You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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James Haughton
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by James Haughton »

L'oisleatch McGraw wrote: Sat Dec 05, 2020 4:47 am
Marc Meakin wrote: Thu Dec 03, 2020 12:01 am This show is too white.
Hold on a sec. This is the sort of racism that people are cool with, right?
It's hard to keep up.
You and Gevin are being completely ridiculous. It is not racism to say that the show is too white. There is no Countdown gene in the DNA of white men that automatically makes them better at the game than women, people of colour, etc, but when it comes to octochamps/finallists and contestants on the show, it's overwhelmingly dominated by white men (to an extent that is completely unrepresentative of the population). So it's important to ask what societal reasons* are behind this lack of representation on the show, and it's also important to recognise that these societal reasons make it easier for white men to go on the show than it does for other people. While I can't say for certain, I can certainly imagine that seeing more black contestants on the show, for example, with some winning games and maybe even becoming octochamps, could potentially inspire other black people to become part of the CD community. This is also true for BAME people wanting to work in broadcasting, and/or popular science or lexicography.

Furthermore, the societal reasons which cause the unrepresentative make-up of people on Countdown, University Challenge (and many other game/quiz shows) are not independent of the racism, misogyny, and various other bigotries that have existed in Britain** throughout the centuries. Instead, they are one of the many, many ways in which bigotry has warped our society. If you defend the status quo and argue against measures to have a more representative set of contestants/finallists/presenting staff, then you have to recognise that you're campaigning for a status quo that has privileged white men more than any other and has been achieved at least somewhat through both casual and more overt forms of discrimination.

I want to make a few things clear when I talk about redressing the balance of contestants. Firstly, you can all relax, I'm not saying any one octochamp/contestant/series winner is the problem, it's the cumulative effect of all of those octochamps/series winners. Secondly, any 'affirmative action' regarding contestant selection would be extremely unlikely to affect anybody who is good enough to win 8 games, they would still get on the show. It'd have an impact more on 'less skilled' contestants who only last a game or two, that's where concerns about diversity would impact who is selected. Ultimately, it's a complex, societal problem, so while I'm sure the show is doing and is looking at other ways to diversify the people on- and off-screen, Countdown cannot solve discrimination by itself.

Finally, Channel 4 is not just a private broadcaster that has no statutory duties to fulfill, https://www.channel4.com/corporate/abou ... -channel-4. You'll see that their statutory public service remits include reflecting the cultural diversity of the UK.

*Didn't want to clog up the post with a list of societal reasons. I've mentioned one in the same paragraph, I'll mention a couple more here. How people comment about you when you appear on the show. You see it with UC, how women are subjected to comments about their appearance, which they've not asked for, on a show that tests intellect (and we know how some people talk about Rachel and Susie); others could get comments about the colour of their skin. Another is how white-male-dominated quiz, Apterous, Scrabble, crosswords, and 'generally nerdy' pursuits are, and how those are generally seen as places for men.

**If you seriously think Britain has never been a bigoted society, then I think you need your head examining. More diplomatically, I suggest you read about the atrocities of the empire; about Britain's role in the slave trade (for example, a historian I know through quizzing has written about the myths surrounding Britain's abolition of the slave trade, https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-in ... 1847925718); about incidents like the Bristol bus boycott; the numerous racist comments of Churchill (Winston, not the dog in the adverts); or about Islamophobia, transphobia, antisemitism (and many, many other phobias) in the Tory and Labour parties, for example. Windrush scandal, Theresa May's Go Home vans, racist profiling against black people by the Met Police when it comes to Stop and Search. I could keep going all day.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Marc Meakin »

Looks like my comments have opened a can of worms.
Probably saying too white is a little too on the nose.
I should have said not representative of the multicultural society we live in
I have watched a lot of quizzes during lockdown and I would say Only Connect and Countdown are the under-represented with contestants of colour
It may be simply because not enough BAME people bother to apply
So I thought having more guests or guest presenters might encourage people to apply
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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My comment was probably a bit brief and dismissive.

I basically agree with everything you're saying James, except that I don't think that "positive discrimination" / "affirmative action" is generally the best solution, because it's still discrimination.

I thought Marc was mainly talking about the presenters, but if we're talking about black contestants, I presume not enough are applying, but by having different audition standards for different people, you risk whitewashes (pun not intended, but I might as well leave it there). But yes, it's a deeper rooted societal problem - which includes things like poverty, different educational opportunities etc., and the best single way to improve that is to vote out the Tory government. Oh, did I say that out loud? Well anyway, it's there now. But there are lots of things you could do to improve schools, which I'm not getting into now, but which would improve equality, I think the day has come for a universal basic income as well. And more specifically to do with racism, whether conscious or unconscious, one idea I've often heard is to remove names from CVs before the interview stage and also things like scientific proposals that require funding, because apparently there is an effect there where foreign-sounding names end up doing worse, all other things being equal.

