Blockbusters (BBC2, 1997)
As you should know by now, Blockbusters is one of my all-time favourite game shows. When it ended on ITV after a decade in 1993, there was a brief revival on Sky One a year later. After this, there was another revival in 1997, but this time it was on BBC2 and in a daytime slot. It was hosted by Michael Aspel, best known for hosting shows including This Is Your Life and Give Us A Clue, and there were several changes to the familiar version that was hosted by Bob Holness.
The show’s opening sequence featured a variation on the famous theme music. There was no change to the basic gameplay, but one of the biggest changes in the format was that instead of students, the contestants were adults of any age. Also, the double team played with purple hexagons instead of blue (and were on the left of the screen), the single team’s hexagons were still white. One thing that didn’t change was that there was still £5 for each correct answer.
Another change was that for the first time the gameboard was computer generated, and the questions were read off a computer screen. As usual, it was the best of three games, with the first team to win two going on to play the Gold Run. The eliminated contestants took away the consolation prize of a Blockbusters-branded fountain pen. Not bad, but it’s not exactly a T-shirt and dictionary, is it?
The format of the Gold Run was the same in this version, with some decent prizes on offer, and teams retired after playing three Gold Runs instead of five, before the cycle started all over again. And games would also straddle into the next show if they remained uncompleted. The only thing that people seem to remember about this version was that comedy writer Stephen Merchant appeared as a contestant before he was famous, he didn’t do very well though.
It is something of a surprise to consider that although Blockbusters is a popular show, this version wasn’t that much of a success. Some viewers felt that Aspel’s presentation was a little stilted, and BBC2 seemed to lose confidence, moving to show from a 4pm slot to 1:40pm by the end of the series, and only one series with 60 editions was made. Another thing that was notable was that the show was in a 25 minute slot, rather than the usual BBC half-hour.
But that still wasn’t the end of course. In 2000 there was another revival of Blockbusters on Sky One, and this was followed by the version in more recent years on Challenge (which I revived a while back). Again, while these were enjoyable they just didn’t have what made the ITV version so successful. Who knows, maybe ITV may want to give this classic show another go one day.