Countdown (lost unaired episodes of British game show; 1991-2022)

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Countdown logo.

Status: Lost

Countdown is a Channel 4 game show that has regularly aired new episodes since 1982. It provides match-ups between two contestants who attempt to establish the longest words from a defined set of nine consonants and vowels, reach or come close to a given target using only six provided numbers, and resolve nine-letter anagrams, all within a 30-second time limit. Over 8,000 episodes have been produced, but some, for various reasons, were either pulled before they aired and/or have remained locked away. This article documents the sixteen known episodes that have never been publicly released.

Countdown Masters

Countdown Masters was a spin-off of the original show.[1][2][3] It aired for two series from 3rd April 1989 to 29th March 1991, as part of The Channel 4 Daily's breakfast line-up.[4][2][1] The games themselves followed a similar premise, consisting of letters, numbers and conundrums.[1][2] However, each match was split into five different episodes, as the broadcasts could only last five minutes each.[2][1] Thus, a typical Countdown Masters episode witnessed a single game from each category.[2][1] Because of the episodes' short length, there was no need for a Dictionary Corner guest.[1] A contestant would not only compete against a rival but also face off against all other competitors, as achieving the highest score would allow them to become the series champion.[1] For the first series, Julian Hough's 124 saw him become the inaugural champion.[5][6][4]

52 episodes were produced for Series 2, which began airing on 2nd April 1990.[7][4] However, midway through M94, which started airing on the week commencing 14th January, the show was affected by a major world event.[6][7] On 17th January, Operation Desert Storm was launched, which saw the United Kingdom alongside 41 countries participate in a United States-led military campaign to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi control.[8] Considering the consequences the Gulf War would bring, including possible biological, chemical and nuclear threats,[9] Channel 4 established Midnight Special to report on and discuss the key military events, while also overhauling its breakfast programming.[10][6][7][1] Suddenly, Countdown Masters was taken off-air throughout the Gulf War's duration.[7][6][3][1]

By the time M94 was interrupted, Billy Ward was leading Gino Corr 41-37.[11] By the episode's conclusion, Corr edged out Ward 56-55, though it is currently unclear how he achieved this in the unaired rounds 10 to 15.[7] Indeed, none of the episodes whose initial broadcasts were cancelled for Gulf War coverage were subsequently aired at later dates.[7][3][1] This meant game information was exceptionally limited, prompting an appeal from The Countdown Page for the missing scores.[3] Ultimately, all results have now been uncovered.[7] M95 saw John Clarke beat Michael Wareham 95-88; Alex Pearse defeated his father Lawrence 80-77 in M96; M98 witnessed Sandie Simonis overcome Jane Smith 77-49; while Diana Beasley beat Marianne Croll 94-47 in M99.[7]

The entire M97 game has since been documented, pitting Andrew Fisher against Clive Freedman.[12][7][6] In Round 1, GALIOT/AGOUTI respectively ensured Fisher and Freedman started the game at 6-all. Both reached the target of 402 to reach 16-all. However, Fisher's LONELIEST gave him a 26-16 lead in Round 3, with REMAINED/RETAINED making it 34-24 after four rounds. Fisher reached the 277 target in Round 5 for 44-24 and solved the GIVENTURN conundrum (VENTURING) for 54-24. However, his LIBRATE answer was rejected, allowing Freedman's RELIANT to make it 54-31. Both then claimed to have reached Round 8's 286 target, but only Fisher's solution was accurate, giving him a 64-31 lead. This became 74-31 upon converting the SEVENEXIT conundrum to EXTENSIVE. Both players wrote REFUSING for Round 10 and reached 11's 281 target, putting the score at 92-49. Freedman then solved the HELMBLOBS conundrum (BOMBSHELL) for 92-59. WAINSCOT/AUCTIONS and the players harnessing the same method to reach Round 14's 733 target meant Fisher was now at 110-77. He then solved the final conundrum (VINEBILGE > BELIEVING) to give himself 120 points.[12][7][6] It has since been considered a classic by The Countdown Page.[6]

On 28th February 1991, the Persian Gulf War came to an end when a ceasefire was declared and Kuwait was officially liberated.[8] Henceforth, Channel 4 returned to normal programming, but opted to broadcast M100 on the week commencing 25th February rather than air the earlier episodes.[7] Interestingly, M102, which was set to broadcast on the week commencing 11th March and saw Frank Houston beat Dixie Baird 103-69, was also left unaired.[7] While The Countdown Page claims it was because of Gulf War coverage, this clearly was not the reason behind its cancellation.[7][8] It remains one of seven unaired Countdown Masters episodes.[7][1] Following Series 2's conclusion, Fisher's 120 was unbeaten, making him the series champion.[6][7]

Episodes 2045 and 5723

Main article: Episodes 2045 and 5723.


