As it's Christmas, I thought it was an appropriate time to recall the Christmas Day game between Richard and Carol, broadcast three years ago. It took the same format as the Celebrity Countdown games of Spring 1998, having seven rounds instead of nine (presumably to allow extra time for 'banter'), and was hosted by "Fifteen-to-One" presenter William G. Stewart. The guest in Dictionary Corner was Magnus Magnusson, yet to make his debut in the regular programmes, accompanied by Mark Nyman. Susie Dent took the place of Carol, dishing out letters and numbers, and putting up the solutions. There was also a special Christmas version of the theme music, and the sound at the end of the 30 seconds was replaced by a bell - how sweet!
And so to the game - who would win - Richard Whiteley of Burnley-in-Wharfedale, the 53-year-old collector of pot tortoises, or Carol King, the 37-year-old television presenter from Berkshire? After Round 1, Richard immediately took the lead with the impressive LECTION, while Carol could only manage the admittedly festive TINKLE! Round 2 saw Carol asking for 'continents' (getting her own back on contestants of old, methinks), but she could only manage PETER (so could Richard, although he had also spotted TEEPEE, but didn't offer it). And so to the numbers game - Richard chose "the typical Countdown haircut - one from the top" - Susie then proceeded to take SIX from anywhere else, and ended up with a surplus '5'! Richard could only make 607, while Carol came up with the goods by getting 614 spot-on. And so, we were into the break with Carol leading 15-12.
The first letter in Round 4 was a 'Y', so Carol came out with the oft-quoted "Cos I want one!". Despite several sevens being available, both Carol and Richard declared 5. The final letters game (which began while Richard was still eating a mince pie!) saw them both impress with the six-letter offering TOWAGE. And so to the final numbers game - Magnus suggested Carol choose an "inverted T", and that's what Susie picked up. An interesting spread of numbers and a high target saw them both get 952, although it was possible to get it exactly right.
The fun wasn't over yet - as we went into the conundrum, it was still anybody's game, and when Richard pressed after only one second, it looked like it was all over for Carol, but it wasn't - Richard was just so used to pressing the button to start the clock for the conundrum round, that he had done so now! When William restarted the clock, it then only took Carol one more second to get the very seasonal MISTLETOE.
Carol got a Concise Oxford Dictionary as a prize, while Richard received a goody bag (or so
we are told!). Perhaps spurred on by the conundrum, Richard and Carol kissed on the lips and
then Richard presented her with Christmas and birthday presents. The programme ended with
Carol, Richard, Magnus, Susie and Mark singing a Countdown version of the Twelve Days of
Christmas, lyrics as follows:- "12 Clocks A-Ticking, 11 Christmas Carols, 10 Whiteley Wisecracks,
9 Rounds of Playing, 8 (Ate) All The Turkey, 7 Cecils Spinning, 6 Chosen Numbers, 5 Golden Vowels,
4 Dodgy Words, 3 Gypsy Creams, 2 Thousand Shows and a 16th Year on Channel 4".
This review was originally published as Game of the Week - 29 Dec 2000.