Countdown Masters (Channel 4, 1989-1991)
This is another variation on the classic game show Countdown. In 1989, Channel 4 launched a breakfast schedule for the first time, with The Channel 4 Daily. This ran on weekdays from 6am-9:25am, and it was a fairly straightforward show, featuring news, sport, business, and so on, and presenters from ITN were around the world in various “bureaus” (not “studios”, definitely not) to fire at us the latest updates.
Among the features was Countdown Masters, which as ever was hosted by Richard Whiteley, alongside Carol Vorderman, who had just became the sole co-host. This was a five-minute show where former contestants who had done well returned to play each other in a game that ran throughout the week. It was originally shown at the rather specific time of 8:19am, before moving to 8:45am.
It was designed to get the brain thinking at an early time in the day, and every day there were three rounds played, a letters round, a numbers round, and a conundrum. It was the contestant’s choice as to whether they wanted to choose the letters or numbers. The scoring system remained the same. Also, it seems that there was no celebrity in Dictionary Corner, and no studio audience present either.
However, there was a lexicographer present to check on the words (back in the days when they used to rotate the lexicographers every week), and they used to sit alongside Richard, and he would do his usual amount of puns. The contestant who achieved the highest score at the end of the week after 15 rounds was declared the winner, and won a (much coveted I’m sure) Countdown Masters folder.
Countdown Masters ran for two series and there were about 100 editions (although a few were not shown due to extra news coverage), and as well as there being a weekly winner, there was also a bonus prize on offer for the contestant who got the highest score in the entire series, and they won a set of dictionaries, which was what the overall regular series champion also won. The highest score in the series was 120 points.