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EDITIONS
Friday, 1 November, 2002, 00:18 GMT
Show goes on after Deayton exit
(From left) Janet Street-Porter, Ian Hislop, Angus Deayton, Boris Johnson and Paul Merton, in 2001
Sitting target: Deayton took much flak in his absence
The audience of BBC1's satirical quiz Have I Got News for You had a taste of the show without host of 12 years Angus Deayton, after his exit amid allegations about his private life.
Fans emerged from the recording of the first episode since Angus Deayton's sacking with glowing reports for his temporary replacement, Paul Merton.

And there seemed to be few tears shed over his departure, among studio guests on Thursday night.

Angus Deayton
Deayton was sacked after newspaper revelations
"They weren't nice about him - Paul and Ian (Hislop) were clearly much happier without him," one member of the audience told BBC News Online.

"There was no sentiment or sadness. Maybe the show had become a bit stale, but judging by tonight, it will survive."

It later emerged that Anne Robinson, known as the Queen of Mean for her role as host of quiz show The Weakest Link, will present the show in a one-off appearance next week.

Merton 'nervous'

For his stint in the hot seat, Merton dressed in a more sober suit and a smarter haircut.

His role as team captain went to comic Ross Noble, joined by guest Andrew Neil, while Hislop was teamed with American stand-up comedian, Rich Hall.

"Paul Merton was very good," said a spectator. "He was very different from how he is as a team member."


It's not good for morale and we should know shouldn't we?

Paul Merton
"He was more energetic and well organised, although obviously nervous.

"I thought he relaxed into it and the audience was with him."

Any tone of regret among the audience about a particular absent friend was soon banished as the humour began at Deayton's expense.

Thanks

The idea that the presenter's private life had become a soap opera was reinforced as the audience was shown Deayton's last "Good night" as host of the programme - to the sound of the EastEnders closing theme tune.

Comparisons to other troubled celebrities were also made, with one suggestion that a stint on the show might provide a tonic to the troubled Hollywood star Winona Ryder.

"She went on to a TV comedy programme to try to laugh it off. It never fails," said Merton.

Paul Merton
Merton was merciless in his treatment of Deayton
And the 'Guess the Headline' round provided panellists with the chance to make fun of both Deayton and another sacked television presenter, John Leslie.

Merton thanked Deayton for entertaining the public for 12 years, adding he was surprised he had the energy to do the show as well.

A number of Deayton's potential successors were subject to abuse, including Christine Hamilton, Andrew Neil and John Sergeant.

There were several hints by Merton and Hislop that Deayton's removal had given the show a lift, although how much of that was ironic was unclear.

At one point, Merton said: "Don't argue among yourselves. It's not good for morale and we should know shouldn't we?"

Goodbye from him

Deayton earlier said he was sorry to be leaving something that had been part of his life for 12 years.

In a statement, he added: "I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity of working with Paul and Ian, whose talents will ensure that the show will continue entertaining millions each week.

"I sincerely wish the show well in the future and look forward to watching this Friday's episode ... from behind the sofa."

Have I Got News For You will be broadcast on Friday at 2130 GMT on BBC1.

See also:

30 Oct 02 | Entertainment
29 Oct 02 | Entertainment
30 Oct 02 | Talking Point
29 Oct 02 | Entertainment
17 Jul 02 | Entertainment
24 May 02 | UK
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