Room 101 is a BBC comedy television series based on the radio series of the same name, in which celebrities are invited to discuss their pet hates and persuade the host to consign those hates to oblivion in Room 101, a location whose name is inspired by the torture room in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four which reputedly contained "the worst thing in the world". George Orwell himself named it after a meeting room in Broadcasting House where he would sit through tedious meetings.[1] It is produced independently for the BBC by Hat Trick Productions.

Nick Hancock hosted the first three series of the show from 1994 till 1997. He was succeeded by Paul Merton, who hosted the show from 1999 till the show's original run came to an end in 2007. Frank Skinner hosts the revamped incarnation that started on 20 January 2012.[2]

The 1994–2007 incarnation of the show was that of a one-on-one interview between the host and guest. Consignment of the nominated items, persons or concepts to Room 101 (theoretically banishing them from the world forever) was the decision of the host, sometimes after soliciting the opinion of the studio audience. The 2012 revamp introduced a panel format with three guests competing to have their pet hates consigned to Room 101, a decision made by the host.

Memorable guests have included Ricky Gervais, Spike Milligan, Stephen Fry, Boris Johnson and Ian Hislop (the only person to appear twice on the show in its original format). Stephen Fry went as far as to put Room 101 itself into Room 101.

A Dutch version of Room 101 started on 24 February 2008, but was short-lived.[3] An Israeli version of the show was broadcast between 2010 and 2013. An Australian version of the show hosted by Paul McDermott began in 2015.[4][5]

Contents 1 History 2 Rules 2.1 Under Hancock (1994–1997) 2.2 Under Merton (1999–2007) 2.3 Under Skinner (2012–present) 3 Memorable moments and controversy 4 Transmissions 5 See also 6 References 7 External links


The radio series was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 5 in 1992, where it was hosted by Nick Hancock. Hancock was also the first presenter when the series transferred to television two years later. The first ever guest on the TV version was comedian Bob Monkhouse who cast the French into Room 101.

In 1999, Hancock was replaced as host by Paul Merton (who was also the first ever guest on the original radio version). Merton's first guest was Nick Hancock and his last was his regular competitor on Have I Got News for You, Ian Hislop. Usually, there were five nominations discussed in each show – represented by several surreal props. The last item usually goes in, sometimes for a forfeit.

Following Merton's departure in 2007, it was announced that a replacement would be sought; however, it was not until 2012 that a twelfth series, now fronted by Frank Skinner, was aired.[2][6]


Under Hancock (1994–1997)

The rules were fairly tight. Nick Hancock clearly thought out his argument and could be quite strict. Sometimes nominated items he disliked would go into Room 101 and those he didn't would not. Should the guest succeed in getting three items into the room, he would be allowed to choose one rejected item to go in. Should he get too few items in, an item previously put into the room would get a reprieve (this only happened to Caroline Quentin, who released Paul Daniels – he was later put back in by Jim Davidson and was eventually a guest). Incidental music (from a fictional Room 101 radio station) would be played as the item went along the conveyor belt into oblivion.

Under Merton (1999–2007)

When Merton became keeper in 1999, the rules were very straightforward, the conditions for choosing a bonus item or releasing an item were relaxed, the music removed, and the conveyor belt replaced by an elevated trapdoor. The conversation tended to be more relaxed, reflecting Merton's nature. Merton was often hesitant when asked to put animals into Room 101, normally saying, "You're asking me to get rid of an entire species", but he normally backed down. Merton generally put items into the room even if initially he did not want to.

Under Skinner (2012–present)

The show's format was given a complete revamp when Skinner became the new keeper in 2012. Instead of the original Room 101 format, three guests were on each show. The show was divided into a number of categorised rounds, into which guests would nominate something they hated from in that category. They would then argue about why they felt their nominated item should go into Room 101, at the end of which Skinner would choose from all the nominations.[7] Each show also had a "Wildcard" round, where the guests could pick anything they want. At the end of each show, the guest Skinner felt had argued the best would be declared that week's winner and allowed to put any object into Room 101 unchallenged, but this feature was dropped for the second series in the current format. In the fourth series, Christian Jessen was permitted a "bonus choice" where he sent German pop music into Room 101 unchallenged. As of the 16th series the entire concept of items being divided into categories has been dropped and each round is now essentially a "Wildcard round" where guests can nominate anything they want to go into Room 101.

