Carol Vorderman didn’t think Countdown would continue without Richard Whiteley, says Susie Dent

The lexicographer also spoke about how the Countdown team came together after the show's first host passed away

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Carol Vorderman didn’t think that Countdown would continue without its original host Richard Whiteley, according to Susie Dent.

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Speaking at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival, the Dictionary Corner stalwart spoke about what happened when she discovered that Whiteley, who presented the programme for 23 years, had passed away.

“I remember Carol Vorderman ringing me saying ‘The press are going to be on to you. We’ve just lost our dear Richard.’ and then we just had a good cry,” explained Dent of the moment when she was told the news by the former co-host.

She also remembered the whole Countdown team coming together immediately afterwards.

“Carol just said ‘I’m going to go up to Leeds, will you come with me?’ and in fact the entire team went up to Leeds. We had nothing to do, nothing to film and we just sat together for two days and just talked. It was our release valve.

“But I don’t think at any point we talked about the future of Countdown – it just wasn’t the place. Countdown was so much about Richard…I don’t think Carol thought it was going to carry on if I think about it now.

“The beauty of Countdown is the format and even though Richard laid the way for the most fantastic programme, he will always be the king of Countdown, it’s the format that matters.”

Dent was also asked by host of the session Richard Madeley whether she was ever sent any rude items in the post, and although she said that she didn’t, she also did reveal that she was once written a letter by a fan signed in blood.

“It was a really nice letter… signed in his blood,” she laughed. “I haven’t had knickers thrown at me Tom Jones style – or boxers.”

After 25 years on Countdown, she also rebuffed the idea that she would leave at any time soon.

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“I would love to stay as long as they’ll have me,” she said. “I still get nervous, when the clock goes I still get full of adrenaline.”