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This is a question That's me on TV!

Hotdog asks: Ever been on TV? I once managed to "accidentally" knock Ant (but not Dec) over live on the box.

We last asked this in 2004, but we know you've sabotaged more telly since then

(, Thu 11 Jun 2009, 12:08)
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Da-duh, da-duh, da-duh-la-da..... BONG!
I haven't previously mentioned this on here (which is surprising - for some reason, I end up telling most people I meet), but a few years back, whilst at university, I appeared on Countdown*.

*For any non-UK b3tans, Countdown is a UK game show based on word and number games, mainly anagrams and the like - think spelling tests without the excitement.

The story begins (as all of my posts seem to) with a drunken wager - I bet two friends from my course that I could get on national TV before them. We thought our way through the daytime TV schedule (we were students - this was our lifeblood). Having briefly toyed with the idea of applying for a cameo role as Bouncer's stunt double in Neighbours, I decided on Countdown, whilst my mates settled on Supermarket Sweep*.

*Again, non-UKers - Supermarket Sweep was a gameshow set in, well... a supermarket. Think getting the groceries. In day-glo sweatshirts.

Although I do have a bit of a natural propensity for solving anagrams, this wasn't the main reason for attempting to get on the show. I had actually thought this through a little bit - at the time, I was at university in Leeds, and it was a mere 10-minute walk from my house, down Cardigan Road to the Countdown studio.

Who says students are lazy?

Anyway, I applied to the show, got called in for an audition... and then didn't hear anything for months. I decided that I probably hadn't been successful, and when Supermarket Sweep got cancelled (with my mates' application still outstanding), all thoughts of the bet left my mind.

Left my mind, that is, until a grey morning in the following November, when the phone disturbed my hungover sleep at about 10.30am;


"Hi, is that TheMagicDwarf?"* (They used my real name, but you get the picture)

*muffled grunts*

"Great, this is Lively McHyper*, production assistant at Countdown. We've had a cancellation for today's show, and was wondering if you could do us a MASSIVE favour and stand in today?"

*Probably not her actual name. She was Scottish though

"Ermmm... yeah, sure"

"Great! See you in half an hour!"

"Yeah, brillia... HALF AN HOUR?"

"OK, thanks, bye!"

And so I had drunkenly agreed to appear on national TV. Fucksocks. It's fair to say I was in no fit state to appear in MY living room, let alone a couple of million living rooms around the country.

I jumped into a very cold shower, and set off down the road, leaving the sort of note for my housemates I wish I could leave more often:

Gone out for a bit - going for a walk then appearing on national TV in front of millions of people. See you later.

Oh, and can you get some milk?


Memories from before the show are minimal. The only things I can remember is the make-up department worrying that I looked "a bit peaky" (the hangover was in full swing by this point), and leering a bit over mutton-as-lamb merchant Carol Vorderman. Also, when asked for my hobbies (to be used in one of Richard Whiteley's pun-laden intros), I couldn't think of anything else besides going to the pub with my mates. Nothing. As the researcher who had asked me walked off, I'm sure I heard her mutter under her breath: "yeah, it fucking smells like it, too"

As it happened, though, the hangover actually helped my performance on the show - probably taking the edge off any nerves the presence of the cameras might have prompted. A few rounds passed, and I was actually winning. I even got confident enough to throw a little wink to the camera when I got an 8-letter word (PAINTERS. My best mate's surname is Painter, and when he watched the show he thought the wink was for him. I hadn't even made the connection)

The PAINTERS round had almost ended in disaster - with 2 seconds left the only word I had was PENIS - 5 letters. I feared I was going to have to use the line "I've only got a small one, Richard" (fnarr, fnarr)

Towards the end of the show I was even trying to chat up Carol Vorderman. I had forgotten this until I saw it back on TV, but on one numbers round, I asked her to "give me two big ones from the top, and whatever you like from down below" (fnarrs all round again)

At the end of the show, I had somehow dragged my drunken shambolic arse across the finishing line and had won. This meant I had to do it all again, but this time sober. I went back to the studios a few days later (they film a week's worth of shows in a day, but my first show was aired on a Friday), and actually won two more shows before being eventually defeated by a particularly self-satisfied Geordie bloke (obviously the bitterness has passed. Sort of)

Edited highlights of the three other shows follow:

1. The producer coming to tell "Dictionary Corner" guest Pam Ayers that she should confer in a quieter voice, after I got the same word that they did 3 rounds in a row (never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, me)

2. Carol Vorderman: "Do you want two big ones again, TMD?"
TMD: "Like you wouldn't believe"
(That got cut from the show in the end, I was laughing too much)

3. Me, upon losing: "Thanks, I've had a lovely day" (attempting to use the classic gameshow loser's catchphrase)
Richard Whiteley, attempting to maintain the facade of a live show:
"Well, you've had a lovely four days!"
Me: "Yeah sure, ermm... whatever" (articulate to the last)

So, 3 victories on a national gameshow. Prizes galore and riches beyond my wildest dreams, you may think? Well, you'd be wrong. There was a t-shirt, mug, coaster, board game, electronic game and pen, all proudly bearing the Countdown insignia. There was also a big dictionary, and to top it all off, a Countdown teapot (which actually made a Christmas present for my Nan - I was a skint student, novelty freebies were the best I could do).

