“We’ve got Carol Vorderman in here tonight!”
Tuesday, November 14, 2006 by Ian Jones
He’s no stranger to inheriting other people’s quiz shows, having stepped into the dapper shoes of Michael Miles for the 1990s revival of Take Your Pick. But does Des O’Connor have enough sartorial know-how to slip into the capricious cloak of Richard Whiteley, especially after his titular namesake found it impossible to wear such a garment for a little over 12 months?
Des seems almost too avuncular for the front parlour frolics of Countdown. You get the feeling he’d turn up and do an excellent turn at the top of the programme which would go on… and on… and on and then have to be cut to ribbons in order to fit the slot, the end result leaving the host looking discomfited.
Sure, we know he’ll have a great rapport with Carol and the guests in Dictionary Corner, but would he really have such a great relationship with the contestants? Des excels at jawing with celebrity, not non-entity. Might not his penchant for festive gossip and easy anecdote fall on less receptive ears when unleashed upon ordinary members of the public?
Then there’s the business of handling the actual mechanics of the game. Richard could always be relied upon to get excited upon hearing of the existence of a strange new word, or if LEOTARD turned up amongst the letters for the 78th time. Des Lynam, on the other hand, barely registered a glimmer of interest at such fripperies. He hardly smiled either.
Might Des O’Connor be able to demonstrate a similar kind of sincere engagement with the nuts and bolts of Countdownas Mayor Whiteley, or might he end up embracing the stony-faced insouciance of Lord Lynam? The very fact it’s not easy to tell fails to fill this writer with glowing confidence in the man’s appointment.
Plus there’s his age. It’s a bit like when they replaced the ageing 007 of Sean Connery with the even older and more cumbersome Roger Moore. Or when they replaced the erstwhile frail and ageing Pope John Paul II with an even more frail and ageing Pope Benedict XVI. Des’ arrival isn’t exactly a vote of confidence in Countdown’s long-term future.
Finally there’s there’s the fact that taking this gig means Des will now be too busy to do anything else, and that means no more easy-going variety-based chat shows, perhaps forever. All for the sake of playing support to Deal or No Deal.