diamond geezer

 Saturday, November 02, 2002

20 years of Channel 4

It's hard to believe that only 20 years ago we lived in a world with only three TV channels. Then along came Channel 4 on 2nd November 1982, supposedly with a brief to be cutting-edge, avant-garde and radically different. However, the first programme on the channel was the first ever edition of Countdown, which is about as safe and comfy as television ever gets. I missed the launch of Channel 4 because I was out having a driving lesson at the time. However, there have been thousands of Countdowns since then, perfectly filling that great afternoon teatime void, and all structured exactly the same...

• Show begins with whirling clocks, flying letters and extremely catchy theme music.
• Richard appears, wearing garish stripy tie and a jacket made from deckchair material.
• Richard smiles broadly, tells us what the date is and flirts mildly with Carol.
• Richard re-introduces this week's D-list celebrity resident in dictionary corner.
• Richard introduces 12-year-old contestant, and makes several weak puns about his name.
• Richard introduces the housewife from Yorkshire who's about to be humiliatingly defeated.
• First contestant selects five consonants and four vowels.
• Catchy music plays for 30 seconds while cameras zoom in on contestants looking pensive.
• You've only managed a 4-letter word, so you convince yourself you weren't really trying.
• Housewife announces 5-letter word, so you feel even more intellectually sub-normal.
• 12-year-old announces 6-letter word and smirks knowingly at Mum sitting in the audience.
• Smug celebrity announces 7-letter word provided by hidden computer technology.
• Token glamorous librarian tells us the meaning of obscure word using tiny pen camera.
• Richard attempts to make the one-sided score sound exciting.
• Big second hand on the Countdown clock spins back to the top while nobody's looking.
• Repeat letters rounds as necessary until it's time for the numbers round.
• Chosen contestant selects one from the top row and any other five please Carol.
• 12-year-old puts down his pen after 3 seconds, while housewife still looks baffled after 30.
• 12-year-old discovers he's used one of the numbers twice, and tries very hard not to cry.
• Carol says 639 is a very difficult total to make, but she'll have another go during the break.
• Celebrity tells feeble anecdote, greeted by rapturous laughter from the geriatric audience.
• Commercial break, featuring adverts for stairlifts, funeral plans and Werther's Original.
• Repeat words and numbers rounds as necessary until it's time for the Conundrum.
• 12-year-old correctly guesses jumbled-up nine-letter word within half a second.
• Richard congratulates victorious child and tells him he'll be back at the end of the series.
• Housewife receives feeble goodie bag containing job lot of cheap Countdown merchandise.
• Richard asks tomorrow's contestant in the audience whether he guessed the Conundrum.
• Richard, Carol and D-list celebrity smile broadly and hope to see you tomorrow.
• Credits roll while Yorkshire TV employees poke the audience to get them to applaud.
• Production team still have four more shows to get in the can today, so everything restarts.

And three million people wouldn't have it any other way.

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