Countdown (TV Series 1982– ) Poster

(1982– )

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Reflections on Countdown and Richard Whiteley
hapuka1 July 2005
Countdown is the greatest gameshow ever, and here's why. 1/richard Whiteley is a diamond in the world of TV. he is not airbrushed or botoxed, or the product of a competition and text-in voting.He was a bright and compassionate person. The quote most widely attributed to him is "I never do impressions, unless I'm asked to." It is that kind of humble and self-effacing humour which made him a diamond in the mud that is modern telly. And he had over 500 ties - all of them atrocious. The only person on TV with the character to wear clothes that bad is Richie Benaud (the cricket commentator). If you are American or Martian and have never caught a period of Richie's commentary you are missing out on a beautiful thing, but i digress... The thing about Whiteley is that you knew what he was.....he didn't pretend to be cool and as a result people grew to love him. compare this to modern stars who start out attractive but get uglier the more you know about them..... 2/ Carol Vorderman is perfectly cast as Whiteley's sidekick. There is no substitute for good casting. 3/ The show cost less than 15000pounds per episode to shoot, and still did huge numbers. You can't beat that. 4/ In an era where game shows are built around greed or cruelty, Countdown offered no great prizes and actually made you think. If you have never seen it you are missing out, and for those of you who have seen it remember it with fondness because gameshows as pure as that may well be a thing of the past. Bon Voyage Richard.
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Counting Down Now... *click*
neiljones19814 July 2004
Countdown, Channel 4's longest running and first programme to air on the network. The concept is simple: 9 random letters, make the longest word you can. Repeat four times. Now get six numbers of any combination from 1-10 twice over and/or 25, 50, 75 or 100 all once-over. Have a huge sum total and try to get to it using only addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Now repeat all of that three times over, chuck in a 9 letter word scrambled up, descramble it, thank you, goodnight.

Okay, so its a popular programme. It turned purple in 2003 for its new set (although it looked like somebody had started hanging wallpaper and left the job half finished) and the show later changed timeslot as well which caused a major upset in the political world of the House of Commons with an early day motion tabled to get Channel 4 to shift it back again! I kid you not.

One thing that strikes you when you first see this show is Richard Whiteley, or rather what he's wearing. This man must go out of his way to pick some awful blazer in some shocking colour and/or pattern and then choose a tie that doesn't complement it or the background in any way whatsoever. I thought there was something wrong with my set when I turned Countdown on one day and there was Mr Whiteley in some god-awful blazer that looks like the sort of interference you get when you use a mobile phone next to the TV set.

Fortunately the shocking blazers don't happen *that* often I'm pleased to say and you can see this man in "normal" attire most of the time.

Carol Vorderman launched her TV career on the back of this. Initially wandering on to do the numbers game, now she does everything. She works well with Richard. It's incredible to think that we are now on series 52 and these two presenters have featured in every single episode to date, which is well over 3000 episodes by now.

The show "expanded" to a 45min format in 2002 from its previous 30min format which tided it over for 20yrs. While the 30min format indeed felt "cramped" at times, You now get the impression that there's too much time to fill under the 45min format which might explain why there's more yakking overall.

Still, beggars can't be choosers I suppose.

Worth watching though but will eventually grate as the format doesn't change. When it does, watch something else for a few months.
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Why it's a hit
mpulham19 March 2004
Just because this show is on in the dead of the afternoon, don't dismiss it as lightweight. This show is a hit and has had such a long run because it is intelligent and does not rely on stupid stunts or gimmicks. Thirty seconds to produce a word from nine randomly picked letters is difficult to say the least, and the numbers game is even harder. It's one of the programs I miss most since moving to Canada. Sure Whiteley's jokes are bad, but that is part of the fun. In a TV world where shows like Survivor and Temptation Island get all the attention and millions of viewers, it's great that there are still some programs that need some brain power to get prizes. I'm not surprised that Countdown has lasted so long.
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How time flies...
thekennelman14 June 2003
This was the first show ever aired on Channel 4 on its debut afternoon in 1982. I'm not sure whether the fact that it's still being trotted out every weekday some 21 years later says more for it, or Channel 4.

Essentially it is mainly a word game loosely based on, I suppose, 'Scrabble' where contestants have to make the longest word possible from 9 letters selected in a nearly random manner (they can choose between a pile of consonants or vowels, but not see the specific letters beforehand) To add interest they have a couple of rounds of numbers chosen from rows (organised into large and small numbers) of face-down cards that contestants must combine arithmetically to produce another larger number generated by 'the' computer. Contestants range from fairly ordinary folks to the sort of geek that can recite the entire bible backwards - in Latin. The geeks always win of course.

Every five or ten years the producers like to have a anniversary special so they can trot out the original tapes of their younger selves and enjoy a good giggle with the audience. They of course never show old footage of the presenters who have been quietly shelved over the years, including my personal favourite Cathy Hytner who used to select the letters - 'consonant please Cathy.'

