Television news: why Rachel Riley likes the late night viewing figures

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Rachel Riley, 28, is best known for her work on Countdown. The Essex-born presenter and maths expert has also found success on the comedy show 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown.So, how did she cope with filming in the early days?

“We do 15 shows in three days when we record, so I didn’t even know which camera to look at for the first lot, never mind which sums I was doing. But very quickly you get used to it. To start with it was, ‘Where am I? What am I doing? What are these things? Oh, they’re numbers’.

“Carol [Vorderman] was there for 26 years and I’ve been there for six now. It’s just part of the national psyche. I don’t think it translates to the US or anything like that; I’ve explained to Americans before what I do: ‘It’s the only game show with maths where you win a teapot’. It’s something you can play along with. For me, it was something I enjoyed when I was a kid; it’s not like a quiz show with questions, where you accrue knowledge and you’re going to be better the older you are; you can play however old you are. You can play kids against grandparents... it passes through the generations. We love crossword puzzles and Sudoku as a nation, and it’s that kind of mental agility that keeps Countdown going.

Was she surprised when 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown became such a hit?

“Yeah, well we did one for Channel 4’s 30th birthday, because it was the first ever show on Channel 4, and we’ve done something like 28 episodes now. We’re doing another six, filming before Christmas, and hopefully some more in the new year too. It’s great; I love those boys, I find them really funny. When I was a kid, I used to watch Countdown at 4.30pm. Because it’s on so early now, often teenagers and students don’t actually get time to watch it, so having it on a Friday night at 9pm has opened it up to a new audience.”

Rachel has also been working on a show called Memory Slam. She told us more...

“That’s coming up in November; a one-off show but it was really good fun. It was some kids - not child geniuses, just regular kids - 12 to 14 years old; they entered a competition and they got trained by memory champions, and over the course of a couple of months, they became totally amazing... so they could memorise a whole pack of cards and a hundred digits in a row. That will go out hopefully in November on Watch.”

What does she do to keep fit?

“I like Zumba. It’s really good fun, just dancing around. Time just flies by and I like cycling around London.”

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