So THAT's How Scripted Panel Shows Really Are

Richard Osman reveals the facts.

On his podcast, The Rest Is Entertainment (hosted with Marina Hyde), TV legend and author Richard Osman recently revealed how much of panel shows ― from the facts to the banter ― is scripted.

A listener asked, “I’m curious to know to what extent, if at all, panel shows such as Have I Got News For You, Mock The Week, League of Their Own, etc. are scripted beyond the presenter ― and what the panelists know in advance of filming.”

Here’s how Richard responded:

It depends, basically

Richard said that different shows have different approaches.

Have I Got News For You, for instance, is “sort of in the middle somewhere ― the chairperson’s script it written, so everything that’s done down to camera is written. There’s a team of really great joke writers... and that week’s host reads those jokes,” he revealed.

But as a panelist in a recent episode of Have I Got News For You, “I knew the Boris Johnson inquiry, the COVID inquiry, would come up, and I knew Rwanda would come up. So you can have a little think,” he said. “And in the old days, I’d make sure I sort of had a couple of jokes.

With that said, he added that in the “second round, third round, you don’t know what’s gonna happen.”

He also pointed out that as a producer, “you don’t want people to come in with jokes written down,” as they’re so keen to “crow-bar them in” it can ruin the genuine humour of the show.

“All the funny stuff is the off-the-cuff stuff,” he pointed out. You might also see pictures in advance, but “not very long” in advance, he said ― and in the end, “almost all of it is made up on the spot.”

What about the others?

“A show like Mock the Week is very very written,” Richard says, “because that’s the format of the thing ― you’re asked certain questions, and however witty you are, there are certain things you can’t all immediately think of a clever answer to ‘lines you’d never hear in a TV advert.’“

Dara O’Briain, host of the show, “isn’t very scripted,” however. “People know when somebody’s not scripted,” he pointed out.

Finally, “the show where there’s no prep, no script, there’s no nothing, and it’s THE most fun to do, is Would I Lie To You,” he explained.

Describing the show as “a dream” and “the best show on TV,” he revealed that “you do an interview with a researcher a few weeks before, where you’ll tell stories from your life.”

“But after that, you’ll know nothing,” he said. “You sit there, you turn over a card.. and you have not seen it. No one’s seen it... You have zero time to prepare.”

I knew it was my fave for a reason...


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