It was the numbers sub-contest that Carol Mather (as she was known before reverting to her maiden name Vordeman some years later) used to get her minor starring role. A former propeller-head technician on the Welsh 'Electric Mountain' Hydro project she had the mental agility to get the numbers game right, most of the time. As her fellow presenters (I mean hostesses of course) were switched and then dispensed with she gradually took over the entire stand up role, moving from area to area as required. Richard Whitely, the host, remained sitting behind his desk and the lack of exercise appears to have doubled his body weight since 1982.

But while Whitely simply loosens the cut of his bizarre jackets every year, Vordeman has undergone a selection of makeovers testing stylists skills to the limits. It seems to have achieved the desired effect as she managed to present and appear on shows of unrelated genre, and adverts promoting a wide variety of products from low cholesterol spreads to loan sharks.

I've never felt the need to rush home to watch this, preferring instead the show which immediately precedes it on the schedule, the excellent 15-1, presented by William G. Stewart. I wonder how much the viewing figures for countdown are inflated by folks who like me are too damned lazy to switch channels after 15-1 has finished...
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A new host for this series
chris_gaskin12312 July 2005
After nearly being axed, Channel 4 chose Des Lynam as the new host of Countdown to replace the much missed Richard Whiteley after his most unexpected death. Though not the same as Richard, Des isn't too bad.

Richard hosted from episode 1 which was screened way back in 1982 and was at first only intended to run for a few weeks. He hadn't missed an episode until he went down with pneumonia in May 2005 and there were to be guest presenters until his return, but that never did happen.

Richard was of course noted for his bad jokes and bright coloured ties. I often used to watch Countdown when I got home from school back in the 1980's/1990's and only occasionally watch it now.
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A Cult Hit
Zerbey13 September 2002
Richard Whiteley's jokes are terrible and overused. The music is terrible. The whole thing looks years out of date. The sets are awful. Just don't get me started on that irritating "diddle diddle diddly ding... BOOM!"

For some reason, however I still love this show. Richard's jokes, although terrible just seem to fit. The show just wouldn't be the same without that horrible music (with the "diddle diddle diddly ding... BOOM!"), the ugly sets and Carol's tailored suits. This show has been running every teatime for over 20 years and Channel 4 would be lost without it.

Why it is a cult hit watched and loved by teenagers, middle aged people and pensioners alike (it regularly sits in the Top 10 ratings) I can never explain. It is, just accept it. Just watched it a couple of times and I guarantee you'll be hooked, but you won't know why.
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Comforting classic
kb-1207210 September 2018
It's a classic "oh what shall I do today when I can't be bothered to get out of my pyjamas?" sort of show. Also worth watching for Rachel Riley.
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A winning formula
k_mobius118 June 2008
Based on French gameshow "Des chiffres et des lettres", the very first programme ever to be shown on Channel 4 still continues to this day, albeit sadly without the brilliant Richard Whiteley, who never missed a single show throughout his run as presenter.

Despite this, it still draws in a consistent number of viewers every day who enjoy nothing more than pitting their wits against a variety of numbers and letters games, and another great feature of the show is that people of all ages can apply for the show which can be entertaining. With it's well handled simplicity, dignity, light entertainment and wonderfully selected special guests, as well as that famous clock, Countdown remains true to the same formula it created over 25 years ago. Here's hoping the programme lasts another 25.
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jboothmillard7 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It has been going since 1982 and it is still one of the best shows to watch with a cup of tea and to see your word skills (maybe with Scrabble). Richard Whiteley was the best host of this show ever since it started, and Carol Vorderman who I knew in How 2 dealing out the letters, numbers and working out the sums is just wonderful. Basically every episode of every week day they bring in two people (one that may be a champion and see who is best at making words from the given letters, making a number target, and solving the conundrum. The twist is that they must do this before the Countdown clock stops (hence the title). This is just pure wonderful mid-day entertainment. It's such a shame that Whiteley died after 23 years of being Mr. Countdown, he will be missed terribly. Replacement Des Lynam was too stiff, but Des O'Connor is making it much more lively. Carol Vorderman was number 68 on The 100 Worst Britons (why?), and she was number 75 on The 100 Greatest Sex Symbols, and the Christmas Special, aka, Richard vs Carol was number 95 on The 100 Greatest Christmas Moments. Very good!
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Repetitive and annoying
DavidYZ9 May 2017
This is a Channel 4 daytime game show that's been broadcast since the channel began in 1982. Countdown is based on the French show Des chiffres et des lettres.

There are letters rounds, in which the contestants try to find the longest word out of the nine letters given. There are numbers rounds in which the contestants try to get to a target number using six other numbers. At the end, there's a conundrum - the contestants try to work out which word nine letters form when they are rearranged.

It's rather boring and repetitive.

The contestants are given thirty seconds during each round to work out their answers. That's not enough time for most contestants or viewers. The loud ticking of the clock during that time is very annoying and distracting.

The original presenter, Richard Whiteley, was likable. All of his replacements since then have been awful.

Rachel Riley, who puts up the letters and numbers, is hot.
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