Welcome to the nineties! And a return to the realm of game shows, furthermore a return to the evergreen Countdown, to which we’ve been quite carelessly oblivious for some time. I really should have gone all out and scheduled this to go out at half-past four, shouldn’t I? Never mind.
In 1990, it was just Richard Whiteley and Carol Vorderman left of Countdown’s troupe of staff. Vorderman had, until this point, only been wheeled on to referee the numbers game; it was reputedly down to the laziness of the producer and his unwillingness to audition hopefuls that she was ‘promoted’ to Whiteley’s lone foil, but I think it proved to be a shrewd decision. It took some time, but eventually the chemistry blossomed and Countdown flourished, discarding the sterile formality of its infancy and becoming charming, convivial telly. Though I’m not sure I fully observed or appreciated it at the time, those are definitely qualities true of the show I grew up with.
The Richard/Carol era was ushered in with a new set, replacing the pastel of the original with lots and lots of wood. It wasn’t the most lavish, was it? But then, I suppose it is Countdown we’re discussing – Hollywood may be nine letters, but it wouldn’t be allowed. It’s certainly not the most offensive set they’ve had – maybe that’s another project for another time? – but it is rather clinical, perhaps because it bears an uncanny resemblance to my dentist’s old waiting room. I can practically smell the surgery, and hear the drill upstairs. With Whiteley’s puns often as painful as pulling teeth, perhaps it’s a mercy I wasn’t around to see the show in this era!
Tempted as I was to brag about how quickly this came together, I’m not sure it counts, as so many of the elements were simply lifted from my main graphics. It’s more of a redressing. This being said, the elements that were newly constructed – jagged walls, Dalek-esque panel desks – did prove a much less fearful build than anticipated, which made it fun. The majority of the process was cloning a single panel of wall and angling it as required. Then, another. And another. And a fourth, please, Carol…
Vorderman’s domain didn’t go unloved, being appropriately renovated and now placed on the same scene as the main stage. I’ve tried to make it look less dingy than it appears on the reference clips, but indeed, it looks a little strange for me doing so – perhaps revealing there was a good reason for the darker lighting! Or perhaps I’m just lousy at lighting scenes. I’d put money on that, actually.
The references I speak of were only charmingly fuzzy VHS rips of Countdown found on YouTube:
And I lifted the letters selection in my quick animated header from a notable outtake:
Poor Richard did find himself in some unfortunate situations over the years. It’s not so much the word being offered as it is his obvious astonishment and then the attempt to fumble through that makes it so amusing.
There we have it. Countdown. Again. I feel that, coupled with Millionaire, this has ended my latest game show gorge, but that’s by no means a guarantee (that’s a nine-letter word). Retain your vigilance (that’s a nine-letter word).
Well that’s all for now, anyway. It’s 5PM now (trust me!) and I think Oprah’s on next. Time to put the Master System on.