Appreciation: RIP to a genial host who treated this know-it-all with great charm

CAN I have a ‘P’ please, Bob? It became a cliché among Blockbusters contestants, but never failed to elicit Frankie Howerd-esque titters from the audience – and Bob Holness played along.

Over time, he would respond with a kind of weary tone that suggested he was thinking, “Oh no, not again”, but you knew he understood each contestant had come under peer pressure to take a P if they got the chance.

I never managed to ask for a P; I wasn’t on the show long enough. It was probably just as well, as my 1984 fashion wardrobe was almost exhausted after the second episode – and the checked grey jumper, chinos, slip-on grey shoes and white socks really didn’t deserve another airing.

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I had high hopes after the first game, when I beat two girls from Wigan, who looked like Paul Young’s backing singers. But I muffed up the gold run after referring to the creator of Brideshead Revisited as Eugene rather than Evelyn Waugh.

I thought Bob might have given me a chance, as he sometimes prompted contestants who got an answer partly correct – but he was probably right not to help as I came across as an insufferable know-it-all; the audience cheered for my opponents and clapped my correct answers politely.

I certainly wasn’t the only insufferable teenager to appear on Blockbusters. There were many, but Holness always treated them with courtesy and respect. His only put-downs were gentle ones. Behind the scenes and before filming he brought nervous teenagers out of their shell with his schoolmasterly charm.

He dispatched me politely (with £155 and my Blockbusters sweatshirt and dictionary) after I was beaten by two lovely lads from St Kentigern’s Academy in Broxburn – Paul and Stephen. I was a bit miffed that Stephen knew Risorgimento was an answer to a question on Garibaldi – “We just did it in history”, he admitted. The insufferable 17-year-old me looked very fed up when I lost.

However, it was a great experience and the show’s cult status was all down to Bob. Students tuned in and helped to turn Bob from chat-show host to cult hero. RIP, Bob.