The QI boxsets: a pedantic look

QI boxsets

Last month I was backstage at the first recording of the forthcoming Series O of QI, as I am a friend of the people who research the show, the “Elves”. In conversation it was mentioned that I appear somewhere in the new QI DVD boxsets as their “chief pedant”.

To explain, one of my first jobs online was with the website the British Comedy Guide, which was originally known as the British Sitcom Guide. In 2007, the website expanded to cover all British TV and radio comedy, and the first entry on the website that was not of a sitcom was for QI. The guide contains all the facts that have appeared on the show, and this is still a guide that I write up. I also maintain the website’s entry for their radio spin-off The Museum of Curiosity; as well as update Wikipedia pages for their podcast No Such Thing as a Fish and its TV spin-off No Such Thing as the News.

Thanks to this, over the years I have occasionally corrected QI when they got things wrong, the most notable example being when I named on the Series N Christmas special “Noel”, when Josh Widdicombe had mentioned in a previous series the legend of the “hairy hands of Dartmoor” that drove people off the B3021. However, when writing up the guide and double-checking the fact, I soon spotted that actually the road the hairy hands haunt is the B3212. I mentioned this error on the QI forums, and then completely forgot about it until it was mentioned on the programme, getting the shock of my life as Sandi Toksvig described my correction as: “one of the finest quibbles QI has ever received.”

Now QI has been released on DVD by Network, with Stephen Fry’s 13 years at the helm being split into four boxsets. The first two of these, covering Series A-D and Series E-G are out now, with the other boxsets currently scheduled for an unspecified future date. As a fan of the show, I was always going to cover this show positively and thus I feel that a straightforward review might be too biased. Therefore, I have decided on a different approach. As the Elves have called me their “chief pedant”, and soon they will begin researching Series P, I have decided in good humour to cover both of these boxsets pedantically. Please note that if I do make any mistakes, feel free to pedantically correct me in return.

The first pedantic point I feel the need to make is that as far as I can tell I am not mentioned in the first two boxsets, unless I have missed something out. Therefore I assume I must be on one of the future releases.

The next point is the change in some of the music used. There must have been issues with the licensing as certain tracks that have been played on TV have been forced to change. For example, in the “Cockneys” episode Alan’s buzzer played Dick Van Dyke singing: “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, but on the DVD they have a version sung by someone else. Similarly, in the “Germany” episode there is an extract from “My Favourite Things” sung by Julie Andrews in the TV version, but again is sung by someone else on the DVD.

The DVDs also appear to be missing some episodes: there is no inclusion of the Series G “VG” highlight episodes which contain material that did not make the original episode cut, and these clips are not included in the deleted scenes. Also, when Series A was originally released back in 2006 it included the unbroadcast pilot, and this episode is not included, with the exception of some clips in other extras. Maybe these episodes will be on the later releases.

Also, the 2006 DVD release of Series A, plus the 2008 releases of Series B and Series C, feature things that don’t appear these new boxsets, including subtitles, scene selection, audio commentary and a “Play all” feature. Once an episode is ended, you automatically return to the menu and have to select the next one. However, there is a trick you can do. If you just press the “Skip” button before the episode ends, it will automatically take you to the next episode in most cases. Please note though that this is not always true and on discs that may contain seven episodes, you might skip an episode, so do be careful.

Many of the things taken away are annoying, but there is one that is pleasing. In the “Families” episode that was originally broadcast as part of Children in Need, David Mitchell twice mentions wanking, but on transmission this was censored. On the DVD, this censorship has been removed.

Some episodes have also had stuff added to them. The episodes “Flora & Fauna” and “Food” appear to have been slightly extended, and now include some tangents that didn’t make transmission.

Each boxset includes one entire disc of features. These include 40 minutes of deleted scenes on each disc. However, in the original Series A, B and C DVD releases, they had 30 minutes of deleted scenes from each series, and thus many scenes in those collections do not appear in the Series A-D boxset. Other extras include, but are not limited to, the “Genesis” episode about the making of the programme; series creator John Lloyd interviewing Stephen Fry; a montage of all the buzzers featured (although the Dick Van Dyke buzzer is still altered, they don’t show the buzzers used when the show was part of Comic Relief’s 24 Hour Panel People marathon in 2011, and it only goes up to Series M); and at least one short Easter Egg. If there are other Easter Eggs I haven’t spotted them yet.

I believe that covers everything, but as stated, feel free to pedantically correct me if I have made an error. Also, apologies to the Elves and everyone involved in making the show for my light-hearted mockery.

“QI: A to D” and “QI: E to G” are out now. For more information visit the QI website.

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