It’s a sad day, indeed, when Countdown host and all-round lovely man Nick Hewer announces his decision to leave the show, with his contract ending in the New Year.
But where one door closes and Nick Hewer quits Countdown, another opens, as the saying (sort of) goes.
Since 1982, when it became the first show ever to air on the then-brand new Channel 4, Countdown has seen five distinct incarnations under five different hosts.
But from the original chapter, helmed by Richard Whiteley, to the game show’s current line-up, led by Nick, there are two things which have remained consistent: a male presenter and the impossibly fabulous Susie Dent.
The fact that Countdown has always been hosted by (white) men is glaringly obvious, but Susie’s lasting presence is something which almost by its very nature is somewhat unremarked.
The lexicographer made her TV debut on Countdown in 1992, 10 years into the tenure of ‘Twice Nightly Whitely’ (a truly awful nickname) and, while she hasn’t been there since the beginning, she feels integral to the show’s identity.
Susie is part of the furniture, a much-loved and highly-valued asset to the team whose role is now so familiar and comforting it’s easy to overlook its importance. As Nick prepares to step down after 10 years as host – a length of stint second only to Richard’s 23-year run – it’s time a woman took over and time we gave Susie the recognition she deserves.
In terms of a replacement for Nick, I can think of no one better positioned to step up to the plate than the star of Dictionary Corner. As the longest-serving member of the current Countdown team, she knows what makes the heart of the programme. Damnit, she is the heart of the programme.
Beloved by the show’s dedicated fan base already, her familiarity would ease the transition for those viewers who might struggle with the shake-up to their ever-so-reliable afternoon schedule.
And if there were ever any doubt as to whether she’s up to the job when it comes to presenting, she’s already proved herself on her podcast Something Rhymes with Purple, which she hosts alongside Gyles Brandreth, and led her own hilarious All 4 series Susie’s Guide to Swearing.
Susie has the ability to guide the gentle rhythm of the show, keeping the ship sailing the same amicable waters it has been for decades, while bringing her own wit to the foreground in an unobtrusive revamp, much as Nick did when he first took over from Jeff Stelling.
What’s vital in casting a replacement presenter on Countdown – and we know this from past experiences barely having to weather the smooth transitions – is that they maintain the status quo without forgoing their own personality in the process.
While giving the gig to a woman would be a monumental step in terms of representation, it needn’t change much else. Give the job to Susie and let us all settle back into our sofas with our tea and biscuits, safe in the knowledge that not only will it be business as usual for the most part, but that we’ll also get bonus insights into her enviably brilliant mind and, if we’re lucky, the odd helping of her incisive humour.
Of course, promoting Susie would probably mean Countdown would be tempted to find someone to replace her in Dictionary Corner (although, she could do both jobs, as far as I’m concerned), but predicting that casting is a job for another article.
I do (reluctantly) have a list of other potential candidates to replace Nick as host too, although I can’t see how anyone could disagree with Susie as the best option.
Sandi Toksvig, formerly of the Great British Bake Off, springs to mind, though seems a little obvious due to another of her roles as the host of QI. Victoria Coren Mitchell, the woman in charge of the BBC’s impossibly difficult quiz show Only Connect, could also bring her cutting comedy and almost offensively high levels of intelligence to the Countdown studio.
And, if we’re thinking dream line-ups here, what about Moira Stewart OBE? As a veteran broadcaster, much-adored TV personality and an established household name, frankly, Countdown would be lucky to have her.
In the RadioTimes.com ‘office’, the names Sue Perkins, Samira Ahmed and, for the sake of poetry, Margaret Mountford (AKA Margaret from Nick and Margaret) have also been thrown into the ring.
No word yet from Channel 4 on who will be replacing Nick, but I, for one, know who’s top of my list.
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