But the things relating to poverty are also important because a lot of this effect is down to that (non-white people are on average poorer), and if you only look at race, white working class people risk being left behind, but people don't notice as much because they don't look different.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Callum Todd »

Good points made by all. This is how civilised debate on serious topics should be held. Just for the record, if I was made producer of Countdown I would have a very diverse cast of presenters and contestants on the rebooted Scrapheap Challenge after I binned Countdown, as mentioned earlier in this thread.
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Rhys Benjamin
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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I presume that everyone who applies is invited to audition unless disqualified for whatever reason, and as long as you keep the standards the same then I have no issues with any demographical disparity: I have always believed in a difference blindness approach - perhaps the production team should look at the % of successful applicants by demographic groups to see whether it's a case of people not applying or not passing the audition. Possibly lower the pass/fail threshold slightly if it's the latter? If it's the former I'm not sure what more can be done other than a greater social media presence.

If you're talking about the presenters then you're now looking for Susie and Rachel's highly skilled roles to be reimagined or rotated. Whilst the lex and arith seats in the past were rotated (the former not since 2007 and the latter not since 1983, mind you), there isn't much question that Susie is the best lex the show's ever had, and it's not as though there is a clamour for Rachel to be sacked (apart from antisemites, but a racist's opinion doesn't count), so I think at least two of the three main presenters are very difficult to change.

As for the guests...

By my count there have been/will be 33 guests in Series 82, of which: 4 (12%) are openly LGBT+ (Richard Arnold, Paul Sinha, Steph McGovern, Shappi Khorsandi); 8 (24%) are BAME (Paul Sinha, Dr Linda, Nina Hossain, Michelle Ackerley, Shappi Khorsandi, Samira Ahmed, Nina Wadia, Levi Roots); 13 (40%) are female (Prue Leith, Janet Street-Porter, Dr Linda, Jo Brand, Nicki Chapman, Fern Brittan, Nina Hossain, Steph McGovern, Michelle Ackerley, Shappi Khorsandi, Helen Fospero, Samira Ahmed, Nina Wadia). Paul Sinha, Dr Linda, Nina Hossain, Steph McGovern, Michelle Ackerley, Samira Ahmed, and Nina Wadia fall into two of these categories; whilst Shappi Khorsandi is in all three, which means that 16/33 of the guests were "pale, male, and stale" (I'm not counting Plastic Elvis separately).

There's, interestingly, a pre- and post-covid difference in terms of diversity. The LGBT+ people are split 2:2, but the BAME people are split 2:7 and the women are split 6:8 (Dr Linda did a stint either side, so is counted twice for the "splits"). So either it's sheer coincidence or efforts have been made behind the scenes to improve diversity.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Rhys Benjamin wrote: Sun Dec 06, 2020 12:14 am If you're talking about the presenters then you're now looking for Susie and Rachel's highly skilled roles to be reimagined or rotated. Whilst the lex and arith seats in the past were rotated (the former not since 2007 and the latter not since 1983, mind you), there isn't much question that Susie is the best lex the show's ever had,
I think they might have given Susie the permanent role because she was popular with viewers - I'm not sure by what measure you'd say she is the best they've ever had. When it comes down to it, the adjudicating part is a fairly simple procedural role that basically anyone could do.
and it's not as though there is a clamour for Rachel to be sacked (apart from antisemites, but a racist's opinion doesn't count), so I think at least two of the three main presenters are very difficult to change.
Come on Rhys. People calling for her to be sacked are people who thought she massively overstepped the mark when she wore a T-shirt saying that Jeremy Corbyn is a racist endeavour. It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. (By the way, I said at the time in some thread on here that I wasn't calling for her to be sacked - but if she was it would have been her own fault.)
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Marc Meakin »

I am surprised Rachel hasn't been gagged by Channel 4 for some of her twitter comments
I think if you are on a family show then you need to be above reproach.
Having guest lex and ariths would be good as there are probably a lot of out of work celebrities who would love a go
Also when Nick retires ( please let it be soon) they should take a leaf out of HIGNIFYs book and have guest presenters.
I'm sure viewing figures would go up.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Marc Meakin wrote: Mon Dec 07, 2020 9:05 am when Nick retires ( please let it be soon)
Wow. I didn't know you had this level of influence.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Thomas Cappleman »

21 minutes from Mark's post to Nick's tweet.

So Nick, as you clearly read this, thanks and all the best.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Maybe a good time for a shake up.
Get a high profile presenter and move the time slot to 4pm
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Mark Deeks
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Mark Deeks wrote: Fri Oct 16, 2020 11:57 pm Ways to save further time:

- Save on the time spent turning the letters board into the numbers board by having it rotate like on Numberwang and make that rotation part of the run time of the show. That's probably, what, another hour saved per filming day right there.

