Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Quinglish Watch: the life of Richard Whiteley

Richard Whiteley, host of Channel 4’s long-running show Countdown, died yesterday aged 61.

From the BBC’s obituary:

Richard Whiteley, who has died aged 61, endeared himself to millions of television viewers as the avuncular host of Countdown, the cult word game show whose fans include the Queen. A veteran TV journalist, he was once savaged, live and on-air, by a ferret.

Whiteley, a man with almost no talent whatsoever, other than a sort of bumbling charm and an ability to conjure tortuous puns out of nowhere, nonetheless managed to clock up more hours on British television (and more than 10,000 appearances) than anybody else bar the Test Card girl.

Bizarrely, he was also the first journalist to interview Margaret Thatcher after the Brighton bombing.

Countdown – the words-and-numbers "low-tech parlour game" ­– has been running virtually unchanged every week night for 23 years.

You’d think Whiteley would have got good at presenting it in that time, but he always retained the air of a man for whom it was his first day on the job, and he didn’t really know what he was doing, but he would have a bash at it and well, just muddle along somehow.

In that respect, he was one of the great English professional amateurs.

RIP, you old duffer.

1 comment:

martpol said...


But was his bumbling amateurism all part of his professional demeanour? If you see what I mean.

Whatver the case, he'll be sorely missed, partly because he was apparently as pleasant and ego-free in real life as he was in TV.