Blockbusters is one of my all-time favourite game shows, and now that repeats of both the first series in 1983 and the final series in 1994 have been shown on Challenge, I thought I’d compare the two to discover how the show evolved into a much-loved classic.
Scheduling. First series. The way Blockbusters was scheduled varied for each ITV region, and it was rather erratic, but it was usually shown on weekdays before the 5:45 news. Final series. After ITV dropped the show, which Bob called “a terrible decision”, Sky One picked it up for another series which was shown on weekdays at 7pm, before moving it to 6:30, and four ITV regions then repeated this series in 1995. It was still produced by Central.
Title sequence. First series. The opening featured a nice animation of floating hexagons featuring pictures of various topics that would be featured in the questions, and this was accompanied by the terrific theme music “Quiz Wizard” by Ed Welch. Final series. The famous titles introduced around 1987 were still used, although the end was changed to feature a shot of the studio. Oddly though, a much inferior version of the theme was used which sounded rather cheap and as if it was being played on a clapped-out keyboard.
Set design. First series. The set already featured the signs of famous figures, although the background featured odd-looking purple and orange blinds, and the colour would change a lot over the years. There was also a monitor on the front of the desk. Also, the white team’s buzzer was low-pitched, and the blue team’s was high-pitched. Final series. The set still featured the famous figures and was now the more familiar blue background, and under the scoreboard were some lights indicating how many Gold Runs the teams had done. The monitor had long-since gone and the buzzer noises had swapped round too.
Bob Holness. First series. In the first series Bob’s presentation was a little dry, his conversations with the contestants were a little stilted, and he hadn’t developed his catchphrases, with the much less memorable “that’s the connection” being said at the end of every game. Also, Bob didn’t wear his glasses for the whole of the show, and there was much speculation by people as to whether he was hosting sat down or stood up. Final series. Bob had now very much settled into his role, talking to the contestants about their interests, laughing even when they asked for a “P” for the 1,000th time, and ending every game by saying the much catchier “that’s Blockbusters!”.
Contestants. First series. The contestants were sixth formers so they were all aged 16-18, although many of them looked a lot older, and some of them wore their school uniform as well, although that didn’t last long. Final series. Fashions change of course and lots of contestants in this series seemed to have long hair in a ponytail, and they all enjoyed taking lots of mascots along with them, and Bob always seemed to be amused by the amount of furry friends who appeared. The famous hand jive introduced in 1986 was also regularly seen.
Gameplay. First series. Because computer technology wasn’t advanced enough for the time, the gameboard was created by seemingly having about 38 slide projectors all stacked on top of one another. There was also £5 for each correct answer. Final series. The board design was the same, although it was slightly zoomed in compared to before. Games also remained the best of three. There was also a bonus question introduced on a gold card which was indicated by a cash till noise where if the contestant got it right they won an extra £5. Bob reprimanded himself in one edition after he referred to it as “a fiver”, gosh, how vulgar.
The Gold Run. First series. In the Gold Run contestants had 60 seconds to get from one end to the other, with £10 for each correct answer if they didn’t make it. They could play a maximum of five Gold Runs, although this was later reduced to three. Final series. This part of the show never really changed, except that for this series the number of Gold Runs that could be played was increased to five again. I also noticed that Bob said that one relived contestant who completed their Gold Run just in time was “puffing like a grampus” which is a new one on me.
Prizes. First series. Defeated contestants took away consolation prizes of a sweatshirt and gold-embossed dictionary which both had “Blockbusters 1983” written on them. There was also a bonus prize on offer for the schools that they represented indicated by a sound effect borrowed from Family Fortunes, and some of the Gold Run prizes available included computers which were fancy for the time. Final series. The consolation prizes were still a sweatshirt and dictionary, the schools prizes were still on offer too, but some of the Gold Run prizes seemed a little smaller, maybe this could have been down to budget cuts, but most of what was on offer still impressed.