Nick Hewer’s Countdown debut – as it happened

How did Lord Sugar's right-hand man fare as he took centre stage as host of the words and numbers quiz?

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3:11 – So here we are – the beginning of a new era? – as Nick Hewer takes the chair on everyone’s favourite words-and-numbers quiz, Countdown.

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3:14 -Nick opens appropriately with a tribute to the late great Richard Whiteley.

3:15 – Nods, too, to “winsome” maths pin-up Rachel Riley and “toothsome” Dictionary Corner stalwart Suzie Dent – a clever reference to the etymological origins of her surname. No doubt, there’s plenty more where that came from – Hewer is known for being cultured, intelligent and erudite. Beats me how he ended up working for Lord Sugar..

3:16 – WADDLE? WADDLER?

3:16 – WADDLED!

3:16 – Ooh, DRAWLED from this contestant is good. He’s not live blogging at the same time though, is he?

3:18 – With all due respect to his predecessors, I think it’s fair to say Hewer is already the best Countdown presenter since Richard Whiteley.

3:19 – I have PLEASED for 7

3:19 – LAPELLED?

3:20 – No, that has two Ps.

3:21 – I think the highest compliment you can pay Nick at this stage is that there is no sign at all that he is new to the game.

3:23 – Irritating TV magician Paul Zenon enlists Nick as his “sorcerer’s apprentice” – quick as a flash, Hewer returns “I know a little bit about apprentices!”

That’s the kind of mind Countdown needs in charge.

3:25 – Nick would make a great firm-but-fair granddad, wouldn’t he? I wonder if he has any openings for adoptive grandchildren…

3:28 – OK, it’s the ad break and a first chance to reflect on Nick Hewer’s opening foray into Countdown hosting. We’ve had highbrow wordplay, a gentlemanly approach to his female sidekicks (although someday someone is going to question why we’ve never had a female presenter) and he even put up with Paul Zenon. So far, he’s been flawless – and this is his first ever episode!

3:29 – What we haven’t seen yet is any of that famous Wilfrid Bramble-style gurning that always accompanies Nick’s disapproval on The Apprentice. We really need one of these contestants to mess up. Maybe someone will cheat on the next numbers round…

3:32 – I have BULLIES or BULLETS for seven. “Law graduates will enjoy that one” he says, which is over my head.

3:32 – Right, I need to get more than seven in this next round. Must impress Nick…

3:33 – Don’t like the look of these letters…

3:33 – How do you spell gonhorrea…?

3:33 – HUNGER?

3:34 – Jack gets seven but is being a tad too smug for my liking. Nick is too gentlemanly to take him down, though. If only this was the boardroom…

3:34 – Promising letters here from Rachel…

3:35 – ENTIRE?

3:35 – RETIRES

3:35 – Seven for me again…

3:36 – Except that RETIRES would, of course, require two Rs, which we don’t have.

3:37 – Jack gets TRANNIES – Nick is straight in there, asking Suzie if she has anything better, with “What sort of enhancements?” Get it? He’s demonstrating a subtle brilliance not since seen on Countdown, since, well… ever. We all loved RW but subtlety was hardly his strong point… 

3:39 – Yeah, yeah, numbers, whatever. I’m a journalist not a mathematician. “Words are my tools,” as former Apprentice candidate Raef once boasted.

3:41 – Second ad break. Can’t believe I’m watching Countdown without a cup of tea, let alone a biscuit. Feels so wrong…

3:43 – OK, I NEED to get more than a seven-letter word in the next round.

3:44 – NETIZENs, meaning internet users was the answer to the teatime puzzle. Nick not impressed by this newfangled portmanteau word. “How do we get rid of it?”

This is what we need – a bit of opinion, backed up with some taste and intelligence.

3:45 – EVENS

3:46 – That’s what Suzie got too, which I can more than live with.

3:47 – You know, I’ve been so busy assessing Nick and trying to get decent words, I’ve spent hardly any time staring at Rachel Riley. Maybe I’m becoming deep.

3:48 – Nick references Slim Pickens. Paul Zenon thinks he’s making him up. He starred in The Shining, you idiot Zenon! 

With these cultural references I can see me and Nick are gonna get along just fine.

3:49 – PORTION

3:49 – Nope, only one O…

3:50 – ATROPINE. Nice, respect to Jack there, who manges not to look too smug. “Jack, you’re a powerful young man,” offers Nick. Jack may have a way with words but he’s got nothing on Mr Hewer.

3:52 – I didn’t even have time to announce the conundrum before Jack got it. PLENTIFUL. He takes Nick’s breath away, apparently. He has PLENTIFUL brains that one, as Mr Whitely might have said.

3:54 – And there we go, Nick Hewer’s first go in charge of Countdown comes to an end and I think you’ll agree he did a lovely job. A commanding performance.

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3:59 – A success in every way, as far as I’m concerned. Erudite, witty and exuding a quiet power we’ve never seen before on the show. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Nick Hewer – the saviour of Countdown…?