Lynam slips into Whiteley's shoes but not his wardrobe

Countdown, Channel 4

The loyal Countdowners in the audience gave a ragged cheer - trying to pitch their response into that tricky intermediate ground between outright glee and wistful memory.

It's an odd place, Countdonia. The demographics are skewed to the young, the retired, and the convalescent; the unemployment rates are sky-high; and the national pastimes are anagrams and puns cheesy enough to force the unprepared to their knees. And yesterday the citizens had to get used to their new dear leader, Des Lynam - elevated to the position after the media equivalent of a closed politburo session.

It was Carol Vorderman who said hello - but only this once, she assured us, so that she could introduce Lynam with a sample of the gamey banter which has always been part of the programme's appeal.

"There's a new boy in the house," she said. "He's got his rubber and his pencils all sharpened... he's even got his new uniform on."

For a brief second, before the studio director cut Des on screen, you wondered whether one of television's most durable smoothies had been unsmoothed, forced into one of Whiteley's garish outfits - which began as an unintentional sartorial joke, and then slowly evolved into a knowing game. But Des's tie was discreet and his suit was grey.

The manner, though, wasn't quite as cashmere-sleek as we've come to expect from Lynam. Countdown was always one of the most amiably awkward programmes on air. Even after thousands of shows, Whiteley managed to convey the sense that he'd stumbled on to set about 10 minutes before transmission - and couldn't be sure that security wouldn't eject him before the final credits rolled.

This is not Lynam's forté - but whether through deference or genuine nerves he did seem a little glassy-eyed and jittery yesterday. "I hope you're enjoying it and I'm not too much of a shock for you this afternoon," he said anxiously after one commercial break - as if the more far-flung regions of Countdonia might not yet have received news of his predecessor's death.

There were no unfortunate anagrammatic accidents - no collection of letters nudging the competitors towards words such as "deceased" or "imitation". "Morbid" came up in the second round - but there was nothing at all morbid about the mood, or the consolingly bland ingredients. Martin Jarvis, a programme regular, was in dictionary corner and the second hand ticked down to the bottom of the clock with the same "dibbidy dibbidy dibbidy-doo-doing" musical sting.

As it happened, it wasn't the only restoration in Channel 4's afternoon schedule yesterday. Immediately afterwards, Noel Edmonds returned to national television with Deal or No Deal, an utterly skill-free game of chance in which competitors stand to win up to £250,000.

On Countdown the star prize is a goody bag with a Countdown teapot in it - but if I were taking bets I'd say that Des will still be there after Noel has moved on to other projects.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Front End Developer (HTML / CSS / JavaScript / Angular JS)

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Front End Developer (HTML...

Ashdown Group: Advertising Operations Executive - Old Street, London

£13 - £15 per hour: Ashdown Group: Advertising Operations - Contract - up to £...

Sauce Recruitment: Revenue/Budget Controller

£18 - £22 per hour: Sauce Recruitment: An interesting role within a leading (a...

Sauce Recruitment: Part Time - Digital content Producer - Reality TV

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king of queen or realit...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food