Mock the Week is a British topical celebrity panel game, hosted by Dara Ó Briain. The game is influenced by improvised topical stand-up comedy, with several rounds requiring players to deliver answers on unexpected subjects on the spur of the moment.
It is made by independent production company Angst Productions and made its debut on BBC Two on 5 June 2005. The programme has broadcast sixteen series. Episodes regularly attract 3.5 million viewers. Another series has been commissioned.
It was created by Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson, the same people responsible for the comedy game show Whose Line Is It Anyway? Some games past and present are rather similar to games in Whose Line Is It Anyway? particularly past games such as Dating Games and Ask the Politicians. The show's theme music is "News of the World" by The Jam.
The show was initially filmed at the BBC Television Centre in White City, London from series 1 to 11. Due to the closure of the studio, filming was moved to The London Studios in Waterloo for series 12 to 16. The show returned to Television Centre from series 17.
- Main article: Panel
The show is hosted by Dara Ó Briain and on the panel are two teams of three. The current panel consists of Hugh Dennis and two guest panellists seated on Ó Briain's right, and Andy Parsons, Russell Howard and one guest panellist on his left. For the first seven series Dennis was joined by Frankie Boyle, while the other team originally consisted of Rory Bremner in the first two series; when Bremner left Parsons was made a permanent panellist, and was joined by Howard the following series. Hugh Dennis has been the only team member to appear in every episode.
On 2 October 2009, the BBC announced that Frankie Boyle would not be returning to the show "due to other television commitments". He has not been replaced by a permanent panellist thus far, and his seat has been filled by guests in series 8.
Next to Dennis's team is the Press Pit, which is a large desk where they play a round called Between the Lines. Next to this is the Performance Area which is a much wider area with a large TV monitor, normally used for stand-up and improvisation challenges such as Dating Videos and Scenes We'd Like To See.
Although Hugh Dennis is in effect a team captain (and is sometimes referred to as such in publicity material), such a distinction is never made on the programme itself. For the first two series Rory Bremner was considered to be the other team captain, however he left the show after series 2 and was replaced by a different guest panelist each week (although Andy Parsons was made a permanent panellist). In effect, Dennis' opposition do not have a team captain.
Although each episode has a winning and losing team, the entire show exists mainly to provide starting points for 'improvised' comedy routines rather than to function as a serious competition. Specific scores are never referred to, and it has been stated by Dara comically that the scoring system is in fact "a load of bollocks". Indeed, after each round, the number of points awarded to a team is never stated; instead Dara just gives "the points" to the team he judges should receive them. In one particular episode, Dara admitted that winners of each round and point allocation was not based on anything specific, and viewers should "stop e-mailing."
These rounds appear in most shows.
- Main article: Headliners
This round is played by all panellists. In this round, a photo of someone famous in the news is given, along with the initial letters of a newspaper headline. The panellists have to eventually guess what the headline is, though they initially come in with comic suggestions until Dara prompts someone to give the correct answer.
Spinning the news
- Main article: Spinning The News
This game takes place in the Performance Area. In the first series all six players took part, but from the second series onwards, only four take part. On the screen is a Random News Generator with several topics on it. A topic is picked at random, and one of the players has to perform a stand-up comedy piece about the topic it has landed on.
Until series three, Dara would judge whether the audience had laughed enough at the routine, and decide whether or not the person was allowed to sit down. The first team to have all their players sat down would win. If one player from each team was left standing, sudden death would come into effect. A random topic was picked and both players had to talk about it. The team of whoever got the biggest laugh would win. Since series three, this has been removed, and the biggest laugh now decides the winner.
Since series two, Dara has changed the name of this round each episode, sometimes as a reference to a recent event. Examples of this include Supercasino: Make-a-Joke Roulette, Four By One Joke Relay, Don't Stop 'til You Get a Laugh, Lady Gag Gag, Colonel Gaggafi and The Three Mocketeers as well as the NHS Revolving Door of Happiness, as a reference to a recent headline that read "NHS Revolving Door of Terror". Something similar also happened in series 8, with the name Mock You, I Won't Do What You Tell Me (mocking the lyrics of Killing in the Name ) in episode 1.
In series 7, the game was played differently with one panellist from Hugh's team (Frankie Boyle in the first episode and the guest panellist in the episodes following this) and the entire opposing team playing the game with the exceptions of episodes 11 and 12 where only three people played.
If this is the answer, what is the question?
- Main article: If this is the answer, what is the question?
This round is played by everyone. A choice of six categories is given to one of the guests, covering topics such as sport, health, home affairs, world news, the environment, and politics. Once they have chosen a topic, an answer is revealed and all players have to guess what the question was, the panellist who chose the category goes first at 'guessing' the question. This alternates being the first round with "Headlines", and similarly to that round they begin by thinking of comical questions before concluding with the real answer.
