Anne Robinson steps down as Countdown host

Anne Robinson is stepping down as the host of Countdown after a year, and said she hopes her stint helped TV bosses realise that not all women her age are “in care homes playing bingo”.

Robinson, 77, last year became the first woman to regularly host the popular and long-running Channel 4 letters and numbers show.

After recording 265 episodes in Salford, she said it was time for a change. “I’ve had a blast hosting this wonderful show and I stayed longer than I signed up for,” she said. “Now it is time for an older woman to take the reins.”

She added: “I hope, too, I’ve encouraged TV bosses to realise that not all women at the wrong end of their 70s are in care homes playing bingo and watching conjuring tricks.”

Robinson’s tenure divided audiences and brought rumours of a rift with the show’s resident maths whiz, Rachel Riley, with one newspaper asking a body language expert to comment on the chemistry, or lack of it, between the pair.

There were reports that Robinson found Riley too loud and was irritated when she chatted on her mobile phone.

Robinson has brushed aside talk of a rift. She told the Daily Mail: “I’m not saying I would go on holiday with Rachel Riley, but she is brilliant. Absolutely honestly, I do admire her – she is really, really good at what she does, as is [the lexicographer] Susie Dent.

“Look, Rachel has just come back from having a baby and she is standing throughout and faultless, whereas I get to sit down. She is noisy, yes, she and Susie both are – they are a formidable pair those two. But there isn’t a question of my going because of a rift, that’s nonsense.”

Riley also dismissed reports of a feud, telling ITV’s Lorraine: “You know not to believe tabloids. I think it is just you have got some women there now so they want to make something up.”

She added: “[Robinson] is not the cuddliest person in the world. It is just a different show now. She is making it her own. She is getting stuff out of the contestants. Sometimes it is barbed, sometimes it is funny. She has got a different flavour.”

After a career as a national newspaper journalist, Robinson found fame in 2000 hosting the BBC quizshow The Weakest Link. Her acerbic wit led to her becoming labelled the “Queen of Mean” – a title she enjoyed, telling the Observer: “It was never a millstone. It wasn’t my original intention to be horrid – I just didn’t want to be a cheesy gameshow host.”

Robinson was the sixth host of Countdown, each successor having to fill the huge hole left by Richard Whiteley who cheerily hosted for 23 years until his death in 2005. Des Lynam lasted a year and was followed by Des O’Connor, Jeff Stelling and, for nine years, Nick Hewer.

As the “dictionary corner” guest Rory Bremner said on Robinson’s first Countdown episode: “There have been more men called Des hosting this show than there have women.”

Robinson said the genius of Countdown was that it was a brilliant way to keep the brain exercised. “I run 5k most days of the week. And I can now do an anagram at twice the speed I could this time last year. But I have grandchildren, a large garden and a home in New York, all deserving more of my attention.”

Robinson will appear in shows until the summer, with a new host to be announced in due course, Channel 4 said. Who that will be remains to be seen. When Hewer stepped down, the names mentioned included Carol Vorderman, Clare Balding, Sandi Toksvig and Colin Murray, who acted as a stand-in for Hewer.

A spokesperson said: “Quick-witted Anne has been a brilliant host on this iconic show.”

The bookmaker Paddy Power made the comedian Romesh Ranganathan 2/1 favourite to succeed Robinson, just as he did when he this year became host of a celebrity reboot of the Weakest Link. He was followed by Carol Vorderman (4/1), Fiona Bruce (7/1) and Jermaine Jenas (8/1).




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