tried to answer the questions directly, and the resulting klaxons led into discussions that created a much funnier show.

So this episode was funnier that the previous ones. But was it more interesting? The answer to this question is, sadly, no. Once more, about half of the questions had come from the "real" QI. That makes it less interesting for the fans who've also watched the original. Also, the panellists are not encouraged to be interesting, even if an interesting anecdote is loosely connected with the question. It is quite clear that the panelists are only expected to contribute to the laughter and not the interestingness.

There is also a problem with the way the questions are posed. The question about fans that was asked in the Christmas special was also asked during this episode of the Dutch version. The panelists were asked to show how they thought "I'm already married", for example, would look. Obviously this lead to some funny answers, but how and where and why this fan-language was invented was omitted. This difference in style really demonstrates the lack of interest that the producers pay towards the subject matter's interestingness.

However, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that this has transpired. The original QI was born out of the rather noble ideologies of John Lloyd, whose primary concern was creating an interesting show (which was supposed to be targeted at Radio 4 before he was persuaded to put it on TV). The Dutch QI has been bought from the BBC as a comedy show; maybe we shouldn't expect the producers to aspire to anything other than that?

One final niggle is that the questions lack linguistic elegance. The writers of the original seem always to do their utmost to write beautifully, making full use of Stephen's oratory skills. However in the Dutch version the question are simple. Maybe this has something to do with the different cultures. There's no eloquence in Dutch.

But why am I complaining that the Dutch version differs from the original? Does it matter that the intro isn't the same; that it isn't as interesting; that the cards Arthur Japin has in front of him don't look as good? QI is broadcast on Nederland 1, which produces cheap viewer-ratings-conscious entertainment, although all the public channels in the Netherlands work like that. Given that environment, QI is a beacon of light in the dark ocean that we call General Ignorance.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

QI F Series Broadcast Schedule

The full broadcast dates for the remainder of the F series:

16th January - Fight and Flight (Pam Ayres, Sean Lock, Johnny Vegas)

23rd January - France (Jo Brand, Hugh Dennis, Phill Jupitus)

30th January - Fakes (Marcus Brigstock, Jimmy Carr, Sean Lock)

6th February - Fingers and Fumbs (Jo Brand, Phill Jupitus, Dara O Briain)

13th February - Fashion (Clive Anderson, Rich Hall, Reginald D. Hunter)

20th February - Future (Rob Brydon, Sean Lock, Ben Miller)

27th February - Flora and Fauna (Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr, John Sergeant)

6th March - Film (David Mitchell, John Sessions, Emma Thompson)

13th March - Food (Jimmy Carr, Rich Hall, David Mitchell)

Friday, 9 January 2009

F Series Starts Today

Don't forget that the first episode of the full run of the F series starts tonight at 9:00pm on BBC One. Tonight's episode is about "Flotsam and Jetsam", with guests Andy Hamilton, Rob Brydon, and returning for only his second episode, former plasterer Charlie Higson.

You can catch an extended edition of the show tomorrow (Saturday) evening on BBC Two at 10:30pm with an extra ten minutes that wouldn't fit into the Friday show.

Also, you may be interested to learn that the Radio 4 series The Museum of Curiosity, starring QI creator John Lloyd and comedian Bill Bailey in a QI-inspired search for the universe's most interesting things, is now available for purchase in the form of an audio CD. You can order it from Amazon here.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Dutch QI Episode 2 - War

This week's review is brought to you by Peti.

Last Saturday was the day that VARA broadcast the second episode of the Dutch series of QI, and your reporter was installed by the television at 22:00 sharp.

Let's start at the very beginning with the opening credits. They are not a copy of the original: there is a different theme – not as catchy as the one Howard Goodall composed – and they show a supposedly comical animation of host Arthur Japin and panellist Thomas van Luyn travelling through interesting parts of history and having information put in their heads. It's a bit cheesy for my taste, but it highlights one of the major differences between the original programme and the Dutch version. The focus is on being funny more than on being interesting. As Japin opens the show "This quiz is all about interesting answers. We give out the most points for nice stories and funny anecdotes." What is this? Is interesting the same as funny now?

The set designers have borrowed heavily from the British version, with the panellists sitting around a big "Q" with a lower case "i" in the middle. The big Q seems to be scaled down, so the panellists are sitting much closer together, although it may simply be that it is recorded in a smaller studio. Behind the guests are two large screens used to a similar effect as the British version for displaying the klaxon answers and videos. The klaxon is quieter, or as one of the panellists said, "It's like I've hit the jackpot!"

For the second episode, the panellists sat with Japin and Van Luyn were Diederik van Vleuten, Lenette van Dongen, and Richard Groenendijk. It's good to see that the producers are employing good comedic talents instead of the usual selection of minor actors and television presenters that usually appear on Dutch panel shows. I do really like Van Vleuten and Groenendijk had some of the most amusing answers and stories.

The second episode of the Dutch QI was all about war. Lovely! Some of the questions, like in the first episode, were taken from the BBC programme, like the "kamikaze pigeons" and the number of soldiers under the command of a centurion. However, some of the questions haven't appeared in the broadcasts of the British version so it would seem that they are making an attempt at some original research. For example, one of Saddam Hussein's sons produced a cola drink with a Pepsi logo on it, and SS personnel had their blood type tattooed in their armpits. My favourite was that Napoleon gave his soldiers yo-yos because he thought it was good for the blood flow.

One question concerned a "secret weapon" employed by the ancient Greeks. Van Luyn: "Homosexuality. The ancient ones did that, the younger ones not so much, they thought is was a bit yucky." He goes on mocking hoplites and their stylish outfits, but it turns out his answer was right: there were armies of homosexuals. Plato suggested in his "Symposium" that if two lovers would fight, they would try to protect each other. This is followed by the inevitable mocking of homosexuality.

Groenendijk: "How did they fight? Pulling each other hair?"
Van Luyn: "Throwing handbags."
Groenendijk: "With beautifully styled hair. No, watch out for my hair!"
Van Luyn: "Throwing Gucci shoes."
Groenendijk: "So that was the secret weapon of the Greeks. But were the enemy soldiers all straight? So they turn out to be stronger. If it takes too long for us, we don't finish things."
Van Dongen: "I just have to watch the Eurovision Song Contest now!"

The programme has all the elements: good comedians, interesting facts, gay jokes...So why is it just not as good as the original? Obviously, it doesn't have Stephen Fry, the host of hosts. Also, the entertainment value is rather reduced if you know the answers to the half the questions, because they've been copied from the BBC series. But there are two major problems. One of them I mentioned before: the object of the Dutch QI is not to discover interesting facts. The object seems to be to let the comedians tell "funny anecdotes", and that's just wrong! Points are for interesting facts, whether they're relevant or not. The comedians are supposed to be funny; it's their job. The second problem is the way Japin hosts the show. He's no Stephen Fry, but he doesn't have to be. I just have a problem with him just being there to read up questions, and judge the answers. He is just a bit too serious and stiff. Now, since this is the first time he's done anything like this, it makes sense. I just hope he grows into his role.