NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" adding TV on BBC America


“Wait Wait” leverages a fun quiz competition among three comedians into a forum for satiric commentary on politics and the world. As NPR fans know, host Peter Sagal and judge Carl Kasell frame the show as a competition among three panelists, Alonzo Bodden, Paula Poundstone and Nick Hancock. The TV tapings are being held at Chase auditorium in Chicago for BBC America.

The hour-long weekly radio news panel game show produced by Chicago Public Radio and NPR. It typically airs on weekends by member stations. This is not the first try for TV: In 2008, NPR reached an agreement with CBS Entertainment to create a television pilot of Wait Wait. Sagal and Kasell would be in the pilot, and Doug Berman would be the executive producer. However, the pilot was not picked up for regular production.

On 11/16, BBC America announced that the show would make its television debut with a “2011 Year in Review” special airing on 12/23, to be retransmitted by NPR stations on the 24th and 25th. The show will include participants and guests from “both sides of the pond”.

Wait Wait… listeners also participate by telephoning or sending e-mails to nominate themselves as contestants. The producers select several listeners for each show, and call them to appear on the program, playing various games featuring questions based on the week’s news. The usual prize for winning any game is to have Kasell record a greeting on the contestant’s home answering machine or voice mail system. In most cases, the contestants are given a bit of latitude in getting the correct answer, such as getting another guess and a hint should they initially guess wrong, or being credited for being able to identify everything about a news-maker except their name.

The show typically closes with the Panelists’ Predictions, during which each panelist provides a headline that is designed more to make the listener laugh than to actually predict a real news story. That segment usually ends with Carl Kasell stating that if any of those come true, “we’ll ask you about it on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”

The questions are asked with a twist. For instance, Sagal will read fake “letters” from three famous people describing the kind of year they’ve had, and the panelists must guess the writer.

I.e. the “letter” from Rupert Murdoch complains that his two sons were hauled before Parliament and “asked a series of rude questions by people we own.”

What will make or break a TV viewer’s interest, though, is the same thing that makes NPR listeners tune in or out: The banter between the panelists and Sagal.