The Countdown conundrum for legendary quiz show’s chiefs as insiders spell out the ‘awkward and uncomfortable atmosphere’ on set between ‘Queen’ Anne Robinson and Rachel Riley
- Sources on set report ‘awkward and uncomfortable atmosphere’ between pair
- Staff claim off-camera there’s tension over Anne Robinson’s ‘rather grand ways’
- Susie Dent said to have sided with Riley in what some see as ‘young vs old’ divide
- Insider said: ‘The tension between Rachel and Anne is being openly discussed’
Beloved by students and pensioners, Countdown has won an army of fans with its friendly competition to come up with the right words. But producers of the usually genial show fear the arrival of new host Anne Robinson has created a tricky conundrum.
Sources on set report an ‘awkward and uncomfortable atmosphere’ between the acid-tongued former Weakest Link presenter and the programme’s glamorous maths whizz, Rachel Riley.
Staff at Media City studios in Salford claim that off-camera, there’s tension over Ms Robinson’s ‘rather grand ways’, which have earned her the nickname ‘Queen Anne’.
Resident lexicographer Susie Dent is said to have sided with Ms Riley in what is seen by some as a ‘young versus old’ divide.
Sources on set report an ‘awkward and uncomfortable atmosphere’ between the former Weakest Link presenter and the programme’s maths whizz, Rachel Riley (pictured in May 2019)
An insider told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The tension between Rachel and Anne is being openly discussed. It is very much Rachel and Susie against Anne – a case of two camps.
‘Lots of crew are discussing what is going on. Rachel and Susie don’t care much for Anne and her rather grand ways and things have become pretty uncomfortable.
‘Anne likes to do things her way, while Rachel doesn’t go along with how she operates. This has now led to little social interaction between them away from the cameras.’
Colleagues also claim 77-year-old Ms Robinson, who presented her first show in June, ‘doesn’t mix with anyone’ and brings her own stylist and make-up artist to the studios.
Oxford graduate Ms Dent, 56, who recently split from her husband of 20 years, Paul Atkins, is understood to be close friends with Ms Riley, 35, who went to the same university.
Ms Robinson has made no secret of her disdain for the young, woke brigade. Interviewed before she replaced Nick Hewer as host of the show, she said: ‘I am fed up with it… I just think we’re being told what to do by people who aren’t in a position to tell us what to do.’
Lost for words: Anne Robinson (above) and Ms Riley barely speak off-camera. Staff at Media City studios claim that off-camera, there’s tension over Ms Robinson’s ‘rather grand ways’
Meanwhile, Ms Riley, who is pregnant with her second child with her partner, the former Strictly professional dancer Pasha Kovalev, has been targeted by hard-Left activists who have attacked her for campaigning against antisemitism in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.
Ms Riley said of the social-media trolls: ‘They were so abusive. I’ve developed a thick skin but now I never see a lot of things, even nice stuff, which is a shame because I used to use Twitter to help children with maths homework.’
Channel 4 declined to comment last night.