Countdown – the game show of spelling, math, and whoopsies

I stumbled across this TV game show some time ago, it was an attempt by a British company to export their game shows online as playable entertainment.  The show was called Countdown, and apparently it’s one of the longest-running British game shows out there.

Essentially, the game of Countdown involves letters and numbers, as you could see by the intro.  Each player will receive a series of ten vowels and consonants, and the person who can make a legal English word using the most letters from that pile wins the round.

The second part of the game involves the assistant host pulling a series of numbers, to which the contestants must use in mathematical calculations to get as close to a target score as possible.  Here’s an example of the show’s gameplay.

At first, you watch this show and you think to yourself, “Man, this show has no razzle-dazzle, it’s like watching grass grow.”  Until you realize that the five-letter word you made in your head when you played along in the first round got superseded by the host pulling an eight-letter word out of the same mix.  At which point, you go, “Damn, I should have known that.”

Then you discover something else about Countdown.  The assistant hosts, the spellcheckers, the mathematicians … they make Vanna White look like a housewife.

I give you, for example, Carol Vordeman.

Actually, I wish I could give someone Carol Vordeman, but apparently she’s already been claimed.  How about her replacement, Rachel Riley?

And if you want to make sure that the words spelled in the Countdown rounds are legit, then you need to have a lexicographer nearby.  This episode introduces the long-running tenure of lexicographer Susie Dent.

The show wasn’t designed to be a big-money program with millions of dollars in prizes.  In fact, I think the biggest prize you could win on this show was a tea set of some sort.  But it’s still a worthwhile show to enjoy.

Oh, and I should tell you that those letters, when they are pulled for each round, are completely random.  And by “random,” I mean that sometimes the words that come up are … well … probably not suitable for afternoon television.

But whatever you do, do NOT assume that the hosts are just eye candy.  They’re smarter than you are, and they will show you up when given the chance.  Watch.

There’s two versions of Countdown out there, there’s the normal game show and there’s something called 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown, which I think is some sort of hybrid comedy version of Countdown.  But I’m just showcasing the original game show here.

I’m just surprised this kind of show hasn’t made its way over to the States yet.  A simple game show that challenges contestants to use their Boggle and math skills?  And nobody has to sing in a big, clunky costume?