C4 show celebrates 2000 - and counting

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Richard Whiteley may never challenge the Spice Girls in the glamour stakes, but what the quintet of pop sirens did for Channel 5 earlier this year, the veteran broadcaster had already done.

It was 1982 when Mr Whiteley launched Channel 4 on its journey into television's unknown with the bargain-basement quiz show, Countdown.

Now, 15 years and (since yesterday) 2,000 shows later, Whiteley, 53, and Countdown are both firm favourites with millions of afternoon viewers.

Countdown, based on the format of French show Chiffres et des Lettres, made his career, as each day more than 4 million viewers loyally tuned in to the show, which had been originally commissioned for only five weeks.

Mr Whiteley attributes the quiz show's success to its simplicity. "I am convinced that if someone came up with the format now, it would have to be all hi-tech. But back then it was devised to be a gentle afternoon show."

Yorkshire TV has already been commissioned to make the programme until 1999, and there are even Countdown societies, to satisfy fans' thirst for conundrums and maths teasers between series.

James Mellor