It’s not often that a commercial for cat food can take credit for inspiring a hit British comedy series, but then again 8 Out of 10 Cats is not your average panel show. Taking its name from the ludicrous tagline of a now infamous Whiskas commercial which claimed that ‘8 out of 10 owners said their cats prefer it’, the award-winning show interrogates a range of topical statistics to find out if panelists are in tune with what the public really thinks.
Hosted by stand-up comedian and presenter Jimmy Carr, each episode pits two teams against each other as they debate and discuss their way through three fast-paced rounds. Percentages and polls are the name of the game and panelists must remember that ‘majority rules’ as they work together to answer questions based on the data.
Which accent is the most attractive? What is the most annoying thing people do on public transport? List the top three most talked about news items from the last week. No matter the poll, whether the panelists’ opinions will line up with the results or whether they’ve totally missed the mark is anyone’s guess. Scoring points is not the most important part of the game; it’s all about making your point.
Comedian Rob Beckett, who won best newcomer at the Adelaide Fringe Festival back in 2009, is a permanent fixture on the show as team captain, whilst the opposing team is led by a rotating selection of quality comedians, including Sara Pascoe and Josh Widdicombe. A team is only as good as its members and 8 Out of 10 Cats isn’t short on quality comedic talent or star-power. Past guests have included writer and comedian Russell Kane, The Last Leg’s Alex Brooker, After Life’s Kerry Godliman and comedian Nish Kumar. The perfect blend of comics and celebrities on each team means the show is never at risk of taking itself too seriously and no two episodes are quite the same.
Carr may not have the best track record when it comes to numbers, but his signature brand of charmingly crude and unapologetically controversial comedy elevates the classic panel show format. Even though the polls drive the show, it is the endless series of tangents, asides and diversions, anchored by Carr’s quick wit, that have kept each episode relevant and addictively hilarious over the last 14 years. No topic is off limits, with panelists covering everything from climate change and Trump to premier league teams and reality TV.
Undoubtably, the biggest success of 8 Out of 10 Cats is that it highlights the tendency to see figures as truth, and to accept numbers without question, when in fact, things aren’t always as clear-cut as they seem. Hidden among the banter, Carr and his panelists urge their audience to question the power of popular opinion and the statistics it’s based on, no matter the subject.
The new series of 8 Out of 10 Cats airs on Tuesday nights at 9:30pm on SBS.