The broadcaster: Rachel Riley
Saturday 27 December 2008
Fresh out of Oriel College, Oxford, with a masters in mathematics, 22-year-old Rachel Riley is the new Carol Vorderman, taking on the role of human calculator in the revamped Channel 4 afternoon quiz Countdown. Riley was planning on a career in marketing but beat 1,000 rival applicants to the Countdown job where she will work alongside the dry-witted Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling.
If she really can get her consonants in a line and follow Vorderman's career path, then the potential rewards are immense. Vorderman was on £1m per annum, though she quit the job earlier this year after being asked to take a 90 per cent pay cut. Riley's starting salary of £100,000 a year is hefty enough for someone straight out of university. "This is the best graduate job in the world," she says. "There's only one cool maths job around and I was lucky enough to get it."
For the Countdown auditions, Rachel and other applicants were tested on their maths skills, having to answer complex sums within 30 seconds – with the Countdown clock music in the background to add to the pressure. She was then shortlisted alongside five other candidates who took part in screen tests in Leeds.
Expect Riley to become a cult figure with undergraduates – a key Countdown demographic – next year. Like most students she was an obsessive watcher of the show, formerly hosted by Richard Whiteley, Des Lynam and Des O'Connor. "I've had the Countdown theme as my mobile-phone ringtone for years," she says. "Prior to my audition I bought five Countdown puzzle books and tackled over 500 different numbers games in order to hone my skills."
If the new series is a success, expect Channel 4 to explore further television projects with Riley to broaden her profile.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre