Countdown

Photograph: Channel 4
View on streamer site
Rating 7.1
Streamer All4
Seasons 83
Episodes 7326 x 30 mins

Team Must have been wondering whether we could hire Nick Hewer and his ominous Countdown clock to egg us on when working from home. Because for some reason there’s nothing more stressful and adrenaline triggering than that big blue half-moon stopwatch, ticking away towards the iconic, dun dun, dun dun, DUN DUN DUN duuuuunnnn. You just heard that in your mind, didn’t you?

Well, no surprise really. This show has been around forever. Not literally forever, but at 83 seasons and 7326 episodes it’s basically the same thing. It seems we can’t get enough of teatime mental arithmetic, particularly now when we can test how much our brains have rotted over the pandemic. But it’s not got the same instantly intimidating feel of say, Jeremy Paxman and the clever clogs of University Challenge, and isn’t quite as silly as Alexander Armstrong and his Pointless gameshow. Just like Goldilocks and that final bowl of porridge, this one is just right. Smart enough to engage your noggin, fun enough to relax you after a long day. What’s not to like?

And what a fun bunch the Countdown lot are. Led by Hewer (who you’ll likely recognise from early years of The Apprentice), there’s presenter and number whizz Rachel Riley, who’s in charge of quick maths and letter selecting, and the brilliantly sassy Susie Dent over in dictionary corner, pulling out words so obscure you often won’t believe are included in Her Maj’s English.

It has had some brilliant, prime time level laughs on occasion – there has been more than one instance of a rather unfortunate selection of letters being placed up on the board, and there was a brilliant moment recently where an absolute linguistic genius was making words even Susie didn’t know.

As far as tea time telly goes, this one is a classic. 30 seconds on the clock – it’s time to press play.

First shown November 1982.

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