âCan I have a âpâ please, mate?â?. Queuing up outside the set of a brand new series of 80s hit Blockbusters, a man turns to bathe in the guffaws and chortles emanating from the grannies, geeks and âironicâ revellers (such as myself) who are standing outside Sky studios on a cold February morning. Shortly afterwards, a young security guard forces the joker to explain that he was just trying to locate the toilets.
After a decade-long absence, the double entendre-laden quiz show is back with a jazzy new look and a jazzy-ish new âBobâ? who goes by the name of Simon Mayo, and I have turned up to take my place in the audience for the series debut. As exciting as it is to be standing on the brink of a new Blockbusters era, we brothers and sisters in arms are nervous.
âThere are three things I am expectingâ?, blurts a Scottish fan who journeyed down from Glasgow for the series debut (THAT is the level of dedication weâre talking about).âFirst, the theme tune. Second, the mascotsâ?, such exacting expectations appear to be typical of the die-hard quiz show fan demographic I have encountered thus far. âThird, I want the audience to snigger when someone asks for a ‘p’.â?
Sweet relief washes over us all – the Scottish dude is visibly excited – as the familiar âbusters tune blares out into the corridor. But this new version features electro notes which are even more electronic, and less of a power guitar vibe: Blockbustinâ beats for a recessionary era of cool post-Gaga electro and power ballad mockery. And it works, heads are nodding. Upon entering the studio we encounter, once again, the same yellow and blue honeycomb design which never looked good and still looks reassuringly awful. It is only really a few suspended hexagons which herald the dawn of a new era.
But, as with Mayo’s self-referential quips, there is a cooler vibe to the new show – less of an anxious desire to appear intelligent and more of a focus on the blissful nostalgia evoked by hexagonal quiz boards. As host, Mayo seems aware of the formidable loafers he is stepping into; Bob Holnessâ death last year has left sentimentality over the forgotten format and its legendary host running at an all-time high. But the Radio 2 host seems relaxed, his witty commentary pausing only for the welcome audience woops and cheers which places the show firmly back in the hands of the fans.
A smiley warm-up man encourages us to âclapâ when a correct answer is given, âroarâ when a row is completed and as for the Gold Runâ¦the gaudy spirit of the show is back and stronger than ever. Liza Tarbuck is a dim and distant memory.
It would have been easy to stick some spritely host with large boobs and a fake tan in front of a daytime audience, ushering out Blockbusters tradition for the sake of clean lines and an âimage overhaulâ?. But the showâs new producers, Talkback Thames, clearly had original fans in mind when they went about reinventing this particular British institution for a modern audience. Why fix what wasnât broken?
Blockbusters will return on Sky Challenge later this spring.