Countdown (partially lost episodes of British game show; 1982-1983)

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Logo for the show used from 1982 to 1987.

Status: Partially Lost

Countdown is a long-running British game show. Featuring two contestants attempting to resolve letter, number, and anagram challenges within 30 seconds, it was originally broadcast on Yorkshire Television as Calendar Countdown. It later became the first program to be televised on Channel 4. Notably, several early episodes of the show are confirmed to no longer exist within any known archives.


Countdown's origins came from the French game show Des Chiffres et Des Lettres, which inspired ITV franchise Yorkshire Television to produce a British version named Calendar Countdown.[1][2] After exclusively airing on Yorkshire Television in early-1982, it was later broadcast nationally on Channel 4 from late-1982 onwards.[1][2] The program was the first to ever air on Channel 4, who were seeking a viable game show as part of its launch.[1][2] Since then, it has become a mainstay for the channel, although episodes would still be produced by Yorkshire Television.[3][1]

Each Countdown episode consists of two contestants, who seek to outscore the other in a series of letter, number, and anagram games.[1][2] In the letter rounds, one must produce the longest word possible from nine random letters, the number of vowels and consonants chosen by one player beforehand.[1][2] The player who can produce the bigger word earns a number of points calculated from how long said word is.[1][2] In the numbers game, a player selects up to four large numbers (25, 50, 75 and 100) to be alongside small numbers.[1][2] The two contestants must utilise some, or all the numbers to produce an equation that reaches a target number.[1][2] Whoever is closer or actually reaches the target number earns the points.[1][2] Finally, a conundrum is played at the end of every game, awarding ten points to the player who can solve a nine-letter anagram within the 30 seconds.[1][2] Whoever wins the game stays on for the next show, where they can become Octochamps if they successfully win eight games.[1][2] At the end of every series, the eight best performers compete to decide who will become the series champion.[1]

From 1982 to 2005, the show was hosted by Richard Whiteley, with Carol Vorderman primarily being the co-presenter during this time period.[1][3] After he passed away on 26th June 2005, Countdown has gone through a variety of main presenters, including Des Lynam, Des O'Connor, Jeff Stelling, Nick Hewer, and Anne Robinson.[4][1] Since 1992, Susie Dent has been the show's lexicographer while, Riley replaced Vorderman as co-presenter from 2009, handling the letter and number rounds.[5][1]


As part of his research on a biography of Kenneth Williams titled The Kenneth Williams Companion, author Adam Endacott conducted research on the whereabouts of Countdown episodes featuring the comedian.[6][7] Appearing in 48 episodes overall as a guest, Williams would later express in his diaries that he loathed appearing on the show.[8][6] Of these, Endacott discovered that eleven episodes, one from Series 1 and ten from Series 2, were missing from the ITV archives.[9][6][7] Kaleidoscope contacted ITV about the missing episodes, but the latter refused to comment on their existence, with Kaleidoscope's Chris Perry believing ITV were embarrassed about the disappearance of the master tapes.[7]

In addition, episode 8 of Calendar Countdown, broadcast on 7th June 1982 and featuring the second leg of the Final between Michael Firth and Harry Venet, has also been declared missing.[9] The possibility that the episodes survive on VHS or other home media recordings remains, although none have since publicly resurfaced.



First episode of Countdown.

Part 1 of Calendar Countdown's Final.

See Also