Remember the turn of the century? The economy was booming, everyone was going to be transformed into gazillionaires while lounging on beanbags courtesy of the dot-com explosion, Sir Alex Ferguson was contemplating retirement and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? was event television. Those were the days.
Fast-forward nearly 14 years and we have just escaped a double-dip recession, interns are having to pay to work for online firms and Millionaire is in its last throes. Oh, and Fergie has got his gold watch and appears to be cultivating the image of an irascible yet heart-in-the-right-place grandfather in his dotage. First there was the largely pointless and mostly sycophantic appearance on Sports Personality then a spot on last week’s Millionaire Christmas Special.
Last week’s offering was the final ever live broadcast of the show and apart from Sir Alex, we had sports-related interest in the swimmer-turned-I’m a Celebrity jungle contestant Rebecca Adlington, who spent a frantic three minutes at the end raising £10,000 for charity with Kian Egan, formerly of Westlife.
But Ferguson, who was dwarfed by the gargantuan frame of his partner Eamonn Holmes and was playing for the Manchester United Foundation, was clearly the star of the show.
Chris Tarrant, the host (who, aside from a slight turkey neck, hasn’t aged a day since 2000), was predictably subordinate and did better than many viewers in deciphering what a seemingly nervous Fergie was saying in the opening exchanges.
The first question they tripped up on, for £5,000, would have brought a wry smile to, well, anyone who isn’t involved in the financially bloated world of football. It asked a question about what the new minimum wage was for young people. Hardly a problem Sir Alex would have encountered with the sort of Under-21s he has been dealing with.
He remained silent until Holmes had, with the help of the audience, identified the correct answer as £6.31. Then, to his credit, he said with a self-deprecating shrug: “Nobody tells it to me.”
The next question was even further away from the avowedly left-wing former Manchester United manager’s scope of knowledge. It was one about Thatcher’s hairdresser. Thankfully, Holmes had a mate who was into politics to phone for help.
Then we found out who was the boss in the partnership. Mainly because Holmes called his partner “boss”, after Ferguson refused to budge on a question about tax. He chose the right answer, but the exchange was cringeworthy.
By the end of their time, after they had failed with a bricklaying-related question but still won £50,000, we had had more than enough of the new Fergie.
For a start, his patter was not exactly scintillating. He had to be reminded by Tarrant to speak up on one occasion as he whispered some aside to his mate Eamonn. And the interjections that were audible were on the wrong side of snide.
So as he waved goodbye with a smile, it was with some relief that he – and Millionaire – were things of the past. Because we all have to move on.