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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Countdown, Channel 4

Did we like it?
We abandoned the ancient letters and numbers game when host Richard Whitely died (we sat out the Des Lynam and Des O'Connor years), but it was nice to be back. It's easy to see how the show is still a fixture of afternoon television.

What was good about it?
• Jeff Stelling is a legend on Sky Sports, getting excited about the football scores whether it's Man United or Macclesfield. Here, he started off with a bit of self deprecation("You're probably thinking 'who the heck am I?") and then got a bit manic before calming down and delivering a warm, cheery performance. There were some good blokey jokes at the expense of contestant Jim, a Plymouth Argyle fan; his exchanges with David, who has an MA in political theory, were less successful.
• Rachel Riley is very beautiful and very nice – a big improvement on the pushy Carol Vorderman.
• We enjoyed playing along and even managed to take the lead, thanks to COURTIER, but we faltered towards the end (not knowing RAINOUT – "a typical Countdown word", says Jeff) and would have finished second best to Irish lad David, who knows words such as ETHMOIDS.
• Susie Dent is still there – one of TV's unsung heroines – teaching us that manioc is a word and informing us that precycling is going to be a 2009 buzzword.
• The "sparkling new set".

What was bad about it?
• Stelling's banter with the contestants worked well on this occasion, but his gentle teasing may not go down too well with some of the weirder Countdown contestants who have probably never experienced a night of joshing down the local.
• Andrew Sachs was a bit of a miserable bore in Dictionary Corner with his reluctant reminiscing about playing Manuel in Fawlty Towers and his hammy delivery of a "comic" monologue from the 1920s.

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