This week brought the truly devastating news that national treasure, Stephen Fry, will be stepping down from his position as King of All General Knowledge/host of beloved BBC quiz show, QI. During his 13 years in the role, Fry has truly taken a unique approach to the role of quizmaster – becoming a real-life Professor Dumbledore of television, with the keys to the universe seemingly in his back pocket.
Initially hired by the producers as a last minute replacement for Monty Python legend, Michael Palin, Fry has overseen the world’s discoveries beginning with the letters A to M, bringing his wealth of comedic value and intelligence to each series. Britain’s great Renaissance man, lover of long words and all-around genius has brought his own, individual wit and wisdom in full measure to all 180 episodes.
Let us also all take a moment to mourn the loss of the on-screen relationship between Fry and the show’s fall guy/walking disaster, Alan Davies. Alongside other great British television duos, The Two Ronnies, Reeves and Mortimer and Morecambe and Wise, their hilarious dynamic will be a challenge to recreate with any other personality, and will be very sorely missed.
Fry’s replacement, Sandi Toksvig, has been a regular guest on QI, and has earned her quiz stripes by hosting Radio 4’s News Quiz for 10 years. It will be a markedly different direction and feel for the show to have a woman take the lead position, alongside her fresh, new take on the QI-style marriage between quick humour and vast knowledge.
There is the concern she may not quite have Fry’s ability to explain even the most complex ideas in a light and understandable way – a quality which only a minority hold as it is. More comedic choices could have been fellow television icons, Dawn French, and Masters Degree holder, Rowan Atkinson. Alternatively, satire regular and Pointless brainbox, Richard Osman, would be a brilliant balance between facts and funny.
Still, Toksvig is, indeed, an interesting and exciting choice for the BBC and the long-running TV staple. Everything about the next series, from the new host, to the writing, and guest stars, will be watched with great attention and high expectation. Particularly as Stephen, the wise old owl, is such a tough act to follow, being almost inseparable from the ever-popular format of the program. Yet, whilst saying farewell to the adored Fry is a gloomy prospect for all fans, there is potential for some equally hilarious moments in the next era of the show – which will hopefully continue on for another 13, fantastic years.