‘A flaccid little attempt at spikiness’: Anne Robinson takes over Countdown

When Anne Robinson was announced as the newest Countdown host, it felt a little as if Channel 4 had hired Lewis Hamilton to sit at the wheel of a self-driving car. Robinson is, to paraphrase Liam Neeson, a woman with a particular set of skills; which is to say very sharp-witted and not altogether pleasant.

Countdown, meanwhile, is a peculiarly airless format that has a habit of sucking its presenters dry. The job of a Countdown host is to sit in front of a studio audience who sound so anaesthetised it’s easy to imagine them being cattle-prodded whenever it’s time to applaud, and mumble one-liners that never get more scintillating than “Numbers next”, or “Can you top that, Susie?”

This suits some people more than others. Richard Whiteley sparkled in the role for 22 연령, but all of his successors have floundered. Des O’Connor tried to find space for his trademark bawdiness for almost two years before quitting in defeat. Des Lynam managed even less. Only Nick Hewer, Alan Sugar’s surgically vicious lieutenant in The Apprentice, achieved a decent post-Whiteley stint in the host’s chair. 아직도, there’s a sense that he got through his nine-year tenure only by leaving his personality at the door before every taping. Would Robinson, who made her millions by insulting poor people on TV, really be able to find her niche here?

On the basis of her first episode, the answer is probably not. Opening with a clip of her first ever Countdown appearance almost 40 여러 해 전에, Robinson struggled to impose herself on the show from the start. A bit of meandering chit-chat with Rachel Riley, a flaccid little attempt at spikiness with the contestants (“You’re an accountant? Is that as exciting as it sounds? 예? Oh”) then it was on with grinding business as usual.

Rory Bremner was in Dictionary Corner for the opening episode, doing a Boris Johnson impersonation to the sort of deafening silence you normally only hear in the vacuum of space. There was a letters round and someone got a six. There was a numbers round, and one of the contestants accidentally duplicated one of her numbers. Other things happened, none memorable.

My grand Countdown theory is that it only works as a show if you’re any good at it. If you have a nose for anagrams, it’s a thrilling way to sharpen your intellect. If you don’t – and spoiler alert, I don’t – then it’s a bit like spending the longest Sunday afternoon of all time at your grandma’s house. This also extends to hosts. You could sense that Whiteley genuinely loved joining in with the rounds, which is why he lasted so long. 그 동안에, Lynam was bored rigid from the moment he set foot in the studio, and was never going to last.

So far, my guess is that Robinson is a Lynam. She doesn’t feel much like a joiner-inner, battling to rouse enthusiasm when one contestant’s “sliced” was spectacularly undermined by the other’s “unsliced” and only barely raising an eyebrow when someone unearthed the word “flasher”. Except for the moment when Susie Dent delivered a mini lecture about what’s referred to as ablaut reduplication (such as wishy-washy or crisscross), she remained supremely disengaged. She did wink at the end, 물론이야, but when the highlight of a show is watching a septuagenarian briefly close an eye, it cannot be a good sign.

Robinson is clearly somebody who relishes being the centre of attention, but her mistake is picking a series where she is by far the least important participant. Riley is better at maths, Dent is better at words, and all the jokes are contracted out to whoever is on Dictionary Corner. That leaves Robinson – or any host – nothing to do but swallow their ego and keep things ticking over. Someone as professionally explosive as her will always struggle with being relegated to the role of usher.

Usually when a new host joins an old show, the polite thing to do is allow them some time to bed in. But Countdown isn’t the sort of programme a host gets better at, because there is so little for them to do. We have already seen Robinson at her best on Countdown, and it was perfectly adequate. I give it 18 개월.

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