The Countdown conundrum: what makes a good presenter?

As Nick Hewer takes the reins, Nadia Khomami assesses his predecessors

For a show that has seen three dreary resignations, a bitter break-up with its heroine and plummeting ratings, Countdown’s survival is a feat to be applauded.


But since the untimely passing of its original presenter, Richard “Twice Nightly” Whiteley, the host’s job has seemed somewhat cursed.

Today, Apprentice star and Lord Sugar’s right-hand man Nick Hewer presents his first episode. With Countdown’s 30th birthday approaching, the question everyone’s asking is whether he will be the man to restore the magic of the series’ golden days.

We take a look over all of the show’s past presenters to determine Hewer’s dos and ultimate don’ts.

Richard Whiteley, who hosted the show from its birth in 1982 until his untimely death in 2005, remains the staple against which all presenters are judged. His cheerful manner and bad puns, together with a garish wardrobe of bold suits and ties, cemented his personality as the lovable eccentric.

Des Lynam, who ended up leaving the show before the end of his contract, is remembered for seeming forever bored. His monotonous voice, coupled with a sexuality almost too smooth for teatime viewing, was rather baffling at the best of times.

Des O’Connor was the absent-minded relative who comes round for Christmas and overstays his welcome. He possessed a geniality that made him endearing, but his intelligence never seemed to match the wry wit and aptitude the show required.


Jeff Stelling arrived armed with new co-host and bedroom pin-up, Rachel Riley. He was generally accepted as having understood the humour of the show, and exuded some of that Whiteley charm we’d all been missing. But his love of sports was overriding, and he quit to take on a full-time role at Sky Sports.