Like anyone of an age, I’m very sorry to hear of the passing of former Blockbusters host, Bob Holness. His show was essential tea-time viewing for me in the mid 1980s, being a quiz with questions I had a reasonable chance of answering correctly. Not that I was ever brave enough to apply to take part, mind you, but I did think the prizes were rather excellent. Bob was as gentlemanly and respectable a host as you could have, and in his banter with contestants and ability to cut out any nonsense showed he was a savvy choice for both the concept of the show and its time slot. Blockbusters was always a slightly odd quiz, in that it tested the theory that two heads were better than one. So, with two contestants up against a solo one, it was always nice to see the solo ones doing well and reaching one or more Gold Runs, where all the prizes were to be won.
Bob was perhaps a little like a doddery uncle at times, but his often awkward smalltalk with contestants was all part of his charm. It also led to some great comic moments, over and above the ubiquitous “I’ll have a ‘p’ please, Bob”.
One pair of lads, who had completed all their Gold Runs, won a round-the-world trip as a prize. They returned on a Champions series of the show to tell Bob all about it, including how they met a couple of girls who were on a similar route. In all avuncular innocence, Bob asked: “And did they go all the way with you?” – to much sniggering from the young audience.
Blockbusters was also where I clapped eyes on a contestant called Julie Thorp (sorry if you happen across this post, Julie). The 15-year-old me developed an enormous crush on her (‘oh, beauty and brains,’ quipped my Uncle Ian), so much so that I wrote an excruciating song about her called, er, Julie Thorp. I think the lyrics mentioned something about her charms “crystallizing into shards of sepulchral majesty” – clearly I was channelling Fish from Marillion at the time. Another teenage artifact I have to ensure is kept under wraps.
In the 1990s, I thoroughly enjoyed Bob’s charming stint on the equally charming Call My Bluff, with team captains Sandi Toksvig and the late Alan Coren – these were the days when I would bunk off writing to have a long early lunch, which sometimes went on to take in Fifteen To One and Countdown too.
I never once believed the bizarre urban myth that Bob played the saxophone on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street but if he had done it, he would have been every bit as charming as he always came across as on television.
R.I.P. Bob. I will miss you.