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Busting creative blocks that is, or at least attempting to, for here we have another game show title sort-of-recreation-but-not-good-enough-to-be-exact-so-let’s-call-it-a-redux. And that’s Blockbusters. I’ve gone with the original, lesser-remembered sequence, used from 1983 until around 1986, when the more famous metropolis with flying hexagons came in.

Aside from adding some extra pink glow and turning the “stream of knowledge” into some trippy tunnel – and with different nuggets of said knowledge – not a huge amount has changed. This one was good fun – frustrating in places, but it seems like every 3D project goes that way to a degree. I’ve learnt some nifty new shortcuts on this and the Countdown attempt, so they’re not completely pointless (now there’s a game show you’ll never have to put up with here!)

As far as I can tell, there aren’t any screw-ups in this one, either, so that’s something to hand jive about. I did have to pull the original version from YouTube because of some horrible flicker on the aforementioned glow, but that seems to have been fixed.

For reference, comparison or just sheer nostalgia, here’s the first ever episode of (UK) Blockbusters, from almost forty years ago.

blockbusters-1-02

You got twenty-five more letters than you asked for!

I was a little bored, and, cool cat that I am, this invariably means I fall back on ropey old game shows. This time, it was the turn of Blockbusters, the student quiz hosted by the delightful Bob Holness and nobody else ever.

Away from its questions and incredible opening and theme tune, I had long been eyeing up the nice digital-style cut used for both the logo-type and letter slides of the game board. I’d never been able to locate the exact font itself, so I decided to take to Illustrator and have a go at making my own en hommage. The razor-sharp edges made it relatively painless to reach the level you see – essentially blocking (and busting!) squares and right-angle triangles together. Some letters look a little off – ‘S’ and ‘Y’ are troubling me the most – but it was a lot of fun.

I could spin the lettering out into various posters bearing witty slogans pertinent to the show, but why do that when you can sum the programme up as follows: goodness, weren’t those kids hilarious?

blockbusters-1-01I’d made a template of the game board long ago but with the wrong font, so fixing this was a must. Let’s play Blockbusters!

blockbusters-1-03As I imagine is the case with just about anybody who ever saw the programme, I now have an excessive lust for hexagons, the cheeky, geometric eye candy they so obviously are. There are just so many possibilities and interpretations, as Victor Vasarely celebrated to the point of tease. I wonder if he ever caught Blockbusters?

Rifling through, I found these relics from early last year, which, while apparently unfinished, show some fun being had with the shape’s versatility. What started out as simple pinwheels begin to masquerade as shapes of a different dimension.

What endless fun one can have with handsome hexagons. Thanks, 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!