Quiz Shows – Countdown


n June 2005, I joined some friends to see Countdown recorded in Leeds. They record several episodes per day at Yorkshire Studios, it was all quite surreal. The studio was smaller than we imagined and differently laid out. I figured everything would be a lot taller in height and more spaced out. But it was all very compact – dictionary corner isn’t actually a corner, and everyone sits right next to each other. Carol was fantastically quick in whipping out letters; the whole operation, in fact, was incredibly slick.

We asked specifically to sit behind the ‘tomorrow’s contestant’ guy, so we’d get on telly! We were trained to clap by the warm-up chap, who wrongly accused us of being from the Leeds Uni Scrabble Society, and also had us practice groaning during Richard Whiteley’s (rest in peace, god bless you sir) abysmal anecdotes. The celebrity guest was none other than Derek off Coronation Street.

Towards the end of the first game when Richard asked the next contestant if he got the conundrum, filming had to be stopped. There was an air of confusion until Richard told the audience that they “had to stop, as there’s a boy in the second row picking his nose”. The boy was, in fact, my friend Phil – and we were all still visibly cracking up during the re-take.

After the show, I grabbed Richard and asked him to record a trailer on my dictaphone for Leeds Student Radio, I also got his autograph and shook his hand. What a legend…

Countdown Facts…

  • If a contestant finds a 9-letter-word, the set flashes and they get double points!
  • It is Channel 4’s longest running programme and the very first show broadcast on the channel in 1982
  • There have been 149 celebrity guests.
  • It is based on the French game show, ‘Des Chiffres et Des Lettres’.
  • The 2000th edition was on May 23rd 1997.
  • When she died, an elderly fan of the programme had the Countdown clock music play as her coffin was lowered into the ground. Awesome!
  • The contestants have ranged in from 8 to 87 years old.
  • Get tickets by writing to Countdown Audience, Yorkshire Television, LEEDS, LS3 1JS.
  • Check out The Countdown Page.





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