I caught Challenge TV’s revival of Blockbusters for the first time this week. It was OK. I think in one of the previous post Holness versions they did try it with adults rather than teens if I recall correctly, and that’s what they’ve gone for in this one. What did strike me about it was that whereas, in the original Bob Holness incarnation of the show the contestants wouldn’t know the answers to all the questions, in the show I saw most of the questions were well within the compass of the average quiz game show contestant. Fair enough – only it did mean that even more than ever the show has become a buzzer race. In fact I’d go so far as to say that you’d be better off buzzing in after half a question, hoping that Simon Mayo will finish off most of the question before he expects an answer. That’s what the successful contestants seemed to be doing anyway, and who shall blame them?
As I say, it was OK. Blockbusters was never an all-time favourite quiz of mine anyway, I prefer something with a little more meat in it, still, for what it is it’s an honest and pretty faithful reworking of an old favourite. Which did lead me to think a little about the whole issue of reviving old quiz shows. Of course, the quiz show which I would most like to see revived, Fifteen to One, never has been yet, but let’s leave that aside for one moment. Why would anyone want to revive an old show anyway? Well, I think that the answer isn’t that hard to see. A quiz show which manages a long run in its first incarnation must have been doing something right, and often that’s down to a good format. Why spend time, effort, and for all I know it money trying to come up with a format which may not be successful anyway, when you might be able to revive a tried and tested formula, which has been proven to succeed?
You can’t say that revivals are never successful, either. Take University Challenge. The original, Bamber Gascoigne version ran for 25 years until 1987. After a 7 year hiatus the BBC revived it, giving Jeremy Paxman the chair after first offering it to Bamber, who respectfully declined. Now, I know some who don’t like the BBC version as much as the original, and they are entitled to their opinion. However , look at the large and very loyal audience that UC attracts on BBC2 year in year out. Think about this, as well. JP has already been presenting UC for 18 years now, and there’s every good chance that his stint will eventually surpass Bamber’s. I certainly hope so. Mastermind comes to mind as well. Counting Sleb Mastermind, John Humphrys has been presenting the show for 10 years himself now. Now, I doubt that anyone could claim that he completely matches Magnus as the question master, but then I know that he would never make the same claim himself anyway. Like University Challenge, it has a very loyal, if somewhat smaller audience, year in, and year out.
This is only a theory, but I think that the more ‘prime time’ a quiz show is, and the larger the prizes are, then the less successful the revivals can be. With the real ‘spectacle’ shows, for want of a better phrase, there does seem to come a point where the public decides that it has seen it all before. Some shows end on a high, some start to tinker with the format. Once you’ve created a sensation with a particular format you’ll never really create the same sensation with it again. Maybe I’m wrong.
Finishing off, I did wonder while I was watching the show, what the worst quiz show revival of all time was. This is purely subjective, of course, but my nomination would be Dick and Dom’s Ask the Family. Which wasn’t really a revival of the show, apart from the fact that families were involved, and it used the title of a much loved show of days gone by.