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New 'Countdown' host Anne Robinson: 'You can be naughtier with some contestants than others!'

Anne Robinson in a patterned black and white dress and red-rimmed glasses, standing in the Countdown studio in front of the show's famous clock
Anne Robinson in the Countdown studio. (Image credit: Rachel Joseph / Channel 4)

Anne Robinson will make history on Monday 28 June when she becomes the first female host of C4 game show Countdown, taking over from Nick Hewer who presented the series for nearly 10 years. When she hosted the BBC quiz Weakest Link, Anne was famous for her withering put-downs of contestants who failed to make the grade — but will she be more forgiving to the Countdown contenders?

We caught up with Anne, 76, to find out all about her plans to put her stamp on C4's longest-running show...

What made you decide you wanted to be the host of Countdown?

"I'd had a modest amount of offers from, actually, I think all of the channels, and several that I didn't really fancy doing. Then Countdown came along, and I thought, 'that would be really, really satisfying and enjoyable' — it seemed to me to be quite a good fit. I've had all those years of thinking on my feet, and it looked like an opportunity to interview the contestants, interview the guests, and be a bit waspish. I tend to do the Times crossword so I'm not completely hopeless at anagrams — and less good at mental arithmetic!"

"Yes. This is a cerebral show, with cerebral contestants — not that other shows don't have cerebral contestants, but I think these are particularly clever. Therefore, exactly like Weakest Link, you're not out to drown kittens — it depends on who the contestant is and how they will react to you. So some you can be naughtier with than others!"

How have you found working with Rachel Riley and Susie Dent?

"They're both terrifically clever, terrifically pretty, and much thinner than me — the last bit being quite annoying! It's lovely to work with them, they're both complete experts, but you'd be surprised how little time there is between shows to chat. On a recording day there are some breaks which are 15 minutes, and I defy you, as a girl, to get changed, redo your make-up, put your shoes back on, put your mask back on, get back down to the studio and have time to chat!"

Anne Robinson stands in the Countdown studio with Rachel Riley and Susie Dent behind her

Anne in the Countdown studio with Rachel Riley and Susie Dent (Image credit: Rachel Joseph / Channel 4)

You appeared on the show in Dictionary Corner in 1987. What was that like?

"It was charming, and I've remembered very little of it! But on the first show you'll see the clip — me with shoulder pads, very bright red hair as my hair was in those days, and an embarrassing Bay City Rollers hairdo! I don't think I have a clip of me on television any older than that — I'd been doing TV for less than a year."

How many episodes do you film in a day, and how do you unwind afterwards?

"Five. I get back to the hotel, and what else do I do? I read quite a lot, I tend to get a set of newspapers every day, it's an old habit from newspaper journalism, and the weeklies — The Spectator, New Statesman, London Review Of Books. But that's the sort of egghead-y bit of me, and the other bit is Location Location Location, Four In A Bed, and A New Life In The Sun!"

Nick hosted Countdown for nearly 10 years — can you see yourself having a long stint too?

"Until I'm 86? I don't know. I do know at the moment I'm the oldest woman on television not judging cakes..."

Countdown airs weekdays on C4 at 2.10pm. Anne takes over as host on Monday June 28.