And now… here are the ten people who have made the most appearances in dictionary corner over the past four decades…
10th: Jan Harvey (134 appearances, 1992-2002) Jan is an actress who has appeared in Howards’ Way… and… er, lots of other things I’m sure.
9th: Paul Zenon (145 appearances, 2004-2021) Paul is a magician. In the 90s, he showed off his skills on some CBBC shows including Tricky Business and Tricks And Tracks. So unsurprisingly he often takes the chance to dazzle and show off his crazy tricks. You won’t believe what he can do with a pack of cards. His mate Arbie The Robot would be proud I’m sure.
8th: Martin Jarvis (152 appearances, 1990-2008) Martin is another successful actor, who has a very nice voice and cosy presence, which is probably why he turned up so often.
7th: Geoffrey Durham (164 appearances, 1995-2006) Geoffrey is a magician. In the 80s, he was known as “The Great Soprendo”, and he was also married to the much-missed Victoria Wood. By the 90s though, he had lost a lot of weight, and was a rather regular presence in the corner. As well as tricks, he would also set puzzles that viewers could ponder during the break, and then reveal the solution.
6th: Phil Hammond (170 appearances, 2006-2021) Phil has a double career as a doctor and a comedian. He used to be in a comedy group called Struck Off And Die (ha-ha), and as well as making jokes about healthcare, he would make lots of serious points as well. He has also written books, and made documentaries.
5th: Richard Digance (173 appearances, 1996-2020) Richard is a comedian and musician, who became known as “The West Ham Warbler”. He had several TV series in the 80s and 90s, where he would tell jokes in a rather dour style, and he would play his guitar and perform his comedy songs. This means that he always had a rather bizarre anecdote or two to tell.
4th: Philip Franks (176 appearances, 1992-2006) Philip is an actor, who is best-known for appearing in The Darling Buds Of May, which was one of the most successful TV dramas of its era, and also Heartbeat. He is one of the more cultured guests, he set puzzles that were usually based around lists, and he would go on about famous writers and poets. He was also in the corner for Richard Whiteley’s final edition.
3rd: Nigel Rees (184 appearances, 1984-2001) Nigel is a writer who is best-known for hosting the long-running BBC Radio 4 panel game Quote… Unquote, and compiling books about humorous graffiti. Which is great news for people who find phrases like “I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure” amusing. He is also something of a Richard Whiteley lookalike. And when he made his 100th appearance in the corner, he was given a bottle of champagne to mark the occasion.
2nd: Richard Stilgoe (240 appearances, 1985-2006) Richard’s talents are rather hard to define. He has been a songwriter and musician, he became known for performing songs that reflected on what was happening in the news, although he always liked to look on the brighter side, on shows including That’s Life! He has also worked in musicals, and has done a lot of charitable work. He is best-known for making anagrams of the contestants’ names, which are sometimes rather bizarre. He has also received a knighthood, presumably for his contribution to charity, not anagrams.
1st: Gyles Brandreth (333 appearances, 1983-2017) As if it could’ve been anyone else! The ultimate dictionary dweller, Gyles is just about the quintessential Countdown guest. Even people who aren’t too familiar with this show would know that throughout the 80s and 90s, Gyles could often be found making his observations, usually whilst wearing some horrid knitwear. He has had a remarkable career, there really is little that he hasn’t attempted to do, he is also a keen Scrabble fan, and he seemingly has an amusing anecdote for every occasion. Nobody else really does it like Gyles. Congratulations!
Well I hope that you found this interesting, why not tell me your favourite. Next, I might as well do a list of the other important element of Countdown, the hosts, co-hosts, and lexicographers. That’ll be soon…