Scenes we'd like to see
- Main article: Scenes We'd Like To See
This is the final round in the show and takes place in the Performance Area. All players participate in this round. The screen presents an unlikely scenario, for example "Things the Queen didn't say in her Christmas speech" or "Unlikely lines from the final Harry Potter book", and the players must act out what would happen if it did ever occur. Players participate by taking turns walking to the microphone and acting out the scenario.
These games appear in some episodes, but not all.
Between the lines
- Main article: Between The Lines
This game takes place in the Press Pit and for the first two series was played by Hugh Dennis, Rory Bremner and Frankie Boyle. In this round, Rory/Frankie impersonates someone in the news that week giving a press conference. The other player (Hugh) tells us what the person is really saying. Points are only awarded if there is at least one player from each team, in which case both teams would get equal points. In more recent series Hugh has been partnered by any other contestant, often a guest.
- Main article: Newsreel
This round is played by two players, one from each side. In a number of cases, it has only been Hugh Dennis playing and acting out many voices, e.g. David Cameron and Boris Johnson. In this round, a piece of news footage is played with no sound. The players have to act out what each person is saying, although this usually bears no relation to what was actually occurring. The best individual performance wins.
Recently, this round was replaced with one called Royal Commentary with only Dennis playing, where he provides a commentary on a royal event, with Dara not awarding points afterwards.
What on Earth
- Main article: What On Earth
The panel are shown a picture linked to a world news event before trying to figure out what on earth was happening. So far the round has only featured as an out-take during the clip shows of series 5 and 6. It also appeared on the Too Hot For TV DVD. On all occasions, Dara has joked sarcastically about its obscurity.
These rounds have so far only been played in series 1 and 2.
This game takes place in the Performance Area. Normally two rounds are played, with one player from each team performing in the Performance Area. The player is given the name of a famous person and has to record a lonely hearts ad in the style of that person. The other players have to try and guess who they are.
Ask the politicians
This was Mock the Week's tribute to the current affairs program Question Time. Normally two or three players went into the studio audience whilst the others stayed in their seats. Dara acted as the host of the show, with the other players (normally the team captains and one or two other guests) playing politicians. Former team captain Rory Bremner was normally a famous Labour politician, and Hugh was normally a Conservative spokesman. The players in the audience would question the rest of the panel, and they had to answer the questions given to them in role.
Prime Minister's questions
This round was played by all the players. Dara would take the role of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rory would play the Prime Minister and the rest of his team would be front-bench MPs. Hugh's team would play the opposition party. Teams were given a rather trivial news story to debate, but would treat it as if it was the heavyweight issue of the day. This game usually evolved into a series of puns, with each team attempting to continue the chain (for example, while referring to farming, "I take it you're an expert in the field", "I have ploughed that furrow" etc).
Bombshell phone calls
This round was played by two players, one from each side. The two players (normally Rory and Frankie) played famous people having a telephone conversation. During the conversation, one of them would drop a bombshell to which the other player had to react.
On several occasions, Mock The Week has been the source of several complaints, due to some risqué comments made by the panellists. In one episode recorded in 2007, during a segment called "Things The Queen Would Never Say In A Christmas Special", Frankie Boyle made the comment: "I am now so old that my pussy is haunted." This led to the BBC's director general Mark Thompson being challenged about the comments on Newsnight. Boyle later quipped "That was three years ago. If it wasn't haunted then it certainly is now."
In 2008, a larger controversy arose following another comment made by Boyle regarding Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington. Boyle stated that she resembled "someone who's looking at themselves in the back of a spoon".
Since leaving the show in 2009, Boyle has criticised both the show's production team and the BBC Trust. He claims that the show did not cover enough major news stories and was too restrictive on his risque comedy act, as the producers and the BBC Trust were afraid of "frightening the horses".
A DVD, Mock the Week: Too Hot For TV was released on 26 November 2007. It contains almost three hours of material, including three extended episodes from series five, containing scenes that were considered too rude for broadcast. The three extended episodes are titled, 'Putin, Henman & Konnie Huq', 'Nuts, Pies and Nim Nim Nim' and 'Money, Sex and The Lib Dems'. Boxtree has published two tie-in books, the first was published in August 2008, and the second was published in September 2009.
Mock the Week: Too Hot For TV 2 was released on 9 November 2009. Again, the DVD contains the main 'Too Hot For TV' feature with a compilation of unseen footage, plus three extended episodes from the series archives titled, 'The Anal Lube Show', 'The Leg Show' and 'The Hedgehog Show'. The extended episodes have a total of more than 40 minutes of unseen material.
Episodes and guest appearances
- Main article: List of Mock The Week episodes
The following have appeared on the show as a guest (up to December 6, 2019)
* before becoming a regular panellist.