Since 2002, a sizable number of special Countdown episodes have been produced.[13][14] These one-off games centre around a particular theme, such as a replay of a classic Final, the contestants sharing the same occupation (e.g. clergymen and police officers), are blood-related or have even become a couple following their original appearances on the show.[13] What makes specials especially vulnerable to becoming unaired is that most have no fixed dates.[13][14] Often, they only aired when Channel 4 desperately needed programming to fill sudden gaps in its broadcast slots.[13] For instance, Channel 4's cricket coverage would sometimes be interrupted should the game conclude remarkably early or be affected by poor weather.[15][13] Thus, a special Countdown episode would subsequently air as filler.[13][15]

During filming for Series 49, 25 special episodes were recorded.[13][14] The majority ended up being broadcast on a routine basis or to replace cricket coverage from 2003 to 2005.[13][15][14] Thus, it appeared S24 and S25 were to follow, possibly in June 2005.[13] S24 featured Steve Fisher attempting to avenge his Series 38 Grand Final defeat to John Ashmore.[16][13] Meanwhile, S25 featured the inaugural Countdown champion Joyce Cansfield against Series 2 finalist Dixie Baird.[17][18][13] Entertainer Bob Bevan and Bernard Ingham, the chief press secretary to Margaret Thatcher, joined lexicographer Alison Heard in Dictionary Corner for the respective episodes.[19][20][21][22][13] Ultimately, both episodes were never released as a mark of respect for host Richard Whiteley, who passed away on 26th June 2005 following complications from heart surgery.[23][13]

Aside from the contestants and Dictionary Corner guest, nothing else is known about S24, with its winner being unknown.[13] But on 22nd October 2010, Charlie Reams, Series 59 and Championship XIII runners-up and the founder of The Countdown Database,[24] revealed an insider had provided him with all results for S25.[25] Round 1 saw Cansfield earn eight points with LISTENED before POWER/OPERA put her 13-5 ahead after two rounds. She extended her lead to 25-5 with INCISOR and BEGOT (the latter saw Baird's OUTGOE be disallowed), only for Baird to reach Round 5's 459 target to make it 25-15. In Round 6, Cansfield's DEVILS saw the score become 31-15, while both contestants shared PRONATES for 39-23. Cansfield continued to extend her lead with COMRADE for Round 8, with CLEANED/TANGLED making it 53-30 after nine rounds. Crucially, Baird's solution for Round 10's 634 target was disallowed, putting Cansfield 60-30 up with a 638 solution. PRAISE/PRIZES increased the score to 66-36, but Cansfield made it 80-36 after 13 rounds when her DEMENTIA and ABORTS answers were met with disallowed ones from Baird. Both contestants reached Round 14's 562 target. Though she had lost at this point, Baird solved the Conundrum, converting GIVERTATA to GRAVITATE, with the final score being 90-56.[25][13]

In 2010 and 2011, a further eight specials were recorded during Jeff Stelling's time as host.[26][13] These episodes began airing from 15th March 2010, again featuring similar themes as before.[13][14] The final two specials from this era, S32 and S33, were reported by The Countdown Page as being planned for broadcast on 15th and 16th August 2011 respectively.[13] However, for unknown reasons, the episodes were pulled from Channel 4's schedule and have never been aired since.[13][26] These episodes have received the least documentation, with the contestants, theme and results remaining completely unknown.[13][26] The only confirmed detail for both episodes was that GMTV presenter and journalist Penny Smith joined lexicographer Susie Dent in Dictionary Corner, having also appeared in S31.[27][13][21][22]

As of November 2023, a further sixteen specials have been produced.[14] As before, it was a matter of if not when the episodes would be broadcast.[28][29][14] For example, S40, which featured former contestants Michelle Nevitt and Ryan Taylor who would become a couple following their Countdown appearances, aired on 2nd July 2013 to hastily replace Episode 5723.[29][28][14] Taylor narrowly edged out Nevitt 88-81 in that game.[28] A similar episode featured husband and wife Norman and Carol Rudland, who both competed in Series 62.[30][31] The special was produced during Series 67, in the midst of Heather Styles' Octochamp campaign.[32][30] It is therefore believed actress Connie Fisher was the Dictionary Corner guest, having also appeared in most of Styles' episodes.[33][34] Alas, the Rudlands special has never aired and its result remains completely unknown. All other fifteen specials aired between March 2012 to December 2020.[14]

