Let Me Tell You: British Panel TV

Last term, I interviewed Lawrentians about what pieces of entertainment and media got them through the summer of lockdown and isolation. This term, I’m doing the same thing, except it’s my turn. Each week, I’m giving my comfort food, pop culture and art suggestions for the dreary winter we’re facing. What’s something you can watch, read or listen to that can take you to a new world? Well, let me tell you.

I’ve skirted around the edges of British TV and media my whole life as a pop culture fiend. Readers of my column will be familiar with my love of “Doctor Who,” and I’d have to cite it as my biggest insight into the world of British TV, main channels and means of production.  

However, more recently, I’ve come across most media from across the pond by getting into British panel shows on YouTube. A panel show is a radio or TV program in which a panel of celebrities participate in games of questions and creative prompts, progressively racking up points and commenting on the questions and all manners of things in humorous ways. American examples of this are TV shows like “Match Game” or radio programs like NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” After my consumption of British panel shows, however, I have now concluded that they are the best in the genre, mostly because they have stayed alive and relevant in the United Kingdom (UK) and still air week to week on channels like BBC 2 and Channel 4. My favorites are “8 out of 10 Cats,” which focuses on polls and expects the contestants to find the most common answer in an almost “Family Feud” sort of way, and “The Big Fat Quiz” series, a semi-annual show in which contestants are quizzed on events from specific decades or the previous year. 

The game and quiz elements of these shows are awfully fun, but what really helps them shine are the celebrity contestants, most of whom are comedians. I always look forward to seeing which people are serving in the panels on any given episode, hoping for my faves and equally excited to see new participants. Fans of “The Great British Bake Off” will be pleased to see Noel Fielding frequenting these shows, often paired up with “The I.T. Crowds’” Richard Ayoade as his partner on “The Big Fat Quiz.”  

But my king, or occasionally queen, of these shows is Joe Lycett, a comedian and Birmingham native known for his entertaining panel show anecdotes, which frequently involve him bantering via email with big companies and those who issue parking tickets. This past weekend, my panel show YouTube-hole sucked me into a Lycett feature, an innuendo I’m sure he would enjoy.  

Lycett is most known for his recent Channel 4 consumer assistance show, “Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back,” a humorous take on investigative consumer protection shows. In this show, Lycett investigates companies which rip off consumers or exhibit general malpractice. Accompanied by a weekly celebrity guest and his trusty numbers guy, Mark Wilcox, Lycett dons his large faux fur coat, calls up an Ellie Goulding impersonator and fights for the people of Britain, all while drinking heavily and bringing wit that only a queer person can deliver seriously. 

A highlight of the show is when Lycett is made aware of the legal fight between the Welsh brewing company, Boss Brewing, and German luxury fashion house, Hugo Boss. Hugo Boss had sent Boss Brewing a cease-and-desist letter regarding the name “Boss” on some of their products, all beers, certainly nothing that a luxury fashion brand should feel is infringing on its business of suits and cologne. Lycett and his team questioned Hugo Boss through email, public relations and all the normal fronts but to no avail. So, in his trademark comedic form, Lycett took the matter into his own hands and, by deed poll, changed his name to Hugo Boss. With his new name, he branded a line of athletic braces after himself, Hugo Boss, printing not only his name on them, but a cease-and-desist letter to the fashion brand. And, if that wasn’t enough, Boss set up a launch for this new product right outside of Hugo Boss’ flagship UK location on Regent Street in London.  

Now, having changed his name back to Joe Lycett, he continues to be Britain’s premier primetime trickster with “Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back,” full episodes of which can be found scattered on YouTube. I would also “big recommend” his recent stand up special, “I’m About to Lose Control and I Think Joe Lycett,” which combines typical stand-up routines with Lycett’s affinity for sticking it to the man and being larger than life, yet still extremely relatable. It’s all great content, from his appearances on panel shows to his individual work. If you want a good laugh and pure entertainment, type into the search bar, “Joe Lycett,” and enjoy the work of Mr. Hugo Boss.