Is Have I got News For You losing its edge?

Ever since I gained an appreciation for satire and sarcastic humour, I have been a regular viewer of the BBC’s topical news show Have I Got News for You? (henceforth to be called HIGNFY to save keyboard wear). With the latest series having recently finished airing, however, I have to admit that the show just doesn’t entice me as it once did. Just where did it all go wrong?

HIGNFY’s success springs from a combination of several factors- the presenter, team captains, guest panellists and of course the source material. This last item can hardly be said to be at fault; certainly now more than ever there is plenty of material to be shredded, and with much amusement. The flaws, therefore, must lie with the human element of the show, and indeed, it is therein that the cracks in the once beloved show can be seen.

First, we must turn to the presenter, in principle, the glue that holds the show together, maintaining the show’s structure and order. Unfortunately, HIGNFY has not been the same since the loss of Angus Deayton forced it to turn to weekly guest presenters, who are an inconsistent bunch at best. Where a select few can manage to both deliver their jokes and keep the players in line, most fail at this most basic of tasks, making complete idiots of themselves as they fumble their lines and get trampled on by the panellists. The likes of Boris Johnson are far too incompetent to deserve even one shot at the presenter’s chair, but somehow he (and others of similar ability) are asked back again and again.

By moving on to the other guest element of the show, we can see that the panellists are equally at fault, for far too often they bring nothing to the show, and even detract from it. Some sit there and say nothing, but in some ways this is a blessing, for those who do speak generally manage to only irritate. Thanks to an over-inflated opinion of their own skills, they tend to belabour jokes that weren’t really funny to begin with, let alone after they have been milked of all possibilities.

Finally, we must turn to the two permanent aspects of the show- team captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop. Once I liked Hislop’s presence on HIGNFY, but these days it is hard to imagine why, for he has now become an embarrassing presence not unlike that of an aged uncle; completely out of touch with the general flow of conversation, he occasionally pipes up with an entirely obvious and painfully unfunny remark that others can only cringe at. Merton, on the other hand, is far more successful with his unique brand of quirky humour, but even so, it is not enough- especially when he lacks a worthy sparring partner to bring out the best in his work.

Unfortunately, when taken together, all of these factors can produce but a single result- HIGNFY is a mere shadow of what it used to be. After all, when even the caption competition, once a demonstration of the players’ superior wit, is so poor that even I can come up with better lines, it is surely an indication that the show has had its day.

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2 thoughts on “Is Have I got News For You losing its edge?

  1. Agree. I think the main problem is, as you said the lack of a regular presenter as an anchor to hold the show together.

    I watched it inconsistently over its last run, some shows were great, like the one with potshots at Boris (the obvious reason why he’s called back again and again), and the one focusing on the veil row and something else that was in the news far too much at the time, but some were just mediocre.

  2. I’ve been an avid fan of the show for years, being a fellow fan of sarcasm and ridiculing those who deserve it (politicians and z-list ‘celebrities’ mostly) but I must admit my interest waned after Angus left. Quite why they’ve kept the guest presenter idea is beyond me – sure, it’s a novel idea but it’s novel for a reason! That is to say, it’s an idea that doesn’t work, at least not consistently.

    A show that has guest panelists needs a common face at the centre, if only to rein in Paul and Ian and keep the banter going. That’s the root of the problem I think – if it were as good as the show I once knew and loved, it would probably attract better guest panelists.

    As you said, there’s no shortage of source material but I don’t think the team captains have the incentive to try as hard as they might with the current format.

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