Countdown is a British game show involving word and number puzzles. It is produced by ITV Studios and broadcast on Channel 4. Letters vs numbers wikipedia programme was presented by Richard Whiteley for over 20 years, until his sudden death in June 2005. A celebrity guest features in every programme, and provides a brief interlude midway between the two advertisement breaks.
The format was brought to Britain by Marcel Stellman, a Belgian record executive, who had watched the French show and believed it could be popular overseas. An additional pilot episode was made, with a refined format, although it was never broadcast. A new British television channel, Channel 4, was due to launch in November 1982, and bought the newly renamed Countdown on the strength of this additional episode. As the countdown to a brand new channel ends, a brand new Countdown begins. Richard Whiteley introducing the first Channel 4 episode of Countdown. Channel 4 originally planned a parallel Junior Countdown in which the contestants were children.
The pilot episode was filmed on 26 November 1982, less than a month after the first adult version was broadcast. The presenter was Gyles Brandreth, with Ted Moult in Dictionary Corner. Whiteley fell ill with septicaemia in 2005, and as a result he was no longer able to record Countdown. Although Whiteley made a slow recovery from his illness, he died on 26 June 2005, after a failed operation to correct a problem that had been detected in his heart. Channel 4 took the following show off the air as a mark of respect, and the next programme was preceded by a tearful tribute from Carol Vorderman. Channel 4 had tried an extra programme on Saturday in early 2006 which Lynam had agreed to, subject to part of the filming schedule being moved nearer to his home.
Initially farmer and broadcaster Ted Moult was on hand for verification. Many lexicographers have appeared over the years, but since her debut in 1992, Susie Dent has become synonymous with the role, and has made over three thousand appearances. The celebrity guest, sometimes known as the “Dictionary Dweller”, also contributes words, and provides a short interlude halfway through the second section of the show. It was announced in July 2008 that Des O’Connor would be stepping down as host in December 2008.
In the same month, it became apparent that long-serving presenter and number-cruncher Carol Vorderman would also leave the show at the same time. On 21 November 2008, Jeff Stelling was confirmed as the new host, with Oxford graduate Rachel Riley in the Vorderman role. Riley has since become known for her stylish outfits worn on the show. On 16 November 2011, it was announced that Nick Hewer would be taking over as host, with his first show broadcast on 9 January 2012. A Countdown teapot is awarded to any contestant who wins a game. In keeping with the programme’s friendly nature, contestants on each episode compete not for money but for a teapot that is styled to resemble the 30-second time clock used in each round. Introduced in December 1998, the pot is custom-made and can only be obtained by winning a game on the programme.
Defeated contestants receive an assortment of Countdown-themed merchandise as a parting gift. Since then, the prize consists of ordinary hardback twenty-one volume dictionaries, a laptop computer and a lifetime subscription to Oxford Online. Since 2006, the series champion also receives the Richard Whiteley Memorial Trophy, in memory of the show’s original presenter. Alan Hawkshaw, is an enduring and well-recognised feature of Countdown. The first episode of Countdown was repeated on 1 October 2007 on More4 and on 2 November 2007 on Channel 4, as part of Channel 4 at 25, a season of celebratory Channel 4 programmes as it celebrated its 25th birthday. On 2 November 2007, Countdown celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary and aired a special ‘birthday episode’. The two players were 2006 winner Conor Travers and 2002 winner Chris Wills.
However, for the rounds, VIP guests selected the letters and numbers. On 26 March 2010, Queen Elizabeth II congratulated Countdown for amassing 5,000 episodes. On 5 September 2014, Countdown received a Guinness World Record at the end of its 6,000th show for the longest-running television programme of its kind during the course of its 71st series. On 23 July 2008, it was announced that O’Connor would be leaving the show at the end of the 59th series in December 2008 to concentrate on other projects. ITV Studios announced on 25 July 2008 that Carol Vorderman would also be leaving at the end of the same series. Her agent, John Miles, claims Vorderman had been told the show had survived the death of host Richard Whiteley in 2005 and could “easily survive without you.