The show is back on the road! After being thoroughly counted out in recent weeks, it seems felicitous to return to the digestive biscuit embrace of Countdown. As much a joy as a convenience – I shan’t lie! – it has spurred just about the only thing I’ve created since my last post approximately ten years ago. I know, I know… it’s not good enough!
With typical over-excitement, Richard Whiteley spent the last Countdowns of 2002 banging on about the new set coming the following year. This would have been the first real cosmetic change in a near decade of viewing, so it did pique my curiosity – I had visions of the show being completely changed: all computerised and shiny, a charmlessly futuristic number done on the clock and everyone wearing spacesuits to fit in.
I was, of course, drastically overestimating the Countdown budget, never mind the appeal of spacesuits. What we did ultimately get didn’t do much for me, frankly, though I suppose your summation will depend on how you rate an assault of bright pink and magenta. Perhaps it was all an attempt to make Richard’s jackets appear less garish? Maybe they were the inspiration to begin with – I can appreciate it that way!
Designer Andy Walmsley is also credited with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? – a masterful design that has travelled the globe. A valiant fist of Countdown was made; well-meant and surely unique, but just a bit over the top and ill-fitting for me. Thank goodness the game’s simple beauty shone brighter than any set piece!
Now that I’m done slagging off the set, I’d best talk about the process. This was a redressing job, working with my original graphics and essentially sticking cuboids around the carryover elements. While perhaps not easy on the eye in reality, it was fun to play with intense colours and semi-transparent material in 3D – though, as I whinge about every encounter, these features did heavily impact on render times, on this occasion even creating some issues in animation, with nasty strobing on the stripes… hmm! I think I really have generated something resembling the real deal!
Maybe my indifference toward this whole look is compelled by the fact that Countdown was on the ropes, reeling for much of this period. Feeling bloated after the extension to forty-five minutes, it was then thrown back an hour to 3pm, immediately robbed of its sizable student audience (including me!) and raising doubts about its future. Of course the most monumental blow came in 2005, with the very sad passing of Richard; this beckoned two lacklustre runs with Des I (Lynam) and II (O’Connor) as chair – both were presenting while apparently scanning the studio for the quickest exit. Thank goodness Jeff Stelling and Rachel Riley came along in 2009, waking the thing up and restoring Countdown to the integrity and modest vigour of the good old days.
There’s only one more ‘era’ of Countdown to cover, really – the nineties, the era I remember most warmly – so I mightaswell give that a go. One day, when I’m thrown a conundrum.