A different sort of game this week - rather like the recent "18th Birthday" special, the "500th" episode of Countdown was played for laughs. The basic premise was that Dictionary Corner stalwarts Bill Tidy and Gyles Brandreth would do battle, assisted by former Countdown champions and runners-up. The audience was also special, and included other former Guardians of the Dictionary (including John Junkin, Steve Jones, Eve Pollard, Ken Bruce and Lee Peck), Channel 4 Commissioning Editor for Light Entertainment Mike Bolland, Bertrand Renard from "Des Chiffres et Des Lettres", and word game expert Peter Newby.
The game included the standard 6 letters games, 2 numbers games and a conundrum, although not in the traditional order, and ran for 45 minutes. It started in spectacular fashion when Bill and Mark Nyman offered the 8-letter word VIRELAYS (short poems), and after Round 2, Bill was well in the lead. Things took a bit of a turn when the 'helpers' were changed and in the next couple of rounds, Bill scored no points, while Gyles and Michael Wylie managed to pull back some ground with six! Amusingly, it appeared no one could get the first numbers game spot-on (Carol managed 772), but then Bertrand Renard announced from the audience that he could do it!
Part Two was less than spectacular, word-wise, the highest being the six-letter words
SPOUTS and POSITS, and by the conundrum, the score was 41-32 in favour of Bill, so Gyles
could still have won it. For the final round, Bill and Gyles were 'on their own', and
Richard announced that the solution to the conundrum was in fact two words, both of which
were proper nouns, and they had to get both right to score the 10 points. At this point,
Gyles retorted "Bill and I have ruined Christmas learning all the nine-letter words!".
Anyway, after ILLGBLYSE had been revealed, it was only one second before Gyles pressed,
and confidently said "Bill and Gyles" - surely this was right, and he would get the 10
points and win the game by one point? But this was a special programme, so Richard
declared he was wrong, and Bill got his chance. After the clock had reached 14 seconds,
Bill pressed - "Bill Glyes", he asked - no, said Richard, and started the clock for an
unprecedented third time! With one second left on the clock, Gyles buzzed again - "Do
I get 5 marks for Sybil?" Afraid not, Gyles, and when it was revealed that the conundrum
was in fact "Gyles Bill", Gyles remarked, quite rightly, "Absolutely monstrous!". Bill
was duly declared the winner, despite a moral victory for Gyles, and it only remained
for Richard to tell us that Diane Solomon would debut in Dictionary Corner the next day,
when normal Countdown service would be resumed.
This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 20 Nov 2000.