"Can I have a P please, Bob?” No matter how many times you heard it, or how over-used and clichéd it eventually became, the line never failed to provoke a juvenile titter in the school playground.
Back then, veteran smoothie Bob Holness was top of the teatime TV pops, and quiz show Blockbusters was essential viewing. Everyone of secondary school age, it seemed, tuned in during its golden years in the 80s.
For those who may be unfamiliar with this cultural phenomenon, it would be remiss of me not to stop right there, and immediately put minds at rest.
No-one had been caught short in the studio – the P in question referred to a letter on the show’s famous hexagonal quiz board.
For more than a decade, teenagers pitted their educational wits against one another, tackling trivia questions either as individuals or in pairs to complete a path across that game board. The winners then tackled the gold run against the clock, to compete for prizes for themselves, and their school.
There was an innocence, a fun (and usually a cheesy, tinny theme tune too), about quaint quiz shows in that traditionally pesky 4pm to 6pm slot, which producers had often struggled to fill with anything resembling quality.
Then, the abyss. The early 90s and most of the noughties served up some truly forgettable pre-teatime dross. Can’t remember any of them right now, which proves the point, so you’ll have to just take my word for it!
Cult quiz shows died a death, and twilight hours became a sea of repeat and irrelevance.
But it seems we’ve re-entered a golden age. Deal or No Deal, Pointless, Eggheads, The Chase . . . they all have loyal, devoted and sizeable cult followings.
And now, after more than a decade away from our screens, television’s most fearsome quiz show, Fifteen To One, is back. Sandy Toksvig this week took over from no-nonsense original anchorman William G Stewart for this new series, with brains of Britain staking a claim for the £40,000 top prize.
Rather them than me. I like to think I’d be a fearless gladiator, eager to prove capable of quoting the Periodic Table backwards, as a way of frightening other contenders to death.
But I can’t help feeling I’d be more likely to bottle it under the pressure, and pass over the task of explaining why Queen Anne rode in state to St Paul’s cathedral for a ceremony of thanksgiving in the year 1707, to another unsuspecting victim.
This is proper hardcore quizzing. With just three seconds to answer, and intimidating bright lights in your face, it’s easy to understand how a mind could go blank or a mouth turn dry.
Fifteen to One is a solid format which required very little update, and there’s clearly an appetite for retro TV right now, whether it’s Stephen Mulhern’s resurrected Catchphrase, Holly Willoughby’s lorra-lorra Surprise Surprise shows, or Griff Rhys Jones fronting the out-take compilation It’ll Be Alright On The Night.
So what’s next for a reboot? I’ve always had a soft spot for daft darts show Bullseye, with Jim Bowen’s crazy catchphrases and a job-lot of speedboats to give away.
But my number one choice for rebirth right now would have to be Henry Kelly’s gloriously kitsch brainteaser Going For Gold, which brought together contestants from different European countries to compete over a series of specialist and general knowledge rounds.
With our borders wide open to members of any EU country right now, imagine the pool of potential candidatesSubscribe to our Newsletter