|Stephen Fry (2003–2016)|
Sandi Toksvig (2016–Present)
BBC One: 14 November 2008 – 2 May 2011
BBC Two HD: 9 September 2011 – Present
QI is a comedy panel game where the questions are completely obscure, and points are awarded for interesting answers.
Unlike most television programmes, where the series are ordered by number, on this programme they are ordered by letter (Series A, Series B, Series C, etc.). This is because each episode in the series has a title that starts with that letter, and all the questions in that episode are centered around that title.
Four panelists compete in this game. The questions posed to the panelists are often misleading, obscure, and/or very difficult. Providing an "obvious but wrong" answer, called a "forfeit", causes a sequence of klaxons, alarm bells, and flashing lights to go off, and the panelist loses points. Usually, Davies gives forfeits. In the first two series, Fry produced the answer on a card to show the panelists; starting in the second episode, it also flashed on the large screens behind them (the cards were gone starting with the third series).
Because the producers expected that hardly anyone would be able to give a correct answer without significant prompting, they instead encourage sheer interestingness; this is how points are mainly scored. As such, tangential discussions are encouraged, and panelists are apt to branch off into frivolous conversations, give voice to trains of thought, and share humorous anecdotes from their own lives. The number of points given and taken away are normally decided by Fry or beforehand by QI researchers known as "The QI Elves".
At the end of the show, the panelist with the highest score is the winner; negative scores are common, and occasionally even the victor's score may be negative.
Panelists are given buzzers to use in signaling a response, each of which produces a different sound when pressed. For the first three series, the sounds were seemingly random things or followed an arbitrary theme in each episode, such as commonly heard everyday sounds in the Series C episode "Common Knowledge." From Series D onwards, all four sounds are based on the particular episode's theme, such as in the Series F episode "Films and Fame" (sound clips associated with well-known movies, with Davies receiving Porky Pig's stuttering "That's all, folks!"). The buzzers are always demonstrated at the beginning of the programme, but are usually given a shortened version for repeated use during the episode, mostly in General Ignorance. Sometimes, the buzzers have unique points to them, such as having questions based on them; in most cases they are usually about Davies' own, such as for example, one of his buzzer noises in the Series D episode "Descendants" sounded like a Clanger, and the panel had to try and guess what was being said, while in the Series F episode "Fakes and Frauds", all the buzzers sounded like ordinary household objects, but three turned out to be the sound of the superb lyrebird mimicking the noises. In other episodes, they were sometimes changed to suit the theme of an episode; for the Series D episode "Denial and Deprivation", the panelists had to use unique buzzers - two had bells, one flicked a ruler over the edge of a school desk, and Davies squeezed a toy chipmunk - while in the Series G episode "Green", the buzzers were replaced with whistles so the show could be eco-friendly.
In a parody of ubiquitous general knowledge quizzes, the final round is off-topic, hence why it is called called "General Ignorance". It focuses on seemingly easy questions which have widely believed but wrong answers. Whereas in the main rounds of the show, the panelists' buzzer usage is not usually enforced, the "General Ignorance" questions are introduced by Fry's reminder to keep "fingers on buzzers". "General Ignorance" was featured in every episode until the I (ninth) series, but featured only occasionally in the J (tenth) and K (eleventh) series before appearing regularly again in the L (twelfth) series. Due to the large number of "obvious but wrong" answers, panelists, especially Davies, usually incur the greatest point losses in this round.
Original host Stephen Fry was the narrator in the first two series of the English version of the Spanish preschool programme Pocoyo.