Home TV by Decade TV Shows - 1980s Countdown


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Based on a French concept, cult word game show Countdown was the first programme to be shown on Channel 4 when it launched in November 1982.

Countdown outlasted every one of the station’s programmes, bar the news, and original host Richard “twice nightly” Whiteley – master of the excruciating pun – endeared himself to millions of television viewers.

Contestants have to construct, in 30 seconds, the longest word they can from nine letters chosen at random. Whoever uses the most letters in forming their word earns the same number of points as letters used.

Number games were introduced between word rounds, in which contestants must add, subtract, multiply and divide randomly selected numbers to arrive at a given total (or as close to it as possible).

The final round is the Countdown Conundrum, an anagram worth ten points for the first correct solution.

The highest-scoring contestant meets a new challenger the following day.

Richard Whiteley died on 26 June 2005 at Leeds Infirmary. He was 61.

Carol Vorderman was the letters and numbers girl from day one until 2008 when she resigned.

Beverley Isherwood and Kathy Hytner acted as hostesses in the early programmes.

Richard Whiteley
Carol Vorderman


Obituary: Richard Whiteley