It’s cheat day on the A-Z blog challenge as I haven’t got any favourite TV shows from my childhood to look back on for the letter Q. (No I didn’t ever watch Quantum Leap – much to my shame, or Quincy – not to my shame.)
So, egged on by the suggestion of my sister, I’ve decided that Q is for…
Quiz Shows…well one quiz show in particular and that’s…
Blockbusters, for those who don’t know, (click on the link on the title if you want to skip my explanation!) was a quiz show which aired in Britain between 1983 and 1993 and, in the British version at least, featured contestants who were sixth-formers, in other words young adults aged 16-18 who would have been studying for their A-levels. Sort of a pre University Challenge warm up but easier. (Ironic considering A-levels tend to be much harder than studying for a degree – well mine were at any rate, but if you’re stupid enough to choose physics A-level when you can’t do maths you reap what you sow.) Anyway, as per usual I digress.
I loved Blockbusters, mainly because I was fascinated by the format of having one person against two. (I think Eggheads works on a similar principal when you get down to one head versus five at times.) But my younger self thought it was really unfair for the ‘whites.’No I’m not been racist – the contestants either played on the white team (the lone contestant) or on the blue team (the pair). Anyway, I couldn’t get my head around how the white ‘team’ could ever win as surely two heads are better than one? But age and wisdom (and watching the whites win at times) tells me that very much depends on who the two brains belong to. The pay off for being on your own was that you only had to link 4 hexagons on the playing board (vertically) as oppose to 5 horizontally if you were in the pair.
The overall idea was that the board of hexagons each had a letter on. (see picture above) The host – Bob Holness – a very genteel older gentleman – would ask the contestants to choose a letter from the board. A game would start with a random flashing letter, eg S as above, and then Bob would ask a question where the answer would end in S. For example he’d say: Which S is the largest desert in the world? And then the contestants would have to buzz in with the right answer. If they were right then the hexagon would turn the colour of their team. Then they would get the next question (told you it was a bit like University Challenge) and they got to choose the letter. If they were wrong, control of the board would go to the opposing team. Sometimes a player or players might link all their hexagons in one run, though this was rare. The match was played as best of three and who ever won got to try ‘The Gold Run’. This was harder (and even if you were on the blue team only one of you could do the Gold Run) as each segment had a group of letters and these letters would form the answer. So, for example: GPOG might be ‘Great Pyramid of Giza.’ The contestant would have to start on the left and answer questions to form a gold path across to link up to the right of the board.
So why does Blockbusters hold memories of my childhood, maybe above other quizzes which I watched? Well it was probably because of the whole famous “I’ll have a P please, Bob” phrase. When a contestant had a turn to choose a letter, this is what they would say (well not just P, any letter.) The “I’ll have a p please, Bob” became a standing pun from the show. Very Carry On! Of course it was meant to be a pun for “I’ll have a pee please, Bob” as though they were asking him to go to the toilet. Sniggers all round.
But it was not the pun which holds the memory – more of a random thread of thought that unravelled from that one phrase. At least I think this is how it happened.
For some reason, and this could have been based on one contestant just one time saying “I’ll have a P please, Bob,” we (that is myself and my siblings) would say this phrase in a sort of lispy voice which evolved to eventually sound like this: “Hep please, Bob.” Don’t even ask me how. It’s the same weird line and trains of thought that led my eldest brother to be known as Pond and my younger as Spock. The first evolved down this route: Andrew>Andre> Andreas> Pondapaous> Pond. Don’t ask me how. It’s still a mystery to us and we made it up! The second went something like this: Richard>Rick>Rock>Spock-your-bum>Spock (for short obvs.) Again don’t ask why or how – it just did. Kids are weird.
But we did used to make up absolute oddball stuff just by talking (no playing – literally talking about stuff), and these initial ideas would evolve into elaborate stories and characters who we would mimic and tell stories as. So myself and my sister, for example, would lie awake at night making stories up about our friend two doors down and her family, putting them in ridiculous scenarios, just for our own amusement.
So how does this link to Blockbusters? Well I was getting to that. The whole “Hep please Bob” character (who was lispy and pathetic) I think evolved into a whole ‘family’. This was the ‘Ug’ family who were posh and all the family’s names rhymed with Ug. (Ug pronounced long, from the back of the throat – thus: Uuuug with more of an ar sound on the u than an ‘uh’ sound.) So there was Bug and Slug and Jug and Mug etc.. etc… You get the idea. However, amongst the posh Ug family there was ‘Smelly Coat’ who I believe evolved or was actually the ‘hep please, Bob’ character. At least they had the same voice.
Okay, please don’t get the strait jackets in! We were kids with very over-active imaginations, clearly not enough toys and too much TV!
I said we used to do these things…I remember me and my two best friends doing something similar when on holiday in Snowdonia in 2007. We may have spent practically an entire day whilst walking around admiring the beautiful scenery creating (simply by talking) a soft porn version of the legend of Beddgelert. I don’t know how that started, but I remember laughing an awful lot and that was kind of how it was with me and my siblings when we were kids and used to make up such ridiculous things.
As to whether I’ve got the back story right, I don’t know. But in my head it is Blockbusters which was responsible for the creation of Smelly Coat and the Ug family. If I’ve mis-associated them, I’m sure one of my siblings will put me right. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Isn’t memory fascinating?
Tomorrow we reach R and I have THREE programmes, because yes, I could just pick one but I cannot miss any of these three out. It just wouldn’t be fair as all three were just awesome. How the heck I’m going to complete three in one post in limited time, I don’t know. But therein lies the challenge!
See you then!