But you realised during any Phone A Friend that 20 years appeared to have passed by in a blink.
“And for the sake of those people on Twitter,” Clarkson would begin, “can you confirm that a member of the production team is with you so you can’t look up Google.”
Google? What is this thing called “Google” I hear you ask.
“Yes,” would come the meek reply “down the line”. What a great job for someone in production. They don’t even have to watch the show.
Meanwhile, Clarkson happily played up to the role of a man who had been forcibly dropped into a modern studio from a gameshow in the 1990s: “Shut up! I’m trying to listen to this new combo called Oasis.”
Maybe they should have updated it completely with a lifeline called Ask Twitter.
The other significant change was that the contestants appeared to be the discards from a warm-up episode of Tipping Point.
My goodness they were dim. Doesn’t anyone read a newspaper any more? Don’t answer that.
It was like a televised version of the infamous Private Eye column, Dumb Britain: “Where is Checkpoint Charlie?”
Er, dunno. Were these people asleep at school for 15 years? But I’m also cynical enough to think it made much better television, particularly for Clarkson, to talk to a dimwit across the studio.
That was until he failed to master simple questions himself, like what is the shape of a Stop sign? (HE’S WORKED ON CAR SHOWS FOR DECADES!), or know the home ground of Surrey cricket.
But Clarkson was more entertaining than his predecessor. He was particularly good at gently mocking the afflicted (the contestants), something of course we’re not allowed to do.
His response to the chap who began to describe a new road he was building in Ethiopia was greeted with “…it was getting boring. Just a bit.”
He also revealed that he’d eaten a bird. In France. It was called a bunting. Not the thing we’re decorating our street parties with on Saturday but a lovely songbird. After this revelation, you could have heard a tiny cough in the audience.
Was it all worth it? Clarkson was funny, at times brutally, but otherwise the show and studio felt like yesteryear. Game shows now are all bells and whistles, with sets that look like they’ve been designed by Nasa engineers. The Chase and Tipping Point are good examples.
And one final word: with the greatest respect to their learned profession, can we please keep lawyers away from the show? Ian on Thursday, you’re a lovely, harmless chap but no one wants to see a solicitor making even more money.