presenter Andrew Neil
|Genre||Current affairs, politics|
|Presented by||Andrew Neil|
|Theme music composer||Jim Meacock|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Running time||45 minutes|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Original release||16 January 2003 -|
18 July 2019
|Preceded by||Despatch Box|
|Related shows||Daily Politics|
This Week was a BBC One current affairs and politics TV programme, screened late on Thursday evenings. It was hosted by former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil, with a panel of two commentators, one each from the right and left of the political spectrum. The show was introduced on 16 January 2003, as was the Daily Politics, after a major review of BBC political programmes. It replaced the nightly Despatch Box (1998-2002), for which Neil had been the sole presenter in its later years.
In February 2019, following Neil's decision to step down as host, the BBC announced that This Week would end in July 2019. The final episode aired on 18 July 2019, a live broadcast from Westminster Central Hall with an invited audience of political dignitaries and celebrities. Mick Hucknall of pop group Simply Red sang "Nobody Does it Better" to Andrew Neil and the 'Final Show' was closed by 'Quiet Man' covering "Make Luv" (sic). After September 2019, Neil went on to host The Andrew Neil Show on Wednesdays. This Week was initially replaced on Thursdays by the TV version of Brexitcast, a podcast about Brexit.
With a light-hearted tone compared with most political programming, This Week was "punchy, irreverent, satirical". From start to finish, Michael Portillo was the regular Conservative commentator on the show and the Labour Party commentator until 2010 was Diane Abbott. The two were ostensibly an "odd couple" coming from different sides of the political spectrum (albeit with a long-standing friendship dating back to when both attended grammar school in Harrow, even having appeared in a production of Macbeth together).
During her unsuccessful campaign in 2010 to lead the Labour Party and her subsequent tenure as Shadow Minister for Public Health, Abbott began making only occasional appearances, her ability to speak without constraint becoming noticeable. Eventually, her place was taken by another Labour MP, in rotation each week, always a backbencher, most often Alan Johnson. After returning to the backbenches in 2013, Abbott appeared on a fortnightly basis, alternating with Johnson. Since her appointment to Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet in September 2015, she has not appeared. The tradition of Labour MPs alternating in the spot has continued.
Since 2013, Neil's golden retriever Miss Molly also frequently appeared on the show, often walking in front of the camera during shots or choosing to sleep next to guests.
This Week often appeared on the BBC Radio 4 Comedy Show Dead Ringers, where Andrew Neil interviewed Diane Abbott and then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn often popped up.
Shown directly following Question Time, This Week presented itself as a more laid-back companion to its predecessor, with episodes regularly opening with a summary of the week's main events in the form of a parody of a popular television series. At the beginning of each episode, Neil asked the two regular commentators for their "Moment of the Week", occasionally contributing his own "moment". The standard format consists of three segments, with a guest contributor featuring in each. The first featured a journalist or commentator who presents their "Take of the Week" in a short film before appearing in the studio to discuss their perspective further. The second segment was a light-hearted "Round-up of the Week" in and around Parliament, formerly presented by Mark Mardell, who left the show on becoming the BBC's Europe Editor in 2005. The "Round-up" segment was later presented by a rotation of writers and broadcasters. This was followed by a discussion between the hosts (often joined for this segment by Miranda Green) of the issues raised. The third main segment, "Spotlight", typically focused more on cultural topics and features a final guest. For many years, there was often also a quiz at the end of the show, in which Neil took pleasure in demonstrating the commentators' ignorance of a range of topics, though this feature no longer appeared in later years.
Though primarily a political discussion programme, This Week achieved notoriety for its humorous approach to current affairs. For example, during the 2005 General Election, the show's title sequence spoofed the recently re-released version of "Is This the Way to Amarillo" and its video featuring comedian Peter Kay. In 2011, following the announcement that the techno band Underworld were to perform at the opening ceremony for the London Summer Olympics, the show's ending credits featured Neil and his guests raving to the band's music. The clip subsequently went viral on YouTube, helping to increase the show's unconventional popularity amongst younger audiences.
During the general election campaign of 2010, This Week was broadcast on Monday nights in addition to its usual Thursday night slot, with contributors including Sarah Teather, Lynne Featherstone, Caroline Flint and James Purnell and the late Charles Kennedy.
In keeping with its comic style, This Week had several recurring jokes and nicknames. These included assertions that the show's viewers watched the show drinking Blue Nun, David Cameron watched the show in bed wearing his pyjamas, and that the cast regularly went to a nightclub after filming is completed, either Annabel's in Berkeley Square or Lou Lou's in Mayfair (with Charles Clarke providing the guests a minicab service, even when he was not appearing on the show). It was also frequently said that the show had a budget of almost zero, and had few or no regular viewers. While giving out the Twitter and Facebook handles for the show (in the process, creatively mangling the names of the social media sites), Neil also insisted that no comments posted by viewers would be read. In addition, every episode began with the words "Evenin' all" and ended with "That's your lot for this week" followed by "Nighty-night; don't let the [topical event or person] bite". The middle section was introduced with "Now, it's late; [topical event]-late." Following Diane Abbott's departure from the show, Neil would joke that her leadership bid and later appointment as Shadow Minister for Public Health were part of her "insatiable lust for power". On the rare occasions that she consequently made an appearance on the show, Neil introduced her by saying "And back by absolutely no public demand whatsoever...". In weeks where the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow (or his spouse), had featured in the news, the end credits were frequently shown over a scene of the diminutive Speaker being ceremonially escorted into the House of Commons to the music and lyrics of Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John".
During general elections, the show started with the 'election song'. The 2005 election song was "Is this the way to Election Day?" (a spoof of "Is This the Way to Amarillo?" by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield), and for the 2010 election, the song was "We're Off to Find a PM" (a spoof of "We're Off to See the Wizard" by Harold Arlen).