My first act as world leader (it won’t be long now) will be a simple one. I will snip A Question of Sport from its moorings on BBC1 and tow it into the middle of the Atlantic. There I will scupper it before detonating the whole creaking structure and sinking it forever. Then I will declare a ten-mile exclusion zone that will be ruthlessly patrolled by helicopter gunships so no one can go near the wreckage ever again.
This week A Question of Sport celebrates its 1,000th episode. Is that right? Are we sure it isn’t 1,000,000, because it feels like it. To me, A Question of Sport is teatime-Spam, Cliff Morgan, David Vine and that theme-tune because it felt like it was on the telly every night of my life when I was a kid and beyond. I remember Emlyn Hughes as a team captain and how “everyone” went bananas when Princess Anne threatened to hit Emlyn with her handbag. “Everyone” thought this was hilarious. We were a simple people back then, and easily pleased.
The programme has been on the go since 1970 and surely, surely it’s time to end it. There would be no shame in this. After all, what an innings! 43 years! Presenter Sue Barker and team captains Phil Tufnell and Matt Dawson try their hardest, like desperate clowns at a kids’ party, to keep everything bubbling along. There’s much jokey bonhomie and silly games involving dress-up and other nonsense. But make it stop. It’s a dead horse that’s been flogged and made into a lasagne. Its useful life is done.
My antipathy towards A Question of Sport has nothing to do with my lack of interest in sport. I enjoy A League of Their Own on Sky1 and that is, of course, very sporty. But surely a good panel show should transcend its subject, if it has a subject? The News Quiz would be just as good if it wasn’t about news, for instance, because its success is down to the wonderful alchemy of its panellists. A League of Their Own works brilliantly because its panellists include genuinely funny people – Jack Whitehall and John Bishop – who spice up the dryness of its sporting guests. And I’m not knocking sports men and women, no one’s asking them to be light entertainers.
A Question of Sport has become more larky, that’s perfectly obvious, but it’s the larkiness of people who aren’t inherently funny. They know it and we know it. So the show ends up feeling forced and embarrassing, like watching your financial advisor-uncle trying to do a comedy routine as a wedding speech. Sometimes things just come to an end (see Last of the Summer Wine) because their time is long, long over. Time to give it up.
A Question of Sport: 1,000 Not Out is tonight at 8:30pm on BBC1