March 6, 2012

March 6, 2012

Sorry I Missed It: Countdown

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, the internet is a great way to watch shows you couldn’t otherwise. Whether because you don’t get the right channel, are always busy on Thursday nights, or live in the wrong country, you have a backup in YouTube/Hulu/illegal filesharing websites. This has been a great comfort to me whenever I feel humanity is in a hopeless spiral to oblivion, which is most days involving a subway ride.

But hark! Other countries produce intelligent people whose are not solely concerned with getting three stars on every level of Angry Birds! They have smarts for smarts’ sake, and needn’t win flashy prizes for it! They could be our only hope!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Countdown. My favorite bits of the Wikipedia article:

Countdown is a British game show involving word and number puzzles. The two contestants in each episode compete in three disciplines: eleven letters rounds, in which the contestants attempt to make the longest word possible from nine randomly chosen letters; three numbers rounds, in which the contestants must use arithmetic to reach a random target number from six other numbers; and the conundrum, a buzzer round in which the contestants compete to solve a nine-letter anagram.

Dictionary Corner houses a lexicographer and that week's celebrity guest. The role of the lexicographer is to verify the words offered by the contestants and point out any longer or otherwise interesting words available. The production team is insistent that no computer program is used in this role, and that the words suggested in Dictionary Corner have been found manually.

In keeping with the show's friendly nature, contestants compete not for money but the Countdown winner's teapot (first introduced in December 1998), which is custom-made and can only be obtained by winning a game on the programme. Countdown has occupied a tea-time broadcast slot since its inception.

Obviously, there is a LOT to love here. I was unimpressed by the YouTube screenshots, assuming this was the UK version of Wheel of Fortune. HAHAHAHAHA. We decided to watch an episode late one Saturday night and were treated to something like this (skip to 5:10 if the video doesn't do that for you):

I don’t know about you, but by the time the buzzer rang, I WAS STILL WRITING DOWN THE LETTERS. (Actually, I managed "friends," which is a very respectable 7. Usually I'm about 4ish.)

Un. real.

Not to mention the random asides the host and the dictionary corner people give during the show. The episode we watched started with a good five-minute story from the host about a train ride he’d taken. This story had no apparent connection to the rest of the show. He was just havin’ a bit of a chat with us. TEATIME, BABY!

The letters rounds aren’t so bad, though I consistently do worse than the contestants. I’ll get four, maybe five or six, and they’ll come up with a seven-letter word every effing time. May you never challenge one of these people in Words with Friends, because they will slaughter you. Don’t let their unassuming appearance confuse you: the 72-year-old pensioner from Leeds has forgotten more words than you will ever know. And forget about the numbers rounds, in which you get six numbers and a sum and have to do quick arithmetic to achieve the sum using the numbers. Ridic.

Though I am proud that, while watching the French version (Des chiffres et des lettres), I did in fact manage a four (“quatre”). BOOM DIGGETY (“le diggety d’un boom-boom”).

1 Fish in a Sea of Diet Coke:

Do you watch The IT Crowd? Moss, a character, goes on Countdown and wins then gets initiated into this exclusive Countdown club where he is part of the 'cool kids.' You should watch it, it is hilarious. It is available on Netflix if you have it.