A Lament For A Question Of Sport
Traipsing through Youtube revisiting the television staples of your childhood, you’ll often discover that they don’t inspire the same affection as they once did. But they haven’t changed. You have. You’ve matured. Your tastes are more refined. You’ve lost your appetite for anthropomorphised jungle cats in lycra or schoolboys riding motorcycles into ditches or mash-loving badgers.
But A Question of Sport has changed. It’s evolved into a dispiriting grotesque of its previous self. It’s also revolved, literally. In fact when the studio swivelled to position the audience behind the participants, the cracks in the citadel began to appear. The audience at home were faced with colourless versions of themselves like some disturbing truth mirror, wan folk in fleece desperately trying to find entertainment in the back of John Parrott’s head.
Formerly Question of Sport was a show in which teams of personalities from the sporting world would attempt to best each other by answering questions. Any ribald humour that was squeezed from proceedings was considered a useful bonus, the emphasis was on taut, honest quizzing. There have always been a view avenues of comic potential: mistaking a muddied princess for a man in the Mystery Guest segment, or the time-honoured response at the beginning of the Home or Away round, “I’d like to go home please”. To this day, contestants still recite that line thinking they are pioneers, shooting for the stars of hilarity. And to this day, it still gets a laugh.
Now Question of Sport exists as an extended parlour game, a fevered bout of stupidity with some trivia crumbled in. Sue Barker has been cast as the aged aunt who has stumbled unknowingly into the dressing-room with all its weak banter, blanching as much as her artificial tan will let her. The captains groan and mug their way through what now resembles a noxious blend of Mock The Week and The Cube.
And now the sporting guests themselves, not charismatic enough to partake in this new variety, are being supplanted by jobbing comedians and daytime television hosts who only athletic qualification is one hour enjoying the corporate hospitality at Wimbledon.
Perhaps Question of Sport should have perished long ago before it became stale, before its legend waned, like the sporting panel show equivalent of James Dean. Before this:
I’d rather watch the back of John Parrott’s head.
I’ve just watched a clip of an old episode of Question of Sport. It’s actually a bit shit. I’ve changed.