- No DC guests. This will also save money which can be reinvested into staff pensions and a Christmas do.

- Trim down the theme music so it's just "ba da, ba da, ba da la la BOOOOM", save the whole spinny clock thing. Straight into the show, crack on. Limit the opening anecdote length to 14 seconds with the power to mute as necessary.

- Shorten rounds to 10 seconds and have them picked automatically. The Instant format, basically.

- No audience. Use the freed-up space to put a pool table in, couple of fruities, make a night of it. This might also get Jon Corby back interested in the game, if for some insane reason you wanted that.

Honestly, if I was in charge, we'd start a full day's filming at 9am sharp and be two pints in by four. It's just a shame that I have to be the one with all the ideas, really. The truly sensible ideas that I am obviously deadly serious about.

For the record, I didn't mean any of this, am always available and will work cheap.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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simp
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Conor wrote: Fri Oct 09, 2020 11:17 am
The threshold for forced retirement is reduced to 5 or 6 games. (Thinking about it, 8 seems like so many shows. It'd be better with more competitive prelims but I think it really doesn't work well currently; there are far too many mismatches.) Series lengths are unchanged but the finals are increased to 16 players.
I agree with this. 8 games does seem too many. 5 or 6 is right. 4 is definitely too few, and 7 is basically no change. There's a risk of 9 octochamps anyway and with this new change, it would be the perfect time to have 16 in the knockouts.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Mark Deeks »

Here's one I would actually do. I'd have the option to reselect numbers games that are just stupidly easy.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Mark Deeks wrote: Mon Mar 15, 2021 5:03 pm Here's one I would actually do. I'd have the option to reselect numbers games that are just stupidly easy.
How easy is stupidly easy though? At a critical stage in a close game, someone has to make a call that could look very biased.
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Mark Deeks
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Mark Deeks »

Like, one step easy.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Yeah, if it's a solid rule then fine.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Mark Deeks »

So in my shows, I had a 4L 4 9 -> 450, and a 4L 1 2 -> 625. I would have redraws of the first, cos it's one step, but not not the second, cos it was two step and also far less obvious. I wouldn't be automatically against discretionary implementation for solutions where it's like 100 9 5 4 3 2 -> 402, either, though that opens a can of worms, and also penalises those who do safe picks to preserve leads, but overall I suspect it would improve the game. It's basically dead air, after all.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Gavin Chipper »

Something else you could do is program CECIL to never generate a multiple of 25 or anything below 111. That way I think you'd always need to use at least 3 numbers. Though sometimes a multiple of 25 would still give an interesting round.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Marc Meakin »

Give bonus points for a numbers solve that uses all six numbers
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Yeah it's shit when the numbers target is trivially easy. The way I'd do it:
- Series Heats: Cecil never generates a target that you can get in 1 or 2 moves
- Series Finals: Make it a rule that you have to use all 6 numbers, just to make it a bit harder.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Christy Cooper »

I'd give the contestants 9 points for spotting a 9 letter word, but only give them the 18 points if they can declare what said 9 letter word means
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by JackHurst »

I wouldn't make this change now. But if the show was starting up from scratch I would change the numbers scoring.

10pts - 1pt per 1 away from target
Also if it's impossible to be within 10, you get 5 pts for being closer than your opponent anyway.
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Graeme Cole
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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JackHurst wrote: Fri Jun 17, 2022 8:41 am I wouldn't make this change now. But if the show was starting up from scratch I would change the numbers scoring.

10pts - 1pt per 1 away from target
Also if it's impossible to be within 10, you get 5 pts for being closer than your opponent anyway.
What, so if 9 away is the max you get 1 point for it, but if 11 away is the max you get 5 points? And no points if you get 10 away?

I thought about this 10-9-8-... numbers scoring a while ago, but decided that it would be a change in the wrong direction.

Remember that 1 away is generally no harder to get than 10 away. The target is random so it's just as likely to be that 1 away is easy and 10 away is impossible than the other way round.

It's all about the number of targets you've got to choose from. An exact solution is generally harder than 1 away simply because there's only one exact target but two 1-away targets.

If you want to make it harder to score more points than fewer, you could just tweak the boundaries. Currently, for any given (possible) numbers round, there is one 10-point target, ten 7-point targets and ten 5-point targets. It's quite rare for someone to get 5 points on numbers, which suggests the boundaries are in the wrong place.

I would make it 10 points for an exact solution, 7 points for one away, and 5 points for any further away. Keep that only the closer solution scores.