Episode 7290

The 59th episode planned for Series 82, Episode 7290 was to air on 24th March 2020.[35][36][37][38] It featured two new contestants, Mike Nevins and John Kelly, who competed after Phil Hulme became an Octochamp.[36][37] Nevins edged out Kelly 63-60, where he later defeated George Beach 72-67, only to lose 83-67 to Faye Montgomery.[35][36][37] Joining Susie Dent in Dictionary Corner was ITV broadcaster Mark Pougatch, most known for being ITV Sport's Chief Sport Presenter after having joined the organisation in 2015.[39][35][37]

Under normal circumstances, Episode 7290 would have been an ordinary episode featuring two guests with clean records.[35][37] However, by the time the episode was to air, the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, forcing the UK to enter lockdown on 23rd March.[40] The episode was originally recorded in November 2019, when the outbreak in Wuhan had only just begun.[41][42] In the opening monologue, host Nick Hewer and arithmetician Rachel Riley jokingly discussed death and the fate of their social media accounts once they passed away.[37] At one point, Hewer experienced a hoarse voice, much to the humour of Riley and the studio audience.[37] In his closing speech, Hewer stated in jest he would "try to stay alive till tomorrow at least", though admitted it would be a struggle.[37] But by March 2020, this innocuous conversation was declared insensitive during a deadly pandemic that had also forced drastic action in Britain a day prior.[41][38][35][40] Channel 4 could not edit out the monologues in time, thus deciding instead to pull the programme altogether.[41][35][38]

A year following the episode's cancellation, The Countdown Wiki gained access to the unaired programme's subtitles.[35][37] This allowed the confirmation of Nevins' first opponent, the opening monologue, and the entire game. Round 1 saw Nevins take a 6-0 lead with CLOUDS, as Kelly's MODULAR was disallowed for containing an unavailable A. Nevins' unchallenged GRATED put him 12-0 ahead. In Round 3, he and Kelly both reached 269 with the same method, three away from the 272 target. KITE/BIKE and MOANER/MENTOR prompted further points shares, putting the score at 29-17 in Nevins' favour. Kelly reduced the deficit to 29-24 with a 303 calculation, just one away from the 304 target. However, Round 7 saw Nevins put himself 36-24 ahead with CONTAIN. LOVERS/WOLVES made it 42-30, but Nevins extended it to 52-30 by reaching the 722 target. BRAISED, FOUNDS, and ANNOYER helped Kelly reduce the gap to only 52-50, but a failure to write down CUPPED in time allowed Nevins to pull away 58-50. Nevins also reached 750 with a 742 target, thus giving him an unassailable lead of 63-50. Despite losing the game, Kelly solved the Conundrum, unscrambling an as-yet-unknown nine-letter anagram to reveal the word PROCURING.[35][37]

Episode 7779

The most recent episode to be pulled, Episode 7779 was scheduled to air on 8th June 2022, as Series 85's 113th game and the final preliminary match.[43][44] It featured the defending champion Steven Etherington, who had previously defeated Will Campion 92-72, Kieran Walsh 109-35, Andrew Nutall 102-63, Nicholas Cooney 85-70, and Richard Simpson 95-69.[44][43] In 7779, Etherington beat a currently unidentified player 88-57.[43][44] The episode was among those not to feature Susie Dent, as she was self-isolating after contracting COVID-19.[45][43] Instead, Dictionary Corner was entirely presented by guest Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a paralympian and a life peer.[46][43] Following the episode, Etherington would not return until the start of Series 86, owing to the Series 85 Finals commencing immediately afterwards.[43][44] He defeated Andrew Western 84-50 but missed out on becoming an Octochamp after losing 84-78 to Daren Barnes.[47] He lost in the Series 86 Finals to Edward Byrne 105-34.[47]

A week before its intended air date, it was revealed the episode was to be replaced by the Champion of Champions XV Final that was originally broadcast on 22nd January 2019 and saw Zarte Siempre beat Bradley Horrocks 116-83.[48][49][50][51][43] To date, Channel 4 has not given an official explanation surrounding 7779's cancellation.[49][50] This has subsequently led to speculation on both c4countdown and r/RBI that 7779 suffered a similar fate to Episodes 2045 and 5723.[49][50] However, these claims currently remain as hearsay.


The unaired episodes of Countdown likely still exist within Channel 4's archives, unlike some early episodes whose master tapes have disappeared.[52] It all depends greatly on how affected Countdown was from the issues faced in the Channel 4 archive.[53] As of the present day, no confirmed plans have been made to air any of the long-unaired episodes, especially considering how some have remained unreleased for over 30 years. With the notable exceptions of Episodes 2045 and 5723, all still have a chance of airing in the future.

