Hosted by Stephen Fry, with permanent guest Alan Davies, the BBC show Quite Interesting - or Qi to its friends - could loosely be described as a comedy panel quiz. However, unlike most quiz shows you'll see on television, the answers here are infinitely more entertaining than the actual questions. With points awarded for being interesting or funny (and, very occasionally, right) as well as being deducted for answers that merely repeat common misconceptions and urban myths (usually suggested by a horrified Alan Davies who nearly always finishes the quiz last, and with a negative score).
Joining Stephen and Alan on the first series is a numerous range of guests including the likes of Hugh Laurie, John Sessions, Danny Baker, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Clive Anderson, Rob Brydon, Julia Davis, Linda Smith and Richard E. Grant. Each week they do battle with a variety of strange sounding buzzers (with Alan Davis usually equipped with the most bizarre one) in an attempt to beat quiz master Fry's withering wit and his vast vaults of knowledge.
Created by long-time TV comedy guru John Lloyd (producer of other comedy classics Not The Nine O' Clock News, Spitting Image and Blackadder), the first series of QI came to BBC TWO in 2003 and was an instant success. At the time of writing this review, the show is on its forth series and its popularity appears to be showing no signs of faltering. And given that a series concentrates on a single letter of the alphabet, you'll have to wonder whether it will still be as popular when they reach the letter 'S' in a few years time. Still, it will keep Steven Fry and Alan Davies in work for a few years!
The picture is bright and colourful with good level of detail throughout. Colours are rich and vibrant and, although there are quite a few instances where artifacting and edge enhancements are a bit of a problem, it still manages to produce the goods. Never the less, the transfer problem can most likely be put down to the rather low bit rate and compression required to fit the episodes onto the disc - so much so that, along with the rather large number of extras, they are spread over two discs.
The 192 Kbs Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack is nothing spectacular, after all, it is a television series - and it is a rather low BBC budget quiz show at that. Never the less, the simple stereo soundtrack is more than adequate with some clear and precise dialogue, good levels of audience laughter and applause along with the rather catchy theme tune rounding everything off nicely. It's almost as if someone has actually made the effort to provide something half decent, rather than the usual simple cash in, for this DVD release.
The menu system is rather imaginatively, and pleasantly, animated in an almost wacky Monty Python style. The main menu, along with the sub-menus, are scored with the series theme tune or some other wacky sound effect. The same menu style is reflected across each of the two discs and there are plenty of Easter eggs rumoured to be found amongst them, although I failed miserably in finding any myself - I guess you need a higher IQ than I claim to have. Extras wise, it's a bumper crop and something far in excess of anything I was expecting for the television series DVD - and a quiz one at that.
There are twenty-one deleted and extended scenes containing various ramblings from Alan Davies and guests along with Steven Fry fluffing his opening lines and, much to the mirth of the guests, uttering numerous expletives and retorting with various smart comments. The scenes can either be individually selected or, fortunately, played in one go. There's enough of these outtakes to pretty much form its own extra episode. Speaking of extra episodes, also included is the rather good, and never before seen, Pilot Episode that includes Eddie Izzard as a guest. The set may not be as fancy as the real show (and I'm not sure if there's a real audience either) but it's certainly a worthy watch.
Although each episode is equipped with subtitles they can only be enabled or disabled via the Subtitle sub-menu. I've no idea why it is such an issue to prevent you from selecting the subtitle track whilst watching the programme but, hey, there must be a reason for such weird things. I also watched the entire series in two sittings and then revisited the disc in order to look at the extras. One of these is the Factoids extra which, once enabled from the menu, will bring up an icon on the screen in a similar style to follow the white rabbit feature in The Matrix. You should then press the Enter key on your remote to hear some remarkable things about that section of show - and the question in hand.
On second viewing of numerous episodes I was hoping for masses of Factoids to be thrown at me at every possible opportunity - an information overload no less. Unfortunately, I only found one - which was about the moon and it's newly discovered little brothers. The producers then proceeded to discuss the fact mentioned in the show as well as indicating another interesting fact on the screen - in this case learning that astronauts become two inches taller in space. Fascinating stuff - especially for facts and figures fans (or Trivial Pursuits players). Never the less, a good all round collection of extras - and something most unexpected from the quiz show.
What can I say about Alan Davies? Other than the wonderful dry wit of Steven Fry, and his apparent massive wealth of information - although someone does appear to supply additional information thanks to an attached earpiece - poor old Alan is the whipping boy of the series. Not only does he fall into countless traps in the General Ignorance round - which is usually the source of his negative scores - but he's also the butt of many a Fry joke. However, this is what truly makes the show, and I was forever collapsing in fits of laughter - especially with the episode with the moon debate. Still, for his knack of falling into the traps (albeit - I suspect deliberately) he did manage to win at least one of the shows in the series.
Qi is a wonderful television series and I'm happy to say that I'm now one of its many legions of fans. This DVD is a fitting response to those same fans who mounted a serious campaign to get the series released onto DVD. With extras galore, a quality television series and a wonderfully presented menu system, this truly is a class defining DVD that future television shows must now aspire too. Fans of the series are really going to be in love this DVD whilst the general DVD browser couldn't really go to far wrong with a purchase.
Quite how I missed this show on television is a mystery. Love Have I Got News For You? then you'll love Qi. I just hope the good old BBC don't hang around for too long before releasing the later series. Superb entertainment and highly recommended.
- Outtakes and Unbroadcasted Extra Bits
- Dozens of Extra Factoids with Production Team's Audio Commentary
- Qi Pilot Episode
- The Qi Building
- Concealed Elf-banter
- Hidden Easter Eggs