Every now and again you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve fallen asleep watching TV and woken up back in the 1980s. A terrifying prospect for those of us who don’t suit leg-warmers, and who haven’t done our French homework.
In any week you can now watch brand-new episodes of Catchphrase with Stephen Mulhern, All Star Mr & Mrs with the mighty Pip Schofield, Holly Willoughby’s Surprise Surprise, Vernon Kay’s Family Fortunes, Sandi Toksvig hosting Fifteen to One, and even Keith Lemon gleefully dismantling Through the Keyhole.
The BBC is working on yet another relaunch of The Generation Game, Rob Brydon’s wonderful Guess List was a close cousin of Blankety Blank and we mustn’t forget that their biggest hit of all, Strictly Come Dancing, is a remake of a show that first aired in 1949. Meanwhile, ITV recently announced a new series of Celebrity Squares, a pilot episode of Name That Tune, and started looking into Strike It Lucky. We can only hope that Channel 5 doesn’t start getting ideas and decide to remake Keith Chegwin’s Naked Jungle.
Let’s put down our Rubik’s Cubes for a moment and reach for a cool, refreshing Sodastream and find out why this is. Why are so many game shows currently being remodelled, relaunched or regurgitated?
Is it because TV executives are lazy? They’ve run out of ideas? I don’t think it is. I know lots of TV commissioners, in fact I rely on them for work in front of and behind the cameras, and I think, objectively, that they are all incredibly brave, witty and sexually alluring.
I think it’s because these game shows are proven winners, and that is increasingly important. In a world in which it is very hard to bring viewers to brand-new shows, you can see the appeal of a tried-and-tested format. They provide nostalgia for those who enjoyed them first time around, garner much more publicity than a new show, and yet are still enjoyed by a generation who have never before seen them. The truth is a good game show, like a great pop song, never dies.
But bringing back popular shows of the past is by no means foolproof. Some classic shows get remade without most people noticing or caring. I asked on Twitter which game shows people would like to see remade and frequent answers included Blockbusters, Bullseye and Ask the Family. In fact they’ve all been remade already, but nobody watched. Blockbusters has been back three times, first with Michael Aspel, then Liza Tarbuck and finally Simon Mayo. Dave Spikey hosted a Bullseye reboot, and Ask the Family has returned twice, with Alan Titchmarsh and then Dick and Dom.
But although the channels are remaking so many game shows, it doesn’t seem to have affected the number of new shows coming through. Quiz and game shows are huge business and the UK continues to punch way above its weight. The Million Pound Drop and The Chase are just two British shows that have proved wildly successful around the world in recent years.
Of course, that also raises the question of which shows in today’s schedule will the TV channels be remaking in 20 years’ time? I would guess that Total Wipeout would be a prime candidate, as would The Cube. I’m certain that Weakest Link will come back, and I think there will always be an appetite for relaunched versions of shows as different as Deal or No Deal and Have I Got News for You.
As for Pointless, I’m sure that in 20 years, some bright-eyed young TV executive (probably one of my kids) will look back fondly on their youth and decide to give it another spin. Xander and I will be far too old to host it by then, so they’ll replace Xander with His Royal Highness Prince George, and I’ll be replaced by one of the guys out of Rizzle Kicks.