However, the real perks from victory and the minor celebrity it brought came when the shows were finally aired. I had already joked with my mates about the certain increase in sex appeal that my new-found stardom would bring, only to be told that the only action I would be getting would be with the blue-rinse brigade.

So you could imagine my delight and surprise when - out on town drinking to celebrate the airing of my third and final victory, and therefore my last day as "reigning champion" - I was accosted in a city centre bar by a shrieking Yorkshirewoman (who I later found to be called Lisa) and the words I'd been waiting to hear: "I recognise you off the telly"

Drinks were bought, studio anecdotes (mainly fictional) were regaled and, as they tend to in QOTW, one thing led to another. Before you could say 'improbable pulling technique', I was creeping upstairs in a mysterious house on the outskirts of Bradford, heeding Lisa's warnings to "keep the fooking noise down".

I had noticed a few children's toys on the way upstairs, and also that Lisa was, I reckoned, a few years older than me (for I was 19 at the time).

"Lisa, these toys - do they belong to your kid?"

"Nope, they're my housemates kids, don't worry - I've not got any nippers"

That question seemingly settled, we retired to her room and made wild, passionate love until the sun rose into the beautiful Yorkshire sky.

Well, either that or I drunkenly fumbled with her top before managing what could at best be described as a semi lob-on, and engaged in half an hour of an exercise best compared with trying to get toothpaste back in the tube.

When I awoke in the morning, I was gingerly redressing, and couldn't help but notice that Lisa looked a little older in the morning light than she had in the bar and taxi the night before. Too much of a gentleman(?) to ask her age outright, I tried to gauge from other factors:

"Lisa, how old's your housemate?"

"Erm, seventeen"

"Really? How old's her kid then?"

"18 months, she was 16 when she had him. Same as I was when I had her. I probably should have mentioned last night, but... my housemate? She's actually my daughter"

Countdown - Grannies love it. Even 34-year-old ones.
(, Thu 11 Jun 2009, 19:15, 20 replies)
I would. Definitely. She would get my two vowels and a consonant every time.
(, Thu 11 Jun 2009, 19:19, closed)
Two vowels and a consonant...
Your ear? Toe? Eel?
(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 9:57, closed)
good story though - have a click sir.
(, Thu 11 Jun 2009, 19:20, closed)
I liked this muchly.
(, Thu 11 Jun 2009, 19:35, closed)
A click from a fellow Countdowner
I've also experienced the hospitality of the lovely crew at the studios in Leeds (sadly Manchester, now) as I appeared on Countdown back in 2004 at the tender age of fourteen. I only managed to appear once, losing in my first game, but unlike you I did manage to get a cringeworthy word that made the cut:


Not quite PENIS, but frankly that was quite enough to have held against me for the rest of my school life.
(, Thu 11 Jun 2009, 19:40, closed)
Philpot, that girl you were on Countdown against, do you know if that's the girl who helped promote the Atheist bus adverts last year?
(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 4:04, closed)
Ariane Sherine
She writes for the Guardian, and also has her own website. She did help to promote the Atheist bus last year.
(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 17:01, closed)
Yep, spot on.
And lovely she is too. A very gifted writer.
(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 19:40, closed)
And that bird you were up against (hoho) was well hot!
(, Tue 16 Jun 2009, 12:55, closed)
(, Thu 11 Jun 2009, 23:06, closed)
This wins
Top story, I burst out laughing five or six times - just when I thought I'd calmed down you hit us with the granny at the end :o)
(, Thu 11 Jun 2009, 23:35, closed)
If the granny was a surprise to you...
...you can imagine how I felt
(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 9:34, closed)
You're simply the best
better than all the rest...

Cheers, mate - fucking nice one (as always) *click*
(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 9:29, closed)
Praise indeed, Mr Hanky
I shall take that click and put it in pride of place on my mantlepiece - just next to my Countdown mug, obviously.
(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 9:34, closed)
This to win, surely - especially for the last line..
(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 12:04, closed)
"Pubic Pubic Five, Pubic Pubic Five"
Why does this sound like it should be a sample in a shit early 90's rave tune?
(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 12:16, closed)
Simply because you explained what the hell "Countdown" is.

That, and you had a good story.
(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 12:46, closed)
is a classic.

(, Fri 12 Jun 2009, 14:27, closed)
Nice one!
"An entertaining read with an unexpected twist at the end, 5 stars" --chart cat
(, Mon 15 Jun 2009, 3:31, closed)
Lucky bar steward
Most I got after my (frankly, dismal) performance was an old bloke in Staines Town Centre pointing at me and saying "was that you on the telly yesterday?" (my show went out Friday) before going on about his Vorderman fantasies. And you got the teapot as well!

Great story young man, have a well deserved *click*
(, Tue 16 Jun 2009, 12:57, closed)

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