The long-running words and numbers game.




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Series cast summary:
 Herself - Hostess / ... (4,756 episodes, 1982-2008)
Richard Whiteley ...
 Himself - Host / ... (3,984 episodes, 1982-2007)
Susie Dent ...
 Herself - Lexicographer / ... (2,706 episodes, 1992-2017)


Two contestants compete through three types of rounds. In the letters rounds, they use nine randomly drawn letters to form the longest word possible. In the numbers rounds, they must use arithmetic to combine six randomly drawn numbers and get as close to a random three-digit target number as possible. Finally, in the Conundrum round, they must rearrange a set of words totaling nine letters to form a single word. Contestants stay on the show until they either lose a game or retire undefeated as an "Octochamp" after eight wins. At the end of each series, the top eight players are invited back to compete for a prize package that includes a set of dictionaries. Written by Alan Back

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Release Date:

2 November 1982 (UK)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(1982-2001) | (2001-)

Sound Mix:



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Did You Know?


By the time Carol Vorderman left the show in December 2008, she has been in more than 4700 episodes, she put more than 320,000 letters on the letters board, tackled more than 11,200 numbers games and heard the Countdown music more than 57,000 times. See more »


Referenced in Rude Tube: Utter Fails (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

How time flies...
14 June 2003 | by (Sussex, England) – See all my reviews

This was the first show ever aired on Channel 4 on its debut afternoon in 1982. I'm not sure whether the fact that it's still being trotted out every weekday some 21 years later says more for it, or Channel 4.

Essentially it is mainly a word game loosely based on, I suppose, 'Scrabble' where contestants have to make the longest word possible from 9 letters selected in a nearly random manner (they can choose between a pile of consonants or vowels, but not see the specific letters beforehand) To add interest they have a couple of rounds of numbers chosen from rows (organised into large and small numbers) of face-down cards that contestants must combine arithmetically to produce another larger number generated by 'the' computer. Contestants range from fairly ordinary folks to the sort of geek that can recite the entire bible backwards - in Latin. The geeks always win of course.

Every five or ten years the producers like to have a anniversary special so they can trot out the original tapes of their younger selves and enjoy a good giggle with the audience. They of course never show old footage of the presenters who have been quietly shelved over the years, including my personal favourite Cathy Hytner who used to select the letters - 'consonant please Cathy.'

It was the numbers sub-contest that Carol Mather (as she was known before reverting to her maiden name Vordeman some years later) used to get her minor starring role. A former propeller-head technician on the Welsh 'Electric Mountain' Hydro project she had the mental agility to get the numbers game right, most of the time. As her fellow presenters (I mean hostesses of course) were switched and then dispensed with she gradually took over the entire stand up role, moving from area to area as required. Richard Whitely, the host, remained sitting behind his desk and the lack of exercise appears to have doubled his body weight since 1982.

But while Whitely simply loosens the cut of his bizarre jackets every year, Vordeman has undergone a selection of makeovers testing stylists skills to the limits. It seems to have achieved the desired effect as she managed to present and appear on shows of unrelated genre, and adverts promoting a wide variety of products from low cholesterol spreads to loan sharks.

I've never felt the need to rush home to watch this, preferring instead the show which immediately precedes it on the schedule, the excellent 15-1, presented by William G. Stewart. I wonder how much the viewing figures for countdown are inflated by folks who like me are too damned lazy to switch channels after 15-1 has finished...

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