About a year ago, when this blog was fledgling and new, I wrote a post criticizing the dearth of female guests on British comedy panel shows. I absolutely love these shows, but I'm constantly saddened by the fact that women are completely outnumbered on them, on the rare occasions that they actually appear. So I was incredibly surprised -- and delighted -- when I tuned into the new season of QI last Friday and saw that all of the guests were women. In a move that I believe is completely unprecedented, women were actually the majority on a panel show: 3 female guests, plus the male presenter and male "guest" who appears in every episode. And the topic wasn't "girls" or "fashion" or anything else that might seem "feminine-friendly." It was just a regular episode, that happened to feature a lot of women.
Of course, as a regular episode, it also featured some jokes that are questionable at best (when these comedians are so quick and clever, do they really need to resort to joking about the pig-rape of one female guest? No. No, they do not). But the women were there. They were indisputably present, and participating, not as a special interest group or a token addition, but exactly as if this were a more traditional QI episode, where all the guests are men.
Out of curiosity, I looked up the guest schedule for the rest of the season on the ever-reliable Wikipedia. Across all 16 episodes of the season, there are 30 appearances by male guests (including repeat appearances) and 18 appearances by female guests. This sadly works out to a token-feeling one-in-three for women, in a show where there are three guests per week. But considering that the only episode of QI that has ever previously featured even two women was the "Gender" episode, and many past episodes have no women whatsoever, this is actually a vast improvement. Four episodes out of the 16 have at least two female guests. Although it isn't perfect, a quarter is better than none, and it is halfway to the dream of a 50/50 split. Only three episodes fail to have any female presence whatsoever... and in a field that often lacks prominent women, and a show structure that frequent QI guest Jo Brand herself has said is distinctly unfriendly to female participants, that can only be a good thing.
I hope that this is a sign of greater things to come.