Why You Must Watch This Hot Mess of a Game Show
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because American game shows should take note.
By Libby Coleman
“Hello, and welcome to The Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2015,” host Jimmy Carr announces. “The Big Fat Quiz captures the true meaning of Christmas by forcing six people to sit together, playing a game and pretending to like each other.”
Remember that SNL Jeopardy! sketch? The one where “Sean Connery” is the bluest reality-TV guest in history, and Will Ferrell plays Alex Trebek as he keeps getting derailed? The Big Fat Quiz of the Year is kind of like that, except real and British and a tad more like an actual game show. The format: pub-quiz style. The questions center around events from the previous year. The majority of the two-ish-hour specials consist of banter, schtick, trash-talking and fake answers. The delays are more fun than the destination.
It’s an improvised hot mess with sophisticated and blue humor.
Every year since 2004, the last week of December or first week of January has been a highlight. It’s not the resolutions (obviously) or the presents, but the chance to watch The Big Fat Quiz of the Year. “For a viewing public finding it too cold to go out and who are too drunk to watch anything requiring much concentration, it offers a comfortable compromise,” critic Mark Gibbings-Jones says. The Channel 4 creation is available on YouTube in full and features Britain’s best comics: Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg, The Late Late Show’s James Corden, millennial favorite and king of mean Jack Whitehall, Peep Show’s David Mitchell and “sweaty” Richard Aoyade to start. Potshots come frequently, as when Jimmy Carr introduces one team: “Two of the youngest, hippest comedians in the country,” he builds, “couldn’t make it, so we’ve got Rob Brydon and Jo Brand!” Occasionally it gets spicy with American favorites like high-pitched Kristen Schaal.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn something too or be challenged to show your smarts. Why did 4,000 windows shatter in Russia? “A big old meteor.” What did a government leader say when horse meat was found in his country’s supermarket chain? You’ll have to watch the episode reflecting on 2013 to find out. Categories are broken down into topics, of the lowbrow variety: people, television, the internet. They all boil down to viral stories that make for great watercooler conversations and 140-character tweets.
Sure, the questions might be a bit insider-cricket, or British-centric. The references can be lost on an American or international audience, according to Zoe Ace, a huge fan who hails from the U.S. But the show’s not trying to cater to you — it’s an improvised hot mess with sophisticated and blue humor, with chemistry and competition between competitors and teammates and a whole lot of self-deprecation. As Schaal said to the Brits as a guest on the show in 2013: “This is the best TV you’ve got?” If it is, that’s really not bad at all.