Thursday, January 8, 2009 by



Countdown returns on Monday, C4, with its all-new presenting team – Jeff Stelling (“Stelling is the name -  six consonants, two vowels”) at the desk, and the very smiley Rachel Riley wrangling the letters and numbers.

We’ll have a full review from our Countdown correspondent Ian Jones, but – briefly – how’s the relaunched show looking?

Well, the answer is – in my opinion anyway – pretty good. Initially Stelling takes a bit of getting used to; he’s arguably too slick, sports a bit of a rictus grin and is overly preoccupied with working in the football references. But he’s keen to assure us: “This is the same Countdown you’ve grown to love over the years”.

And it is. By the time you get to the first numbers game – and you’re reminded of one of the most joyous 30 seconds on telly (that bit where both contestants immediately twig a solution, and then spend the rest of the half-a-minute quietly making it clear they’ve done so) – you’ve forgotten anything’s afoot. Well, aside from the set, which looks like it was based on one of those plastic balls you put in the washing machine… but is rather pleasing nonetheless.

Rachel Riley

Rachel Riley

Jeff Stelling

Jeff Stelling

Come the 45-minute mark, it’s like it’s always been this way. Rachel hopes her student chums at Oxford are tuning in from the bar, while Jeff doggedly (and with a Whiteley-esque lack of grace) pursues some Fawlty Towers chat with Dictionary Corner guest Andrew Sachs – despite the fact Sachs had earlier gone to great pains to stress he was a versatile actor, with more than just the one consonant (that being “Qué?”) on his CV.

It would seem, for now anyway, Countdown‘s condundrum has been resolved.


8 Responses to “Countdown”

  1. MartS on January 9th, 2009 7:47 am

    Glad to see the back of the ‘blind’s’ set. I never really liked it, and differing shades of blue are more relaxing on the eye.

    Nice to see they’ve incorporated letters and numbers into the backdrop as well. I wonder how long it will be, before the Daily Mail gets all wound up on some non-scandal about how one viewer has spotted a rude word if you follow the letters in certain directions behind Jeff or the contestants!?

  2. David Bodycombe on January 9th, 2009 10:53 am

    And the answer for that Teatime Teaser is RELAUNCH. That’s genius.

  3. Stu on January 13th, 2009 12:05 am

    Doesn’t Rachel Riley look like a young Gwyneth Paltrow?

  4. Tony B on January 13th, 2009 1:07 pm

    I commented that RR is like a squashed Gwyneth. Maybe she should have shuffled the letters…

  5. Rob Williams on January 13th, 2009 9:27 pm

    It’ll take time for the programme to seem settled again, but Jeff Stelling is the right man and the more shows Rachel does, she’ll become less nervous. Though they got it away for known hosts who distract from the game itself.

  6. John Phillips on January 15th, 2009 12:00 pm

    I thought I’d hate the new Countdown, but so far it seems to be going pretty well. Nobody could ever replace Richard Whitely, but Stelling seems much more at home than the Deses ever were. Nice set too, and a clever touch to introduce the new hosts with a series of champions’ play-offs to ensure high-quality games.

    Just 2 things I’d change – bring it back to 30 minutes, as 45 is just too long to hold the attention. And move the letters board up a couple of inches, Rachel seems to have to stoop a bit to use it!

  7. Rob Williams on January 15th, 2009 12:32 pm

    All good points from John, plus can Rachel please learn to walk backwards rather then looking like she’s doing a Greek dance when stretching to get the letters when at the far side of the board!

  8. Ann Jarvis on January 16th, 2009 6:54 pm

    I just love the new Countdown. I hated the ‘dumbed down’ version with Des O’ Connor , and Carol’s increasing role which detracted from the game. Rachel is a breath of fresh air and Jeff has impressed so far. As other people have said an excellent idea to start a champion of champions series.