Also, get rid of the requirement to be within 10. To me this is as arbitrary as requiring words to be at least 5 letters. If you're more than 10 away then it's likely your opponent has beaten you anyway, and if they haven't, it's likely you've got a numbers round where it's difficult or impossible to get within 10, so the closest solution should be rewarded.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Graeme Cole wrote: Fri Jun 17, 2022 9:50 am
What, so if 9 away is the max you get 1 point for it, but if 11 away is the max you get 5 points? And no points if you get 10 away?

I thought about this 10-9-8-... numbers scoring a while ago, but decided that it would be a change in the wrong direction.

Remember that 1 away is generally no harder to get than 10 away. The target is random so it's just as likely to be that 1 away is easy and 10 away is impossible than the other way round.
I came here to post something similar to some of what Graeme said. I think you have to have a proper score for getting something nearby. Tailing off to just 1 point for 9 away doesn't seem to be the best way.
Also, get rid of the requirement to be within 10. To me this is as arbitrary as requiring words to be at least 5 letters. If you're more than 10 away then it's likely your opponent has beaten you anyway, and if they haven't, it's likely you've got a numbers round where it's difficult or impossible to get within 10, so the closest solution should be rewarded.
I dunno about this. Bear in mind that there are only 9 letters, so getting one 1-letter word is only 8 "slots" away from the best you could ever get, so there's no need to be having a cut-off at e.g. 5. Whereas you could be hundreds out in a numbers round. I think there's something a bit pathological for someone to just declare 6 in a numbers round when they've essentially got nothing just in case their opponent's spot-on solution isn't right.

Also a lot of (probably most of) the impossible-to-get-within-10 games will just be a case of knowing that you're supposed to add the 1s to the 2s before multiplying everything. I think it's a bit inane to be scoring for that.

I don't have a "best" scoring system, but I don't think the current one is actually too bad. Though Graeme's narrowing of the 7 band does seem logical, because it does make sense for it to be a smaller target area than the 5 band. Definitely not giving points for someone declaring minus 65 though.
Last edited by Gavin Chipper on Fri Jun 17, 2022 11:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

Post by Philip A »

Totally agree that requirement to be within 10 should be gone. The other point about this requirement is you can be 11 points up in the last numbers game and pick 6 small in the hope of an impossible-to-score selection and effectively win the game by default, and I think that’s wrong.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Philip A wrote: Fri Jun 17, 2022 11:10 am Totally agree that requirement to be within 10 should be gone. The other point about this requirement is you can be 11 points up in the last numbers game and pick 6 small in the hope of an impossible-to-score selection and effectively win the game by default, and I think that’s wrong.
Has anyone ever deliberately used this tactic to success, though? If you pick 6 small you're far more likely to get a difficult-but-possible round than one where it's impossible to get within 10. In this 11-ahead situation pretty much everyone picks 1 large and backs themselves to max it. If you think you're stronger than your opponent on numbers, you'll probably max the 1 large or at least do better than them on it, and if you're weaker, you've got more chance of maxing a 1-large than a 6-small.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Gavin Chipper wrote: Fri Jun 17, 2022 11:08 am
Graeme Cole wrote: Fri Jun 17, 2022 9:50 amAlso, get rid of the requirement to be within 10. To me this is as arbitrary as requiring words to be at least 5 letters. If you're more than 10 away then it's likely your opponent has beaten you anyway, and if they haven't, it's likely you've got a numbers round where it's difficult or impossible to get within 10, so the closest solution should be rewarded.
I dunno about this. Bear in mind that there are only 9 letters, so getting one 1-letter word is only 8 "slots" away from the best you could ever get, so there's no need to be having a cut-off at e.g. 5. Whereas you could be hundreds out in a numbers round. I think there's something a bit pathological for someone to just declare 6 in a numbers round when they've essentially got nothing just in case their opponent's spot-on solution isn't right.
I think I see the problem here. Assume it's 10 for an exact solution, 7 for one away and 5 for anything else. You have a complicated not-written-down 2-away solution that you might forget and you're not sure is even correct. Your opponent declares first, and declares the target exactly. At this point a declaration of 2 away is no more useful to you than a declaration of 6, and you're less likely to cock up the latter so that's the best strategy.

Perhaps the 5 points should be for 2-10 away. You could still give a smaller number of points (say, 1 or 2) for declarations further away than that, though.

Edit to add: there are, of course, loads of reasonable possibilities for the scoring bands, but the principle remains that if you want to reward harder tasks with more points, higher-scoring bands should cover fewer targets than lower-scoring bands. At present they don't - it's no harder to find a 7-point solution than a 5-point solution.
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Re: You've just been made producer of Countdown...

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Graeme Cole wrote: Fri Jun 17, 2022 9:50 am
I would make it 10 points for an exact solution, 7 points for one away, and 5 points for any further away. Keep that only the closer solution scores.

Also, get rid of the requirement to be within 10...
Yes this is good.
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