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Countdown fans are braced for the imminent debut of Anne Robinson as the show’s host this summer, with every man and his dog certain that she’ll take to it like a duck to water. With her previous form on Watchdog and The Weakest Link, sharp wit and even sharper tongue, it’s looking a safe bet. However, it could be argued that her predecessor, dear old Nick Hewer, isn’t the hardest act to follow, despite doing a grand job for nearly a decade. Others certainly didn’t have it that easy, with fans aghast at their appointments. So here’s five who not only overcame impossible odds in the hotseat, but almost ended up making the respective shows their own.
Simon Amstell - Never Mind the Buzzcocks (replaced Mark Lamaar)
If ever a TV personality was suited to a particular show, it was Mark Lamaar to Buzzcocks. His looks, style, brand of humour, as awell as previous form on hip, 90s shows such as The Word, embodied everything the music-based panel quiz was about. with his departure, Buzzcocks look certain to lose its cutting-edge, especially with a geeky, unknown upstart like Simon Amstell taking over. Not a bit of it. He made the role his own in next to no time, and who could forget him putting Preston in his place?
Sue Barker - A Question of Sport (David Coleman)
This grandest of evergreen shows could never truly be deemed an all-boys club - Princess Anne made a couple of very famous appearances, for example - but there's no doubt it had always been heavily male-dominated. Also, the fact that Sue Barker was taking over from one of the most valuable pieces of figurative BBC furniture, in David Coleman, meant that this was going to be one tough assignment. However, her unflappable, jovial nature, plus her stellar tennis career (for a Brit, anyway) meant it should never have been in doubt.
Jonathan Ross - Film... (Barry Norman)
Barry Norman was a giant among film critics: only America's Roger Ebert could possibly top his expertise. At the time it was announced that Norman was stepping down from presenting duties, most people didn't even know comic Jonathan Ross was a movie buff, let alone backed him to fill such enormous shoes. He did though, and since then he's been replaced himself by Claudia Winkleman, amongst others, but we won't dwell on that here...
John Humphrys - Mastermind (Magnus Magnusson)
Iconic - that's the only way to describe Mastermind. It is, without question, the grandaddy of quizzes, and the late Magnus Magnusson was the grandaddy of quiz masters. Who was going to take the show into the 21st-century? Step forward veteran journalist and broadcaster John Humphrys, who is still going strong in the role as we speak.
Frank Skinner - Room 101 (Nick Hancock)
Of the five entries on the list, this would be the one where you would've put money on the substitute coming through with flying colours. Yes, Nick Hancock did a splendid job; yes, it seemed things wouldn't be quite the same without him; but in Frank Skinner, the producers were appointing arguably the nation's best comedian at the time, and you can't wish for more than that.
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