Susie Dent has become part of the furniture on Channel 4’s Countdown – she’s as iconic as the clock itself or the jaunty theme tune.
The TV star is now marking three decades on the gameshow but, even after all that time, has admitted she never gets bored of it.
Susie, 57, joined Countdown 30 years ago in 1992, after first working as a waitress then for Oxford University Press, producing English dictionaries.
The show had been going for 10 years when Susie joined, and she sat alongside Richard Whiteley, who hosted, and Carol Voderman.
Reflecting on her time on the show, writing for the Daily Mail, the lexicographer said that if someone told her when she joined Countdown that she’d still be occupying the same seat 30 years later, she would have ‘thought them utterly bonkers.’
But, she wouldn’t change her job for the world: ‘Yet, here I am, still loving what is surely the very best gig on British television — and still feeling the adrenaline every time the clock starts ticking down.’
The show – which was the first to air on Channel 4 – has now produced nearly 8,000 episodes and Susie has fond memories of her early days on screen.
She reflected on working with Whiteley, describing him and Carol as ‘one of the greatest double-acts on British television.’
‘I’ll never forget the evening Carol called me to say that Richard had gone,’ Susie wrote, after Richard died in 2005 from pneumonia.
‘He had the support and strength of his partner Kathy behind him, and life seemed unimaginable without Richard’s shoulder-shaking laugh.
‘His death rocked the whole Countdown family, and on the day the news broke we all spontaneously decided to go up to Leeds, Countdown’s home, so that we could be together.’
She added: ‘Those dark days were brightened only by watching reruns of our favourite episodes, the ones in which Richard couldn’t get through a joke because he was laughing so hard, or when he would put his foot in it by totally mangling a contestant’s name or job,’ recalling a time when he introduced a player as ‘lavatory’ rather than a ‘laboratory.’
‘Best of all, though, were the times when he would fall back in his chair, arms aloft, to celebrate one of his favourite words,’ she continued, saying one that he loved was ‘leotard.’
Since Whiteley died, Countdown has had six hosts, including Nick Hewer, Anne Robinson, and currently Colin Murrary.
Susie has also worked alongside Rachel Riley for the past 13 years after she took Carol’s place in 2009.
She describes the feeling of Countdown as a ‘family’, including everyone from those seen on TV to those behind the scenes.
But, she firmly believes that ‘the real star of Countdown, of course, is the game’, since it is ‘so beautifully simple that everyone knows instantly how to join in.’
‘Richard Osman, Pointless star and now best-selling author, once asked me: “Do you ever get bored?”,’ Susie recalled.
‘After 5,000-plus shows, the honest answer is: Never.
‘That day in 1992 was fateful in so many ways. I can’t imagine my life without Countdown. I’m so thankful that, at least for 30 years, its life has included me.’
Countdown airs weekdays on Channel 4.