A Question of Sport should be put out of its distress, not revamped


When the BBC does one thing bizarre, often it means it’s pondering of a viewer who isn’t you. You would possibly not watch EastEnders, however many do. You would possibly not just like the delivery forecast, however just a few do. It’s a sophisticated sport. There are tons of individuals to maintain pleased! To paraphrase that nice BBC propagandist George Orwell, you’ll be able to watch Only Connect as a result of hundreds of thousands of courageous males keep up at evening watching Mrs Brown’s Boys.

All the identical, the revamped A Question of Sport is veiled in thriller. When Sue Barker was lastly ousted as host earlier this 12 months, after 24 years, ushered out together with her doughty captains Phil Tufnell and Matt Dawson, it felt not a lot like the tip of an period as the tip of an period of era-ends. While different collection had fallen by the wayside or succumbed to modernisation, AQOS had ploughed relentlessly on, roughly because it was when it started in 1970, buying an more and more tragic and determined air. Any vestigial attraction lay in its old style methods. It was a programme out of time, a relic that had in some way drifted into 2021 as a result of no one might be bothered to do something about it. Barker presided as a sort of stentorian matriarch, hoping to shepherd Tuffers, Dawson and Co in the direction of banter with out straying into cancellation territory.

When I believe of some of the rounds, like “mystery guest” and “what happened next?”, I’m a boy once more. At its finest, A Question of Sport additionally blended the join-in-at-home pub quiz dynamic with a uncommon probability to see sports activities stars out of context. Before Instagram made us celebration to celebrities’ each respiration hour, you may be taught that Shane Warne actually was as you hoped he would be. The line-up over time verged on the ridiculous. What programme at present might carry Maurice Greene, Seve Ballesteros, Evander Holyfield and Jonah Lomu collectively underneath John Parrott and Ally McCoist’s welcoming umbrella, as A Question of Sport did in 2000? We didn’t know the way good we had it.

Evidently I wasn’t alone in feeling lingering traces of loyalty in the direction of it. There was sufficient residual affection that AQOS was nonetheless drawing 4-5 million viewers when Barker left, however none of them can have been born since she began in 1997. Some would possibly say one of the best plan would have been a sort of managed obsolescence. The programme might have carried on unchanged whereas the viewers and forged died off and the set slowly fell aside. The 12 months 2056 would discover Dawson alone on display screen, weakly chuntering amid the ruins of the outdated world because the rising sea carried away his desk. Another technique would have been to take it out again and put it out of its distress.

But TV individuals by no means know when sufficient’s sufficient. If they’re not prolonging collection past their pure lifespan, they’re reanimating them for an additional lap across the block, with presenters that higher mirror up to date pursuits. Last month was Changing Rooms on Channel 4 – with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Anna Richardson newly on the helm – and now this. It’s a curious phenomenon, fan service for collection that didn’t have followers. It locations huge confidence within the new forged to recreate no matter alchemy the outdated lot had, if that’s the appropriate phrase for Tufnell and Dawson’s drunk-uncle repartee. Various names have been bandied round for Barker’s chair, together with the omnipresent soccer guru Alex Scott. In the tip they settled on Paddy McGuinness, the Sam Allardyce of mild leisure. Against the naysayers and, frankly, the percentages, he has given Top Gear a shot within the arm. Why couldn’t he do the identical for an additional flagging bit of BBC mental property?

“I’ve obtained to say what a privilege it’s to be sitting on this chair,“ he stated, firstly of the primary episode on Friday. Is it? In the present’s personal sporting argot, for McGuinness and his new captains, the hockey participant Sam Quek and rugby participant Ugo Monye, the brand new gig appears extra like a hospital cross, a nine-Iron Throne. McGuinness is a distracting panacea, so effortlessly easy that his presence obscures larger issues. In this case, the basic difficulty is that the format is moribund. I’m not a TV creativeness guru, so I can’t let you know what good Question of Sport rounds would be. But I can let you know what they’re not. They’re not Monye and Quek competing to do newbie trampoline bounces. They’re not contestants utilizing their toes to attempt to guess whether or not Headingley is within the north. They’re not triathlete Georgia Taylor Brown saying that she enjoys the occasional deal with within the low season. You’re allowed to really feel knackered when you’ve offered one thing for 1 / 4 of a century. This lot appear like they’ve inherited their predecessors’ ennui.

Sam Quek, Paddy McGuinness and Ugo Monye at the moment entrance the BBC’s long-running quiz collection

(BBC/James Stack)

For a quiz or panel present to work within the second-screen epoch, it has to sing. It has to be fast, shareable, modern. A Question of Sport was invented half a century in the past and has had a very future, however the world has left it behind. The loyalty of its viewers is pure nostalgia. You can care about Phil Tufnell or you’ll be able to be on TikTook, however no one does each. Besides, there’s an excessive amount of different TV now, an excessive amount of web, an excessive amount of precise sport. Why would you watch AQuestion of Sport when you’ll be able to merely change over and watch the true factor? As any sports activities fan is aware of, studying learn how to lose gracefully is as essential as studying learn how to win. The actual query is why the BBC can’t let go.

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