Question of the week: is it important for panel shows to be representative?

Yesterday, there was a little bit of fun on Twitter, as BBC1 satirical comedy programme Mock the Week was faced with the prospect of defending itself from charges of sexism. Lots of people queued up to point out that not only does it do a sterling trade in slightly misogynistic jokes and attitudes, it also has a slight problem in getting women to even appear on the show.

The basic issue is this: every week, it has a male chair, male regulars and usually male guests as well. In fact, women have made up just 18.6% (or even 8% by some measures – I don’t know which is right, since I haven’t done the calculations) of all guest appearances in the show’s 10 year run and that’s an average – the current numbers are even smaller. 

Of course, Mock the Week is not alone. Leaving to one side Loose Women (for really obvious reasons), you’d be hard pressed to find any panel show on TV, from Question Time to University Challenge, from QI to Have I Got News For You?, that is anything but almost exclusively male or that has more than one female guest.

The defence to that is that women don’t put themselves forward and that shows such as Mock the Week are merely reflecting the industry – is it their fault that there aren’t many women for them to ask to be on the shows?

Now, Sian and Crooked Rib does a much better job of analysing both sides of the story than I ever could, so rather than rehash that, I’ll merely ask today’s question:

Is it important for panel shows to have representative numbers of women and minorities? Are Mock The Week and co doing the best that they can reasonably do given the state of the industry? Or is the problem that women just don’t want to go on programmes like Mock The Week?

All I’ll say for now is that I don’t watch Mock The Week any more because, despite Dara O’Briain obviously being awesome, Andy Parsons obviously isn’t, neither was Frankie Boyle and I might find Russell Howard awesome if I were a teenage girl but I’m not.

And frankly, it’s a show that leaves male comedians crying (I won’t say who – I have inside info) about the vicious backstabbing that goes on on it – that’s way too much of a boys’ club for my taste. Is it really so hard to get even one female captain on one of these panel shows? Or to design a panel show that isn’t about vicious backstabbing or quick-buzzer one-liners? 


Review: Terra Nova 1×1


In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, Fox
In the UK: Monday, 8pm, Sky 1 HD. Starts 3rd October

A true scientific law about TV: while having the name ‘Steven Spielberg’ attached to a movie is almost always a blessing, with a TV show, unless it’s an historical drama about the US military, it’s almost certain that that TV show will suck collossally and usually feature various men agonising about the responsibilities of being a father.

Another true scientific law about TV: if your script is written by former Star Trek producers René Echevarria and Brannon Braga, it will almost invariably involve time travel and temporal paradoxes.

The final true scientific law about TV: it’s almost impossible to go wrong with dinosaurs on a TV show. Almost.

You can imagine the thought processes involved in the making of Terra Nova. "You can’t go wrong with dinosaurs. Remember Jurassic Park? Let’s have a TV show about dinosaurs."

"Dinosaurs are millions of years in the past. How do we have have a show about dinosaurs?"

"Can we just make new dinosaurs?"

"Jurassic Park – we’ll get sued."

"Can we bring the dinosaurs from the past to now?"

"Primeval – we’ll get sued."

"Dinosaurs on another planet?"

"Why would there be dinosaurs on another planet? How about we go into the past? I do like time travel and timey-wimey paradoxes."

"Why would we go into the past to meet dinosaurs?"

"Maybe the whole world is falling apart from environmental catastrophe and the only way to escape it is to go back into the past."

"That makes no sense, but it would mean we could pretend to do Blade Runner for 20 minutes. Then what?"

"Well, we could tell a story involving lots of kids and really dangerous dinosaurs about how hard it is to survive millions of years in the past with only the bare essentials."

"Where’s the fun in that? How about we create a show in which people go ‘glamping’ – that’s glamorous camping – in the past to escape from the terrible future and have mildly exciting adventures in which they’re surrounded by inhospitable but only marginally threatening outsiders, while a bunch of guys worry about how hard it is to be dads?"

"Cool. And even though it’s set in the year 2149, do you think we could have minimal changes in technology and social order, while reinforcing every single possible modern-day stereotype imaginable?"

"Sure. Although it’s going to sound a bit like Earth 2, isn’t it?"

"Meh. Who remembers you even did that show, Steven? Falling Skies is the one everyone will be reminded of because it’s on TV right now."

"This has got dinosaurs in it though."

"Big difference…"

"You can’t go wrong with dinosaurs, Steven."

"Fine. Let’s do it."

Here’s a trailer.

Continue reading “Review: Terra Nova 1×1”

Wednesday’s “the end of Wallander” news

Doctor Who



British/Swedish TV

  • Third and final series of both English and Swedish Wallander go into production with three episodes and six episodes respectively


  • Richard Schiff to play Christina Applegate’s dad on Up All Night
  • NBC orders pilot of Save Me
  • ABC adapting BBC3’s White Van Man
  • Starz commissions second season of the Boss before the first one airs
  • Boardwalk Empire returns with 2.9m viewers
  • True Blood‘s Kristin Bauer to guest on Once Upon A Time
  • Monday ratings: Terra Nova starts okay, Two Broke Girls down 37%, Playboy Club drops 19%