Back in the Day
Celador for Channel 4, 31 May to 7 October 2005 (40 episodes in 1 series)
Ah, the good old days. Days off school curled up on the settee with measles, mumps and/or rubella, sipping Complan and watching daytime TV, which in those days consisted of Pebble Mill At One, Madhur Jaffrey and a string of mediocre panel games involving Liza Goddard. Pebble Mill may now be rubble, while Madhur Jaffrey and Liza Goddard haven't been spotted in public for years, but there's still a few folk flying the flag for the mediocre panel game.
This, then, is Back In The Day, a nostalgic quiz with more antecedents than we care to remember, from Looks Familiar through Today's the Day and Backdate to Bygones and Never Had it So Good. There's nothing very surprising or innovative about this show, which largely revolves around the expected "guess the year" and "what's going on in this clip?" questions. It's slightly hamstrung by its reliance on news clips - the odd sitcom or pop video snippet would help to add some variety, surely repaying the additional effort involved in clearing the clips for broadcast. In addition, the range seems too wide - the theme is events "of the last five decades", meaning 1950-1999 - and a lot of the events are just too obscure. To get the most out of this show, you really need to be of Clive Anderson's generation. That'll be our parents, not us. For the student audience inherited from the preceding Countdown, there's the sweetener of some recognisable comedians (mainly recruited from Celador's radio shows) alongside the 50-something actors that make up the teams. But the questions are just too difficult and, dare we say it, often rather boring. If Clive Anderson says that someone cleaned the face of Big Ben in 1980, or dairy workers held a protest over something or other in 1983, then sure, we'll believe him. But we reserve the right not to care. Even the panellists seem unable to remember most of the events in the clips, to the extent that Clive Anderson generously gives points simply for describing the clips rather than actually attaching them to a specific news story, which is just as well as that's all the teams can muster most of the time.
Maybe nostalgia just doesn't work on such a large scale. You can see the thinking behind this show - with questions ranging from 1950 to 1999 there ought to be something for everyone, but it doesn't quite work that way. To your correspondent, nostalgia means Ghostbusters, Simon le Bon on a great big yacht, Rubik's Magic and Lo-Lo Balls. To my parents, it'll be something else. To today's teenagers, something different again. Trying to bring different generations of nostalgia together in a quiz show is a tricky proposition, one that perhaps only Telly Addicts has ever come close to fulfilling. Back In The Day tries, but fails. Perhaps it never really stood a chance.
It's not actually a bad show, it's just not a particularly good one either. Watchable, but forgettable. Just like the old days.
"Blockbuster" by The Sweet.