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Room 101 was 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 them to a fate worse than death in Room 101, named after the torture room in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which is itself named after a meeting room in the BBC Broadcasting Housemarker where Orwell would sit through tedious meetings.

Any item can go in and it is also possible for an item to be nominated more than once. Ben Elton has successfully been cast twice into Room 101 by Anne Robinson and Mark Steel. Football was originally nominated by Nick Hancock but it escaped being consigned. Then, in the same series, Spike Milligan nominated football, again unsuccessfully. Finally it was later cast into Room 101 by Marcus Brigstocke.

The television series has been running since 4 July 1994. It is produced independently for the corporation by Hat Trick Productions, screened on BBC Two and repeated on Virgin 1 and Challenge. The audience will often take part in deciding what enters the room, although the host makes the final decision. The title refers to the location in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four within which, for each person, is the worst fear they can imagine. Appropriately, this is supposedly named after a conference room at BBC Broadcasting Housemarker where Orwell used to sit through tedious meetings.

The TV programme is one of BBC Two's most successful, and memorable guests have included Peter Cook, Will Self, Stephen Fry, Anne Robinson and Ian Hislop, the only person to appear twice on the show. Fry went as far as to put Room 101 itself into Room 101.

A Dutchmarker version of Room 101 started on 6 February 2008. Hat Trick Productions are planning to bring back Room 101 as an interactive online version, in which, "a community of users who would make their case for everything they would consign to their own personal hell."


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.

In 1999, Hancock was replaced as host by Paul Merton. Merton's first guest was none other than Nick Hancock. Usually there are five nominations discussed in each show — represented by several surreal props. The last item usually goes in, sometimes for a forfeit.


Under Hancock

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, they would be allowed to choose one rejected item to go in. Should they get too few items in, then 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). Unrelated music (from a fictional Room 101 radio station) would be played as the item went along the conveyor belt into oblivion.

Under Merton

When Merton became keeper in 1999, the rules were very straight-forward, 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.

Nominated items

[[Image:Room 101.jpg|200px|thumb|right|Paul Merton as host of Room 101, during an episode starring Boris Johnson (not pictured) who tried to get rid of smoking bans.]]


Television and Culture




Food, Fashion and Style


Memorable moments and controversy

  • When Anne Robinson went on the programme she proposed to put the Welshmarker into Room 101. Some Welsh people complained about this accusing her of racism. However, Robinson said she was putting them into Room 101 out of jealousy, as they always seemed to succeed in everything they did.

  • Nick Hancock (a big cricket fan) did initially not put cricket into Room 101, as suggested by Angus Deayton. When Deayton was told he could put another item into the room, he chose cricket (led on by the rapturous cries of the studio audience) which Nick, reluctantly, put into the room.

  • Hancock and Neil Morrisey went into a big humorous rant about American Football, including Nick's humorous 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's 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."

  • 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 it 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 Buzzardmarker 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.

  • Sir Michael Parkinson had always lamented the fact that, despite all the star guests he had interviewed on television over the years, he would probably be remembered for "that bloody bird" (the glove puppet Emu, which had attacked him during an interview with "owner" Rod Hull). However, Paul Merton unexpectedly brought Emu locked in a guillotine on stage and Parkinson took his chance for revenge by beheading the puppet, saying, "Goodbye, you foul beast."

See also


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