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In this day and age, a television series is a dangerous enterprise. With money to the entertainment sector continuously disappearing in the wake of the most serious recession in living memory, we have seen numerous shows axed, discontinued, or in the case of BBC’s Merlin, draw to a close in suspiciously rushed fashion. However, it is during times like this, that the entertainment industry’s real successes get their chance to shine. For a television show to go into the recession, and come out (eventually) at the other side, indicates sturdiness and reliability, and a show that has something a little bit special about it.
On Monday 4th March 2013, BBC’s topical sports quiz show, A Question of Sport, saw its landmark 1000th episode aired on BBC 1. Few are likely to realise the importance and influence of this show on modern television, especially its influence on the now massively popular panel show template. Having first aired on the BBC in 1968, it is now the longest running quiz show on British television, and with the airing of its 1000th episode, should go down in the history books as a true legend of British broadcasting.
The show’s success is bound up with the British people’s love for sport and comedy, alongside the show’s continuing ability to poke good honest fun at some of our best loved sportsmen and women. Current host, Sue Barker, who has now sat as presenter a phenomenal 584 times, has been the backbone for the show since 1997. Her onscreen interactions with team captain’s Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell (and prior to him Ally McCoist) have provided the BBC with comedy gold, both on officially aired shows, as well as numerous blooper reels that have been subsequently revealed over the years, some of which have been even more entertaining than the shows themselves.
The show’s combination of engaging topical sports questions, mystery guest rounds, and captain’s challenges, all accompanied with the electric personalities of the sports stars that sit on the show’s panels week by week, is what makes the shows catalyst so successful. The double act of Dawson and Tufnell drives the show, with a humour that teasingly flirts with the inappropriate, but never crossing line. As of recent years, the show’s success has allowed it to steadily adapt and move with the times, including bigger and more adventurous captain’s challenges, one of which recently saw Dawson and Tufnell strapped to the wings of a plane, whilst attempting to name as many BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year winners as they could. Yet the show still remains engaging and not over the top when compared with many other game shows.
The special milestone episode itself was as entertaining as one would expect, and the returning faces of previous captains were probably the highlight for long-time fans of the topical quiz show. The pocket sized ex-jockey Willie Carson, and the quick witted snooker ace John Parrot, lined up with panel captain Matt Dawson, whilst alongside the ever cheeky Phil Tufnell, the rugby union legend Bill Beaumont (now the Chairman of the RFU) returned to the show, alongside the familiar Glaswegian, Ally McCoist.
Dedicated to looking back over the past forty five years of broadcasting, the show managed to capture its own history and humour, alongside some pretty suspect hair-cuts. Montages of previous shows will have brought back numerous memories for older viewers, whilst one round tested whether age has had an effect on the keen minds of the shows panellists.
As humorous as ever, with banter flying across the studio between jibing team captains past and present, the show still managed to highlight two serious things. One, the impressive sporting knowledge of the six men present, who are represent a virtual Shangri-La of sporting trivia. The second was that despite the fun and games, there was a lasting feeling of loss for famous ex-captain Emlyn Hughes, ex-England captain and local to Lancaster, having been born in nearby Barrow-in-Furness, who died in 2004.
All credit must go to the production teams that have strived to continue to bring us this show. One thousand shows is a credit to a wonderful concept, matched with outstanding personalities and elegant hosting. I am sure I am not the only one who is looking forward to the next one thousand.