QI begins with the letter ’T’, tonight

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QI (BBC Two, 10pm)

The term ‘national treasure’ is bandied around far too frequently these days.

But one of the celebrities that is probably deserving of the title is Stephen Fry, who, for various reasons, has a special place in the heart of the old and young alike.

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Back in 2016, Fry decided to step down from his position as host of QI, and it raised the question – how do you replace the man who (along with regular panellist Alan Davies), was the heart and soul of the much-loved panel show?

Before the producers began their search for someone equally clever and witty to host the show, they realised the solution was right under their noses.

Recurring ‘Bantermeister’ Sandi Toksvig, who had already made 16 appearances as a guest on the show, was immediately moved into the hosting chair.

“QI is my favourite television programme both to watch and to be on,” she said at the time.

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Although a few people were worried how QI would continue without Fry’s distinctive hosting style, it wasn’t long before the new incumbent won them over.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2020, Danish-born author and former News Quiz and The Great British Bake Off presenter Sandi explained why it wasn’t actually that daunting to step into Fry’s shoes.

“I’ve been a broadcaster a really long time,” she said. “I don’t know what there was to worry about. I ask a question and then I see if anybody else knows the answer.”

“I hadn’t planned to wear his shoes, so it’s really not a problem.

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“And, also, they tell you the answers beforehand; he doesn’t know it all.

“I hate to break it to you. It’s like a boy’s card trick: ‘Look at me! I know everything.”

Saying that, she also admitted to Digital Spy that she didn’t think she’d last very long on the show.

“Stephen and I are very different heights, and I took over on QI for the first season, and because they weren’t sure I was going to stay, I had his chair on a box that was this high, and I had to climb up into the chair in order to present the show.

“Now, I’m pleased to tell you, I have my own chair on QI.”

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Sandi Toksvig and Alan DaviesSandi Toksvig and Alan Davies
Sandi Toksvig and Alan Davies

Sandi has now been at the helm for six years (from series N onwards), and begins a new run, revolving around the letter ’T’, tonight.

In the show, Sandi will be challenging guests Joe Lycett, Holly Walsh and Bill Bailey, along with Davies, to show off their knowledge of tips and tools.

When asked what she likes about the show, Sandi points at the different ways in which the guests and audience can show they are clever – even resident ‘dunce’ Davies.

“I don’t like it when we rate intelligence by your ability to name the highest lake in the world,” she says.

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“That’s what I love about QI. How could you be expected to know that picnics were originally held indoors, or that a slow loris has poisonous elbows?

“But our show is full of facts like that and it almost educates by accident.

“I love QI because education’s really fun, and the world is full of extraordinary things.”