Monday, 17 April 2017
First viewed : Uncertain
I don't know when my mum first introduced me to Channel 4's tea time perennial but the programme that followed it around this time wasn't on for that long and I remember seeing that so the Easter hols 1984 seem a good bet.
Countdown was famously the first programme on Channel Four ( though it was originally trialled by Yorkshire TV as Calendar Countdown ) back in 1982 and has remained inviolate in its teatime slot ever since. Two contestants try to make words from randomly selected letters or get to a randomly generated number by performing mathematical operations on randomly selected numbers. The winner gets to come back the next day and so on up to 8 times. A reasonably erudite celebrity sits in "Dictionary Corner" with a nice academic girl ( Susie Dent has been holding this position since 1992 ) to try and beat the contestants ( though there's no consequence if they do ) and provide a little commentary. I've caught it now and then over the years but it's never been appointment TV for me ( perhaps because my mum was significantly better at the word games than me ).
The hosts have changed in recent years but the classic line up will always be Yorkshire TV journalist Richard Whiteley - previously most famous for having his finger gnarled by a ferret - and supposed maths wizard Carol Vorderman. They helmed the show until Whiteley's sudden death in 2005 - I'll just pause for breath at the realisation that happened 12 years ago. Des Lynam - at something of a loose end since the Beeb had pinched back the rights to Premiership highlights - was his unlikely replacement but he lasted a year until the travelling to Leeds for filming got too much for him. Then it was Des O 'Connor for a couple of years and when he left in 2008 Vorderman also decided to cut the knot. I used to like her but years of red carpet hogging ,boob jobs and pro-Tory pronouncements have made me detest her.
The last time I watched it , I loved her replacement Rachel Reilly, but I had no idea who the host was , some droll , grey-haired old guy. I understand now that he's something to do with The Apprentice which explains my ignorance.
I remember my friend and fellow Dale fan Mark when he started out in teaching maths telling me that he'd asked a class if they could name any famous mathematicians and someone volunteered "Carol Vorderman". He puffily replied that he was unaware of any theorems that she had formulated. However, that didn't stop him appearing on the programme himself in February 1997. He held his own but couldn't unseat the incumbent champion. Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture from that particular episode.