Countdown Supreme Championship (Channel 4, 1996)
Here is yet another interesting Countdown variation. In 1996 the 33rd series of Countdown was also the Supreme Championship. This was where the best contestants from over the years, mostly series champions and runners-up going all the way back to the first series in 1982 competed against one another to determine who really was the best of them all.
The contestants were put into seven groups, with the group winner advancing to the quarter-finals, and the eighth place was taken by the winner of the most recent Champion Of Champions tournament. When the climax of the series finally came, the two finalists were Allan Saldanha and Harvey Freeman, who were widely regarded to be the two best contestants at that point in Countdown‘s history.
This meant that although host Richard Whiteley always insisted that Countdown was never anything more than a daytime game show, when the standard is this high the gameplay will be a delight to watch. Carol Vorderman was the co-host as usual and Nigel Rees was in Dictionary Corner, but it would be tough to keep up with these two talented contestants.
Countdown is also a show not known for its big prizes, but there was a specially commissioned trophy on offer for the winner, along with a trip to Paris to see an edition of the original French version of the show being made. As this was a final, this was a 45-minute edition which featured 14 rounds, including two conundrums, and the studio audience was filled with the other contestants who took part throughout the series, and Richard might just take the opportunity to ask if they are keeping with the finalists.
Would this be a game worth watching? Well in round one Harvey finds the nine-letter word CREOSOTED to take an 18-0 lead straight away. After same fairly easy numbers rounds, Harvey maintains his lead going into the first conundrum. Surprisingly, neither contestant can guess that the word is SPEEDBOAT. Maybe they should watch Bullseye more often.
After the break, Harvey manages to solve some slightly more difficult numbers games, and he has extended his lead to 30 points, but there would be no more nine-letter words on offer though. Allan has managed to reduce Harvey’s lead to 13 points by the time of the second conundrum which is the final round. Allan solves the conundrum which is the rather appropriate SUPERSTAR, but it isn’t enough, and Harvey (who also won series 10) wins the final 82-79.
Harvey is then presented with the main trophy by the chairman of Channel 4 Sir Michael Bishop (runner-up Allan received a smaller one) to much applause in a final that definitely did live up to its promise. In more recent years there was a similar series to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Countdown where again lots of series champions took part and the gameplay was of a very high standard.