I think it’s high time Countdown was given a brief rinsing in the traditional WWM style. But don’t get me wrong, I can sit down and watch countdown quite happily; the format is timeless, the concept of the show is a damn sight more educational than a good many programmes and as a quiz show it is more interactive than any others that I can think of in that it does not rely purely on memory or multiple choice options. Rather, as the viewer, you create your own right answers. However, if you did little else but watch Countdown everyday for twenty years, you’d be forgiven for thinking the outside world has not changed at all. The set design makes me think I could knock a better one up using wax crayons and sheets of A4 paper and the music is not so much actual music but rather a sustained sound effect.
The dictionary corner guests range from a spectrum of Z-listers, such as Pam Ayers, Richard Digence, Sandy Toksvig and Paul Zennon (he who thinks he can magic). Most of them are Z-listers because they think they are funny but aren’t. Especially Pam Ayers who is to poetry what Mr Blobby was to music. Occasionally someone like the crustified Ricky Tomlinson will turn up and the standard of humour will go up a notch or two.
Since old Whitely died, the show has been thrust into a state of disarray and has as of yet been unable to find the right host for the job. I remember when Countdown was between presenters and Stephen Fry was approached to do the job. Wishful thinking ad infinatum methinks. Des Lynam, bless his cotton socks, lied through his teeth when he said he loved the job. Really he was thinking – ‘Dear Lord, what has become of me?!’ In the end he used the excuse of not being arsed to travel all the way from London to Leeds everyday, which, to be fair, ain’t a bad excuse is it? I imagine him singing ‘It’s alright ma’ I’m only bleeding’ full pelt as he made the laborious journey home in his car at the end of each show.
Now it looks as though we are stuck with that bronzed and mummified buffoon Des O’ Connor, until he cops it, which by my calculations will probably be around 2052. That is taking into account his rate of decay, sods law, and the dynamics of ‘the good die young’ theory. If you listen carefully you can hear his rusty spine creak everytime he turns his head from side to side. The fact is, he is the least funny of any of the Countdown hosts, ever. Whitely may have been funny for all the wrong reasons, but he still whupped O’Connor hands down. Even Lynam had better quips and he’s never even been considered as a comedian. The problem with O’ Connor is that he appears to be trying too hard to cater for that oxymoron – ‘family humour’. The result being that he is about as witty as a British Telecom advertisment.
Poor old Carol does her best and she seems like a sweet lady, but lets be honest, she has the personality of a cloud and the dress sense of an over-confident lollipop lady. I think it’s fair to say though, that she is single-handedly keeping a reasonable portion of Countdown’s viewers interested – pervy dads and lonely widowers.
The audience is largely made up of pensioners and the contestants are mainly social inadequates, many of whom should not, strictly speaking, be allowed to wander the streets unattended, if at all.
Although it seems like it has been around forever, it is inevitably going to die on it’s arse in the near future. In a couple of generations it will be forgotten forever, which I think is a great shame because a programme which encourages the viewer to use their brain and interact with it in a way which requires more of its audience than just the usual passive and vegatative observation can only be a good thing. In time, it too will be consumed by the wave of TV mindlessness which is, like it or not, flooding our screens, as the cold and mechanical brainwashing of the masses powers on and we all turn into nothing more than compliant slabs of flesh, devoid of free-thinking.