IF it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So said Graham Norton in a recent interview, plugging his revival of TV’s Wheel of Fortune. The same could be said for any of the game show re-boots currently dominating teatime telly.

Wheel of Fortune has returned to ITV, with Norton as the new host. No Carol Smillie turning the letters this time round, it’s all gone digital, but other than that the format remains the same - contestants spin the wheel to build a pot of cash and solve a hangman-style word game, aiming for a chance of winning a whopping £50,000, while trying to avoid ‘bankruptcy’ along the way.

The original show ran from 1988 to 2001, with Nicky Campbell spinning the wheel and Carol Smillie then Jenny Powell as the glamorous assistants. I can’t recall if it was always a bit dull, but when I watched the revived version at the weekend, I fell asleep 20 minutes in.

Wheel of Fortune comes hot on the heels of Jeopardy! and Deal or No Deal, both re-worked for ITV. And this Saturday sees the return of Gladiators, the high energy sports game show hosted by father and son Bradley and Barney Walsh on BBC1.

Bradley Walsh also hosts the BBC’s reboot of Blankety Blank. And Alan Carr’s Epic Gameshow re-visited ITV quiz shows from the past, supersizing Play Your Cards Right, Bullseye, Name That Tune, The Price is Right and Strike It Lucky.

When it comes to commissioning game shows, nostalgia is clearly a key ratings-puller. And with big names like Graham Norton and Stephen Fry (host of the new British version of long-running US classic Jeopardy!) at the helm, it would seem that churning it out for ITV pays pretty well.

Why do we have such affection for these old shows? Maybe it takes us back to a simpler time of just three channels, when settling down to watch a big money game was a collective viewing experience. During the pandemic TV schedules were awash with game show repeats. From Catchphrase to Mastermind, Tipping Point to University Challenge, I’d draw the curtains to shut out the last chink of lockdown daylight and lose myself in a quiz. If we weren’t doing online quizzes with family and friends, we were watching them on telly.

When I was growing up game shows were on practically every night. Nothing changes - The Chase is on ITV every week-day teatime, with Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games on the BBC. But 1970s and 80s quiz shows took prime time slots during the week; Name That Tune sandwiched between the two helpings of Coronation Street on a Monday or Wednesday, Bruce’s Play Your Cards Right on Tuesdays at 8pm.

There were weekend game shows too - 3-2-1 on Saturday nights and Family Fortunes on Sundays - with big jackpots and flashy prizes. Who wouldn’t want to win a stack stereo, a leatherette swivel chair, a set of golf clubs or a cut glass decanter set? When it came to prizes, there was no show quite like Bullseye, where two blokes from a Wolverhampton pub darts team could end up sharing a speedboat. “Here’s something the wife will enjoy,” said Jim Bowen, as a hostess trolley popped up on Bully’s Prize Board in a vintage Bullseye I watched recently.

A washing machine, a nest of occasional tables, and his and hers sheepskin coats were among the other wins.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: 'Super, smashing, great': Jim Bowen on Bullseye. Pic: ITV/REX'Super, smashing, great': Jim Bowen on Bullseye. Pic: ITV/REX (Image: ITV)

The prizes may have moved on, but the shows haven’t changed much. They were always presented by smirking men in shiny suits, as they are today.

The game show is practically as old as television itself. Quiz shows first appeared on radio and TV in the late 1930s and the genre has never waned. As well as being aspirational - we all like to hope we’d reach at least £32,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? - they test our knowledge and make us a bit pleased with ourselves. I feel like a genius if I get something right on Only Connect! Our appetite for quizzing is as keen as it ever was and, like the old board games and card games played by generations of families, it’s the tried and tested formats we return to. As Graham says, if it ain’t broke...