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Armstrong turns down 'Countdown' job

In a sudden change of heart after receiving his contract, Alexander Armstrong has told Channel 4 executives that he does not want to host the flagship conundrum show Countdown.

The actor would have become the fourth presenter of the 26 year-old show. But after "an incredibly difficult decision", he decided against taking the vacant hot seat when the new series begins filming in 10 weeks, because he feared being stereotyped on daytime television. "I didn't want to be pigeon-holed as a presenter, even though I love doing it," he told The Independent. "I'm very lucky to get to do some presenting but if I'm going to be on telly as a presenter every day, well, I think that makes it less likely that people will give me jobs acting or doing comedy.

"For the next couple of years that's where I want to focus really."

A recent edition of Have I Got News For You, which Armstrong presented, saw team captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop mock him for his potential involvement with Countdown, a show whose core audience is older than Armstrong's 38 years.

Armstrong, originally a stand-up comedian, gained fame for his role in TV ads for Pimm's and starred in the comedy series Armstrong and Miller.

His decision poses a problem for Channel 4. After the death in 2005 of Richard Whiteley, who hosted the show for 23 years, the veterans Des Lynam and Des O'Connor left the presenter's chair in swift succession.