Never Mind the Buzzcocks

Never Mind the Buzzcocks is a comedy panel game show with a pop and rock music theme, currently presented by Simon Amstell and produced by talkbackTHAMES for the BBC. It is usually aired on BBC Two. The title plays on the names of the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks album, and the band Buzzcocks.

The show is noted and known for its dry, sarcastic humour and scathing, provocative attacks on the pop industry.


The show has been running since 1996, presented, from its inception until December 2005, by Mark Lamarr (who also produced the show, from 2004 through to his departure) and Simon Amstell, who started in October 2006, and featuring regular team captains Phill Jupitus, Sean Hughes (until May 2002) and Bill Bailey (September 2002-February 2008), and also the Guest Captains (October 2008-present). Bill Bailey had appeared as a guest in series 4 on Phill Jupitus' team and series 5 on Sean Hughes' team.

At the end of 2005, it was announced that Mark Lamarr was to take a break from the show after 150 episodes, to concentrate on other projects. The series that aired in spring 2006 was hosted by guest presenters, before being permanently handed over to Amstell, who had appeared twice as a panellist (Series 13, Episode 8 and Series 16, Episode 11), and once as a guest presenter (Series 18, Episode 2). The first time Amstell appeared as a panelist under Lamarr's tenure, Lamarr jokingly accused him of "stealing his act".

Following series 20 (Amstell's second as regular host), a highlights show was broadcast, presented by Alan Yentob as a parody of his own arts series Imagine. The highlights programme was sub-titled Imagine... A Mildly Amusing Panel Show.

Series 20 of Never Mind The Buzzcocks concluded on 7 March 2007. The show began its 21st series on 15 November 2007 with Simon Amstell as host and Phill Jupitus and Bill Bailey as team captains, although Noel Fielding temporarily replaced Bill Bailey for three episodes of series 21. Series 21 concluded on 14 February 2008.

As of January 2008, classic episodes are airing on VH1 and TMF, and episodes from more recent years are shown on Dave.

On 18 September 2008 the BBC announced that Bill Bailey would be leaving the series to concentrate on other commitments after 11 seasons on the show. While Simon Amstell and Phill Jupitus will return for the show's 22nd series, Bailey's place will be taken by a series of guest captains, who will include comedians Jack Dee, Frank Skinner, musician Mark Ronson and television presenter Dermot O'Leary.


In the show, celebrities (usually comedians or musicians) are given tasks, such as guessing which song introduction their team-mates are attempting to recreate (usually with no instruments or props, however some episodes included the use of instruments), and guessing which of three implausible stories about a popular musician are true.


The show usually consists of four rounds. The first round has changed multiple times over the course of the show however it usually consists of the teams being asked how an artist is connected to another artist.

The second round is the intros round where two members of a team are asked to convey the introduction of a song, without instruments, for their fellow team-mate to guess. During the Christmas specials the teams are often given instruments with which to play, usually inappropriate or toy instruments.

The third round is the identity parade. The audience is shown a video of an old musician, and the teams have to pick the correct person from a line-up of five people.

The final round is called next lines where the host will speak a line of a song and the team must say the next line of the song for a point. Often the songs chosen will be ones mentioned in earlier rounds and ones recorded by panel members. For the Christmas Eve 2006 Bumper Edition, the Next Lines round was omitted in order that the teams, plus a guest band and members of that show's Identity Parade, performed a particular song (chosen, in a short skit, by a Dreidel). Phill's team, with the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, performed Rachel Stevens' "Some Girls", and Bill's, with the Bollywood Panditsa Bollywood Bhangra band, performed the Rednex's "Cotton-Eyed Joe".

In the first series of 2005, Mark Lamarr introduced a new segment after the end of the quiz proper, where Lamarr tells the audience punchlines which weren't used during the show. Often these have included incongruous references to fingerless gloves.

There has been a running joke, throughout the history of NMTB, about the show's inability to attract guests, with both Lamarr and, latterly, Amstell both making reference to this in several episodes. This was highlighted recently when guest captain Mark Ronson said to Amstell "I'm only on here because you love me" to which Amstell replied "No, it's beause we have trouble booking people."

In most of the episodes in the Spring 2006 series, there was an intro or outro sketch where Phill, Bill and Athelston Williams (a frequent member of the lineup in the Identity Parade round) played in a pub band called "Fat, Gifted and Black" (a play on Young, Gifted and Black), or "Athelston, Lake and Palmer" (a play on Emerson, Lake & Palmer). The guest presenter would usually be the lead singer for this segment (e.g. Lauren Laverne, and Ricky Wilson)

International versions and similar shows

  • In 1999 Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa hosted a short-lived one-hour music-themed game show with a somewhat different format on the USA network called Happy Hour (not to be confused with the sitcom of that name).
  • In 2002, an American version of the show on VH1 with the same title, hosted by comedian Marc Maron, lasted for a month — see the entry on IMDB.
  • An official Dutch version, Doe Maar Normaal (which translates to "Just act normally", but is also a combination of famous Dutch bands Doe Maar and Normaal), hosted by Sander Lantinga, started in June 2007. It is broadcasted by BNN. Regular panel members are comedian Arie Koomen, judoka Dennis van der Geest, actress Ricky Koole and rapper Pepijn Lanen (De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig).
  • An Australian show, Spicks and Specks, hosted by stand-up comedian Adam Hills and presented in a similar style but with different question formats has been broadcast on the ABC since 2005.
  • ProSieben, a German network, aired Popclub between 2002-03. Hosted by comedian Thomas Hermanns, the show's major difference from NMTB was the absence of constant team captains. Every episodes featured two teams which had to present a name and a battle cry for themselves. Additionally, at the start of each episode, each member showed their very first record they ever bought.



