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When I first started self-isolating 74 days ago, Jeopardy was my life raft in this new world of semi-constant anxiety and regularly scheduled existential crises; it’s on every weeknight at 7pm ET, its formula has remained unchanged for pretty much the entirety of its existence, and there is something very soothing/reassuring about Alex Trebek’s stage presence. (They didn’t make him the face of Colonial Penn for nothing.)

Then, they ran out of new episodes. Or like, they paused on new episodes. (There is a Teachers Tournament on at the moment which is apparently new to our screens; I guess it’s in the back catalog of pre-filmed material.) The point is, my sense of structure and routine (which had been cobbled together largely based on television programs, with Jeopardy being the cornerstone // YES I KNOW HOW SAD THAT SOUNDS) was disrupted. And nobody is seeking out more disruption in a pandemic, you know?

And so I decided that I was going to replace Jeopardy with British comedy panel game shows instead. I already told you about Taskmaster back on March 10th (simpler times), a show hosted by Greg Davies that challenges comedians to complete a season’s worth of absurd tasks; it’s basically like a Cards Against Humanity IRL vibe, and it is the greatest. And it has unleashed a barrage of algorithmically adjacent programming on my suggested YouTube videos. And I am SO GRATEFUL.

Because even though I sort of knew about British comedy panel game shows, it never really occurred to me to watch them since they’re not on broadcast TV here. (At least I don’t think they are? Don’t come for me, BBC America.) Like, why don’t we have more things like this in the US? (Don’t answer that, I know why.)

Basically, I don’t even need Jeopardy anymore, because now I have people like Jimmy Carr, Stephen Fry and Sandi Toksvig to keep my brain from going to complete and utter mush.

Let me talk to you about my favorites of the moment…

8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is a delightful mash-up of (as you may have guessed) 8 out of 10 Cats (also good on its own, would recommend) and Countdown, aka imagine the brain workout elements of Countdown but on super weird and funny steroids! (Yes to all of those things!) There are two different rounds – letters and numbers; the letters round is very Scrabble-esque, and asks the panelists to form the largest single word they can via a jumble of 9 letters. Meanwhile, the numbers round features a jumble of six numbers that the panelists must use to try to get close to a randomly generated sum using only addition, multiplication, division and/or subtraction. (I fucking hate math but this is my favorite round. BRITISH COMEDY PANEL GAME SHOW MAGIC!) While the panelists are trying to work out their answers, host Jimmy Carr tries to distract them with tons of crazy shit, like the sudden appearance of sword swallowers, dogs in costume…it varies every time, but it is always bizarre and good.

Then there’s QI (short for Quite Interesting), which is, in fact, QUITE INTERESTING. Depending on how far back in time you go re: full episodes uploaded to YouTube, you might see Stephen Fry OR Sandi Toksvig asking insanely obscure questions to the panel; points are awarded for correct or interestingly incorrect answers, and it is kind of the most fun dot com. I have learned an impressive amount of useless information since I started watching, and I swear to god, the next time I go to a party (in roughly three thousand years) I am going to have SO many fun facts to contribute to the conversation. (Did you know giraffes can’t swim? BECAUSE NOW YOU DO.)

The best part is that what I’ve watched so far isn’t even the tip of the iceberg; there’s a whole huge backlog of stuff that (in theory) should keep me going until things are less bleak outside, and that makes me very glad. So, if you’ve been thinking about walking away from Jeopardy (at least for a bit), and/or want to keep your brain moving (ever so slightly) in these uncertain and very un-stimulating times, 10/10 would recommend a BCPGM.

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