Blockbuster Bob

bob-1A birthday shout-out to the late Robert Wentworth John ‘Bob’ Holness, who would have been eighty-seven today.

I’ve recently found myself watching episodes of Blockbusters; leave it to he to make me chuckle, looking on fondly at his comedic faux-pas in the presence of cocky sixth-formers. And to be honest, the show is worth watching for the theme tune and title sequence alone:

It was much the same format as the American parent: contestants play on the hexagonal grid of letters, answering general knowledge questions whose answers begin with said letters, competing to string a line of hexagons from one side to the other. We did something a bit different with it, though – Blockbusters was (and to my knowledge still is) unique in that it was an intelligent (but never elitist) quiz show exclusively for sixteen to eighteen-year old geeks; its audience, though, given the teatime transmission and lack of an alternative, spanned from toddlers to pensioners. Bob presided over the proceedings with a mix of debonair and bumbling (he was James Bond, dontcha know); like a schoolmaster from a different era who had lost all control of his cohort of smart-arses. He epitomised the avuncular; whether you found his manner sweet or slightly embarrassing, you couldn’t not warm to him.

As well as a magnificently tacky Blockbusters sweatshirt, and leather-bound dictionary, the major prizes (Bob quite honestly says ‘major prize’ about fifty times per show, each as hyperbolic as the last) these kids win are pretty bloody awesome for 1983, too: trips to New York (by Concorde!) and Venice, twenty-five driving lessons, and ZX Spectrum computers. Just the other day, I saw a contestant blaze their Gold Run and bag a ‘compact portable stereo’ which appeared the size of a small car.

You can see the very first episode of Blockbusters here. And if you weren’t convinced that the show would evolve out of its infancy to become so adorably, awkwardly nerdy, well, look no further than here. The stellar theme tune is totally deserving of a dedicated dance number, but seeing them doing that makes even me cringe… you will certainly never see me executing the Blockbusters hand jive, unless it’s very late or I’m extortionately drunk – even then, it’d be a push. if you want to do the moves yourself (don’t pretend you’re not curious), I have included the routine below. You’d look so cool.

Knee-clap
Hand-clap
Hand-over-hand (x2)
Potato-hands (x2)
Elbow-point-twirl (x2)
(Repeat x3)

Knee-clap
Hand-clap
Clap in the air manically.

Well, there we are. What did I tell you…? Who needs pick-up lines when you have the Blockbusters hand jive?

The Holness era ended in 1994 after the show, seemingly fed up of being shunted around the ITV schedules to make way for Australian soaps, jumped ship to Sky One, who I can’t imagine enjoyed quite as large a reach back then. Indeed, it only ran for one series on Sky before being axed. Blockbusters has been revived so many times since, on so many channels, and, while there are things you can credit the new versions for, there’s one thing they’re all missing: there ain’t no Bob. Holness went on to present ITV’s ropey Raise the Roof – a game show in which the star prize was a house! – before settling into the BBC’s revival of panel game Call My Bluff, which he hosted for several years until persistent ill-health forced his retirement. His death in 2012 was a sad day for the industry, just as it was for the generations who grew up with him on screen.

Did you know that Bob played the saxophone on the Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit, Baker Street? This was printed somewhere in the 80s, and for many years was circulated as fact. What a shame it wasn’t true!

Advertisements
28 comments
  1. Bob looks like an awesome bloke! Never saw that show, but did just see the nerdy clip. Come on! I think you must have joined them in the hand jive! 👍🏻👏🏻😉 Who on earth could resist!!? It’s so catchy! Except it must be harder than it looks as the girl yellow in the middle got completely lost at the end. Poor thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jacob said:

      That is hilarious! I’ve never noticed that – perhaps she has lost her way, or she’s just overcome with embarrassment. It was worse when it ‘took off’. They would make the whole audience do it through the credits; the camera would pan across old grannies and parents looking totally embarrassed.

      I expect you’re hand jiving like a pro today. What a hilarious image. I can just see Phineas walking in, rolling his eyes, and walking back out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! Yeah I can actually hand jive pretty well. Phineas would definitely do that! It was the movie Grease that really lit the fire on that trend for me. Born to hand jive baby! That was a fun movie! I liked it when Sandy transformed from Doris Day into a slutty poodle! Hehe

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        You know, I’ve never actually seen that film! 😮

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        (sigh) Fiiinnee… I’ll look for it next time it’s on TV. But I am not hand jiving.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        Hmm, yes… I’m wary of this!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        Ha! And we can watch in amazement as my follower count drops to negative figures!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        Yes, knowing my luck it’d end up going viral and I’d never live it down.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        Oh dear, I just looked that up. Too much.

        Is this a suitable point to just drop in that I’ve also never seen a Star Wars film?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Catherine Johnson said:

    That was staple of my childhood and no one could have filled his shoes the same. God bless, Bob!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jacob said:

      You have excellent taste, Catherine! Yes, all of the attempted revivals have missed his warmth and style.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Never heard of him or the show but that’s a wonderful portrait and I loved the whole history you gave of it…I felt like I *had* watched the show!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jacob said:

      Thanks so much, Teresa! I do get a bit carried away sometimes 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jacob said:

      Oh yes – how on earth did I write about Blockbusters without that little trope? Weren’t those kids *hilarious*!

      Like

  4. Tori said:

    He he thanks for that blast from the past, great portrait of Bob 😊

    Like

    • Jacob said:

      Thanks Tori, glad you enjoyed it – I seem to be on a bit of a nostalgia trip of late!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ohhh love it, home from school and there it was blockbuster! Bob would have loved your drawing. And that theme tune was ace, unforgettable. Just a quick one for your thoughts ( only because I love vintage tv theme tunes and still have this one on my phone ring tune……monkey!!! Bbc 2 about 6 o’clock, badly dubbed, but what a programme, piggy, Tripitaka and sandy, a pet cloud, electrocuting head band, and baddies around every corner, all from an egg on a mountain top. ….they don’t make them like they used too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jacob said:

      Ah, so glad this chimed with your memories, Rebecca – very nice comments, thank you! I was a bit young for Blockbusters at the time but have fond memories of watching reruns, and later seeing Bob on Call My Bluff.

      I have a soft spot for theme tunes too – I’ll have to have a look for Monkey. My all time favourites are probably the short-lived Interceptor from ITV in 1989, and The Crystal Maze on Channel 4 – both phenomenal and well worth a listen!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes crystal maze…..even the challenges around the country were fun. I think I did the Blackpool crystal maze drunk! Young farmers convention, ( that I didn’t attend due to the theme park and alcohol being more appealing at my young age) lol and I got stuck in a rope challenge, under the situation it was bound to happen. Thanks for the memory reminder……buttons to press were not as good as real crystals though. I only vaguely recall interceptor, really must have been short lived?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jacob said:

        The Crystal Maze is my favourite show ever! That sounds hilarious! Sadly I never got to visit those attractions, but there’s a new one being built in London and opening next year which I’d love to visit.

        Yes, Interceptor only lasted for eight episodes in 1989 – a shame, as I think it hilarious. I actually did a drawing and wrote a little about it a while back, if you’re interested: https://onwardigo.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/the-interceptor/

        The Monkey theme tune you mentioned is brilliant, by the way! 😛 I’d never heard of the show before.

        Liked by 1 person

Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: