Countdown is a words and numbers based quiz presided over for most of it’s long run by Richard Whiteley. The two contestants pick 9 letters and in 30 seconds try to make the longest word they can. Their were 2 numbers based rounds done on the same principle as the letters rounds but with the contestants trying to reach a random computer generated number.
Hostess of the show (letter picker, number cruncher) was Carol Vorderman whilst since 1992 Susie Dent picked out the consonants and vowels for the contestants. The final round is the Countdown Conundrum (a nine letter anagram). Also involved are various celebrities (these have included Gyles Brandreth, Kenneth Williams, Richard Stilgoe and the like) who sit in ‘dictionary corner’ helping a word judge to verify the contestants words and chip in with a few of their own.
The show (based on a French original called Des Chiffres et des Lettres) was the first programme to be seen on Channel Four on 2 November 1982 at Tuesday 4.45pm, but it actually started life as a regional show called Calendar Countdown and screened in the Yorkshire region. A behind the scenes documentary was screened about the show on 27 April 2001 at 5.10pm.
The long serving Whitely sadly died in 2005 but five shows Whitely had filmed before he fell ill were shown after he died and then there was a break before Desmond Lynam took over. He stayed until 22 December 2006 and was replaced by Des O’Conner (2 Jan 2007 – December 2008) and then Jeff Stelling (- 16 December 2011). The current host is Nick Hewer whose first show was broadcast 9 January 2012.
Carol Voderman also left the show in December 2008 with Rachel Riley taking over as the number cruncher from 2009 onwards.
UK / Channel Four-Yorkshire / x30m-e / Broadcast from Tuesday 2 November 1982 @ 4.45pm – continuing.
Creator: Armand Jammot / Theme Music: Alan Hawkshaw