See Also

Countdown Media

Unidentified Contestants Media

External Links


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Adam's Nostalgic Memories detailing Countdown Masters, its premise, and how some episodes were left unaired due to special news coverage. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 UK Game Shows summarising Countdown Masters. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Countdown Page summarising Countdown Masters and making an appeal for missing final scores of unaired episodes Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The Countdown Database listing all episodes and results of Countdown Masters up to 7th January 1991. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  5. The Countdown Page summarising the results of the first Countdown Masters series. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 The Countdown Page summarising M97 and noting it was affected by Gulf War coverage. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 The Countdown Page summarising the results of Series 2 of Countdown Masters, and noting some episodes did not air because of the Persian Gulf War. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 History summarising the Persian Gulf War. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  9. National Interest detailing the concerns of biological, chemical, and nuclear threats both sides of the Gulf War envisioned. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  10. Postmodernism and Islam summarising Channel 4's Midnight Special coverage of the Gulf War. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  11. The Countdown Page summarising the M94 game up until its interruption (p.g. 74-76). Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  12. 12.0 12.1 The Countdown Page summarising the entirety of M97. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 13.13 13.14 13.15 13.16 13.17 13.18 13.19 13.20 The Countdown Page summarising the first 33 Countdown specials. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 The Countdown Database listing the episodes and results of aired special episodes. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 The Countdown Page summarising episodes that have replaced cricket coverage, including specials. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  16. c4countdown summarising the Series 38 Grand Final between Steve Fisher and John Ashmore. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  17. The Countdown Page summarising the Series 1 Grand Final. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  18. c4countdown noting Dixie Baird reached the Series 2 Quarter-Finals. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  19. The Cricketer summarising Bob "The Cat" Bevan. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  20. The Guardian's Sir Bernard Ingham obituary. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  21. 21.0 21.1 The Countdown Page providing a list of Dictionary Corner guests. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  22. 22.0 22.1 The Countdown Page providing a list of Countdown lexicographers. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  23. BBC News reporting on the death of Richard Whiteley. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  24. The Countdown Page summarising the Charlie Reams' time on Countdown and his extensive influence on Countdown-centric websites including The Countdown Database and c4countdown. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  25. 25.0 25.1 c4countdown summarising the results of the unaired S25 episode. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 c4countdown noting S32 and S33 have remained unreleased. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  27. BBC News reporting on Penny Smith leaving GMTV after a 17-year stint. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 c4countdown summarising S40 (referred to as S39). Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  29. 29.0 29.1 c4countdown discussing how S40 replaced Episode 5723. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  30. 30.0 30.1 c4countdown noting an unaired Rudlands special. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  31. The Countdown Database listing the episodes and results of Series 62. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  32. The Countdown Database listing the episodes and results of Series 67. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  33. c4countdown summarising a Heather Styles episode featuring Connie Fisher as the Dictionary Corner guest. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  34. WalesOnline reporting on the career of Connie Fisher. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 35.4 35.5 35.6 35.7 c4countdown providing a recap of the cancelled Episode 7290. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 The Countdown Database listing all episodes and results of Series 82, not including the unaired Episode 7290. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 37.4 37.5 37.6 37.7 37.8 37.9 Channel 4 providing subtitles for the unaired Episode 7290. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 c4countdown discussing the hastily cancelled Episode 7290. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  39. ITV News reporting on Mark Pougatch joining ITV Sport as a football presenter Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  40. 40.0 40.1 British Foreign Policy Group summarising the COVID-19 pandemic timeline. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 Rachel Riley Twitter post where she explained why 7290's broadcast was cancelled. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  42. Brookings detailing the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 43.4 43.5 43.6 c4countdown summarising the cancelled Episode 7779. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  44. 44.0 44.1 44.2 44.3 The Countdown Database listing all episodes and results of Series 85, including the unaired Episode 7779. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  45. Daily Mirror reporting on Susie Dent missing several episodes in June 2022 after testing positive for COVID-19. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  46. WheelPower summarising the career of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  47. 47.0 47.1 The Countdown Database listing the episodes and results of Series 86. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  48. Archived Channel 4 TV Guide showing Episode 7779 was replaced by a Champion of Champions episode (broadcast at 2.10pm on Channel 4). Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  49. 49.0 49.1 49.2 c4countdown reporting on and discussing 7779's cancelled broadcast. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  50. 50.0 50.1 50.2 r/RBI discussing and speculating on 7779's cancellation. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  51. The Countdown Database listing the episodes and results of Champion of Champions XV. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  52. Kaleidoscope listing the missing episodes of Countdown. Retrieved 10th Nov '23
  53. Transdiffusion reporting on issues surrounding the Channel 4 archive. Retrieved 10th Nov '23