In 1999, BBC Worldwide published Never Mind the Buzzcocks: The Book, the CD, the Brief Intense Rush (followed by a feeling of paranoia and insecurity). The book includes famous moments from the first five series of the show, from selected Identity Parades, I Fought The Law, Word Up and Connections rounds, along with collections of Mark Lamarr's one-liners from the show. The book also features new material, including comic strips (one explaining the origin of The Human League frontman Philip Oakey's hairstyle) and "Great Moments in Rock History", in which photos of famous musical moments are altered to imply that line-up regular Athelston Williams was present. The CD features several Intros rounds from the show, in the format of a game to play at home.

Board game

In 2000, Paul Lamond Games released the Never Mind the Buzzcocks board game, licensed from the BBC and Talkback. The board game is played as follows: the players arrange themselves into two teams. They have two counters each on the board - one as a point marker along the edge of the board and the other to select the round they have to play on the roll of a dice. There are six rounds that can be played:

  • In the Style of..., where the team leader has to sing a song in the style of someone notable, e.g. "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in the style of Mick Jagger, or "Start Me Up" in the style of Jeremy Clarkson.
  • When I Was Famous, where the team leader asks a trivia question, and the other team members have to guess the answer.
  • Intros round, the only surviving round from the TV show. Each team gets one intro per round.
  • Vital Vinyl, where the team leader asks a trivia question about a song or an album, and anyone from either team can answer.
  • Songs in One Sentence, where the team leader divides their team into two, and one section of the team has to describe a song without mentioning the song title or any lyrics in the song, and the other section has to guess what the song is.
  • Your Number's Up, where the team leader reads the category on the card to the opposite team, for example, name four songs that mention American states in their titles, for which you might answer "Massachusetts" (The Bee Gees), "Hotel California" (The Eagles), "Englishman in New York" (Sting), and "Sweet Home Alabama" (Lynyrd Skynyrd).

The teams earn the number of points given for the round on the card. For "In the Style of...", it is always one point for the song, and two points for the artist they are doing the song in the style of. At the end of their turn, the team moves their counter on the outer ring clockwise, by the number of points they scored.

The team that overtakes the other on the squares on the edge of the board wins the game.

Controversial guests

There have been some controversial guests:

  • In Episode 2 of Series 3, Lemmy of Motörhead fame walked off the show near the end of the episode, purportedly after he realised that most of Mark Lamarr and the other panelist's jokes were making fun of him. Similarly, Preston of the Ordinary Boys walked out of the studio after Simon Amstell made fun of him repeatedly in Episode 3 of Series 20.
  • In Episode 1 of Series 4, BBC Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles was on the receiving end of several jokes from host Lamarr, and at one point, after he had failed to guess any of the intros from his team, responded to Lamarr's sarcastic question "You never seen this quiz before?" with "No, it's crap". Moyles looked sullen and uncomfortable throughout the show, which resulted in a war of words that continued between the two for some time after, with Moyles commenting on his breakfast show that Lamarr's own stint as a DJ on Radio 1 was "about as popular as Hitler", and Lamarr responding by making several public insults about Moyles in the following episode of NMTB. The pair clashed again at the 1999 Brit Awards.

More recently, there have been several notable incidents of guests expressing controversial behaviour in episodes featuring current host Simon Amstell.

  • In Episode 4 of Series 19, Amy Winehouse was a member of Bill's team. She insulted other artists early on in the show, saying she'd rather have 'cat AIDS' than work with Katie Melua, and describing Ben Elton as a 'wanker'..
  • In Episode 6 of series 19, pop star Jamelia caused controversy when she slated fellow singer Javine, calling her a slag.
  • In Episode 2 of Series 20, Donny Tourette, the lead singer of the punk band 'Towers of London' was a member of Phil's team. Amstell recognised early on that Donny was going to cause problems and proceeded to set the tone for the rest of the show. During the course of the episode, Tourette referred to Bill Bailey as a tramp, swore repeatedly, left his seat for a short period (before running back on and manhandling Amstell, who had been sitting in Tourette's vacant chair wearing Tourette's aviator sunglasses and impersonating Tourette's behaviour), smoked a cigarette with apparent disregard for other panelists, and insinuated that Bill Bailey was a 'wanker'. Amstell satirised Donny's punk image frequently during the show, uttering such typical phrases as 'Down with Thatcher!', playing an excerpt of the Sex Pistols song Anarchy in the U.K. whenever Tourette did anything typically punk, and playing a clip of Tourette's 'rockumentary' reality TV show, Towers of London, in which Tourette uttered the line, "I can fucking dick on the Sex Pistols! The Sex Pistols don't have shit on me!" Nearing the end of the show Bill Bailey also said "You're about as punk as Enya."
  • In the next episode, Episode 3 of Series 20, The Ordinary Boys' lead singer Samuel Preston walked off the show after Simon Amstell read extracts from the autobiography of Preston's then-wife, Chantelle Houghton. Prior to the quote being read, Amstell mentioned, after Ed Byrne's introduction, how going on a gameshow for a date was pathetic (as Ed Byrne had been on Blind Date) and then looked at Preston, a reference to Preston's appearance on Big Brother. Preston didn't seem to take to the humour, inviting more comments from Amstell, including "I really like your album", and mentioning that the CD has the label 'all tracks by Preston' despite the majority of lyrics not being written by him. He was replaced by audience member Ed Seymour, picked out by Bailey (on the grounds that he was of the closest physical resemblance that could be found), and credited as "special guest".

Episode list


External links

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