02 July 2005
Goodbye, Richard Whiteley, great man

I was saddened by the death, earlier this week, of Richard Whiteley, normally best known as the presenter of Channel Four’s gameshow, Countdown, though sometimes as the presenter who got bitten by that ferret.

For many years I have mentally referred to him as the “Great” Richard Whiteley.  This is not because I particularly liked seeing him on the screen.  In the days when I used to watch Countdown, before they moved its timeslot (bastards) I used to switch off the sound when he was on.  No, I used the term “Great” to refer to his ability to just keep going.  Countdown was an island of charm and civility in a sea of Johnny Vaughan. Producing bad pun after bad pun day after day, year after year while retaining your good humour couldn’t have been easy.

I wonder what Top Gear is going to make of it this Sunday.  For some time Whiteley has been propping up their Star in the Reasonably Priced Car leader board.  I suppose they’ll say that this is proof that slow speed kills.

Last night a friend and I were speculating on who would replace him.  Part of the trouble is that he and Carol Vorderman were very much a double act.  So were Morecombe and Wise but Carol is no straight man to Whiteley’s genius.  I guess they’ll end up promoting someone from Dictionary Corner.  At least that way there’ll be some element of continuity and also the element of keeping it in the Countdown family.  Geoffrey Durham, Martin Jarvis, Phillip Franks, Nicholas Parsons would all be good candidates. 

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