Thursday, January 8, 2009 by Graham Kibble-White
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.
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.
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.