Belfast Telegraph

Countdown: New hosts, new set, but fans assured it is still the same show

A revamped Countdown came to Channel 4 today with new host Jeff Stelling reassuring viewers the much-loved afternoon show had not changed.

The Sky Sports presenter, who replaced Des O'Connor, told the audience: "Rest assured that this is the same Countdown that you have grown to love over the years."

He was joined on a slick new set by Oxford graduate Rachel Riley, 22, who filled Carol Vorderman's shoes.

Stelling joked: "I'm not the only new face here today, say 'hello' to Rachel Riley. And don't worry you haven't tuned into Beauty and the Beast by mistake."

Riley, in skyscraper black high-heeled shoes, wore a bright blue dress to match the eye-catching studio decor.

She saw off competition from 1,000 other hopefuls to take the afternoon presenting slot.

Asked whether she had enjoyed her Countdown debut, Riley said: "It was great. We've got some very, very good contestants here so I didn't have to do much work, did I?"

Stelling, 53, who presents Sky Sport's Soccer Saturday, had already declared his co-host "drop-dead gorgeous" in an interview with the Radio Times, and insisted she would be "a big hit".

The guest in Dictionary Corner was actor Andrew Sachs, caught up in controversy when Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross left obscene messages on his answerphone during a radio show.

Cambridge graduate Vorderman, 47, left Countdown after 26 years in December.

She had been the programme's number queen since it first aired in 1982.

O'Connor took over the words and numbers quiz in January 2007, replacing Des Lynam who stepped in following the death of Richard Whiteley in 2005.

Countdown was the first show to be broadcast on Channel 4 when the station was launched.

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