Memorable moments and controversyEdit

When Anne Robinson went on the programme she proposed to put the Welsh into Room 101. Some Welsh people complained about this accusing her of xenophobia. However, Robinson said she was putting them into Room 101 out of jealousy, as they always seemed to succeed in everything they did. The Broadcasting Standards Commission investigated and found her comments "came close to bordering on racism". Merton has since explained that before each show he hosted, he took his guests for lunch in order to discuss their nominations. The one guest who didn't go was Anne Robinson and as a result Merton had no idea that she had chosen the Welsh to go into Room 101. The first item ever put into Room 101 was the French, as suggested by Bob Monkhouse. Monkhouse said of France: "I would like to tilt the Channel Tunnel downwards and turn it into a sewer". Nick Hancock, a big fan of cricket, did not initially put the sport into Room 101 as suggested by Angus Deayton. When Deayton was told he could put another item into the room, he chose cricket again (led on by the rapturous cries of the studio audience) which Nick, reluctantly, put into the room. Hancock and Neil Morrissey went into a rant about American football, including Nick's observation: "They blow a whistle and then they just go everywhere. I think it's based on Runaround". Jonathan Ross wanted to put his dress sense into the room. However, he was presented with a hat he said he liked, but never bought. He was told he could put his dress sense in, but the hat would have to go in also. After a brief think, Ross told Paul, "I'm keeping my clothes." Stephen Fry attempted to put Room 101 into Room 101 (mainly because it was about people talking about things they hate). Merton found it hard to decide what to do because if he did put Room 101 into Room 101, he said, it would be like committing "professional suicide", and if he didn't put it into Room 101, he would have to give it to Stephen and it would then become his. Merton did put it into the room, which made the picture go blank followed by Merton saying "I wish I hadn't done that". In the run up to Room 101 going into Room 101, Room Lovely involved Stephen nominating things he liked, such as Kathy Burke and public libraries. To show the unflinchingly bad content of Children in Need telethons during Ricky Gervais' episode, Paul and Ricky were subjected to Lesley Joseph dancing and what looked liked her being "kicked up the arse by the Invisible Man" or being attracted to someone in the audience "who had a very powerful vagina magnet." Ricky also told a story (which he declared would never make the broadcast) of a friend of his who on moving out to the country was presented with a rice pudding made with his new neighbour's leftover human breast milk. He claimed that if it had been presented to himself, he would have offered to make her a "spunk sandwich." Harry Hill wanted to put ice cream vans into Room 101, saying the tune they always play is Greensleeves and "it ruins tea". Paul suggested a savoury ice-cream made of mashed potato, ketchup (instead of raspberry sauce) and a sausage (instead of a Flake). At the end of the 11th series, to mark his departure from the show, Merton cast himself into Room 101, having been nominated by Ian Hislop, his rival on TV show Have I Got News for You, but with a slight twist. Just before pulling the lever to put himself into Room 101, Merton flipped round the image of himself to reveal Hislop, hence putting himself and Hislop in together, as the final people to go into Room 101 with Paul Merton as host. Another item chosen by Hislop, Piers Morgan, was put into Room 101, but the room rejected him because he was "too toxic", so he was not allowed in. In the 6th series (2001) Mel and Sue put the town of Leighton Buzzard into Room 101 because of a particularly disastrous gig they once did there. This caused controversy in the local papers of the Bedfordshire town, with the council claiming that they did not have permission to use the arms of the town in the programme. Comedian Rhod Gilbert tried to put himself in Room 101, because of his laziness. However, he was denied. UK-based German comedian Henning Wehn successfully put fundraising into Room 101, because "someone going on a run shouldn't set him back". Shortly afterwards he attempted to put the Royals into Room 101, yet this time his suggestion was denied. Sheila Hancock also tried to put herself into Room 101.


Main article: List of Room 101 episodes


Start date

End date


1 4 July 1994 22 August 1994 8 2 1 September 1995 20 October 1995 8 3 1 August 1997 26 September 1997 8 4 22 July 1999 10 September 1999 8 5 4 August 2000 29 September 2000 8 6 8 January 2001 12 March 2001 10 7 25 February 2002 22 April 2002 8 8 3 November 2003 22 December 2003 8 9 13 September 2004 1 November 2004 8 10 14 September 2005 2 November 2005 8 11 5 January 2007 9 February 2007 6 12 20 January 2012 9 March 2012 8 13 4 January 2013 22 February 2013 8 14 24 January 2014 14 March 2014 8 15 2 January 2015 6 March 2015 9 16 14 January 2016 17 March 2016 9

See alsoEdit

BBC portal iconTelevision portal Room 101 (radio series)


1.Jump up ^ "THE REAL ROOM 101". Retrieved 9 December 2006. 2.^ Jump up to: a b Frank Skinner (1970-01-01). "Media Centre - Frank Skinner to host Room 101 on BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 3.Jump up ^ "Episode 1". Room 101 (Dutch version). 2008-02-06. 4.Jump up ^ "Paul McDermott back on TV as half therapist half host with Room 101 on SBS". News Ltd. 19 October 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 5.Jump up ^ "Room 101". SBS. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 6.Jump up ^ "Frank Skinner to host new Room 101 series". British Comedy Guide. 20 August 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 7.Jump up ^ "Room 101 gets new format with new host Skinner". British Comedy Guide. 12 September 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2011.

External linksEdit

Room 101 (1994–2007) at BBC Programmes Room 101 (2012–present) at BBC Programmes Room 101 Extra Storage at BBC Programmes Room 101 at the Internet Movie Database Room 101 (1994–2007) at British Comedy Guide Room 101 (2012–present) at British Comedy Guide

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