Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Letters and Numbers?
- Why does it need saving?
- Can the show be saved?
- Why do you care, and who are you anyway?
- Why should I care?
- What can I do to help?
- Why bother with this website when I can just talk to SBS?
- Should I vote multiple times?
- The show will be replaced by Countdown; isn't that just as good?
What is Letters and Numbers?
Letters and Numbers is an Australian game show involving word and number puzzles, where two contestants compete to find the longest word from a particular set of letters or to use basic arithmetic to generate a target number from (up to) six smaller ones. It has been running on SBS for just shy of two years, with a total of 450 episodes produced.
Why does it need saving?
SBS recently announced their intent to "rest" the program (a copy of the full announcements is here). The likely interpretation of that statement is that they intend to cancel the show unless there is a significant demonstration of public support for its reinstatement.
Can the show be saved?
I believe that it can; the announcement has been phrased in such a way that SBS could easily resume production. A sufficient demonstration of public interest in the show would prompt them to do so.
Why do you care, and who are you anyway?
Hi! My name is Geoff Bailey, and as you might gather I am a keen follower of the show. I have appeared as a contestant on the show (episodes 325 to 328), and since episode 301 I have been recapping the episodes on my blog.
Disclosure: Like every contestant on the show, I received a copy of the Macquarie 5th edition dictionary after my appearance. SBS also paid for travel and accommodation expenses associated with my appearances on the show. Both my blog and this website are entirely my own undertakings, performed without desire for or expectation of personal remuneration. I am neither affiliated with SBS in general nor with Letters and Numbers in particular.
The short answer about why I care is twofold: Firstly, I enjoy the show itself, and the challenge of playing along and improving my mental skills; secondly, I see the show as a tremendously valuable tool for building and improving those same skills in other people, and particularly in children. The reports that I have heard of classes playing along with the game, or of children learning the alphabet as a result of watching, have proved very heartening to me.
The show is proven to have considerable staying power; the French equivalent has been running for almost fifty years, and the UK one just reached the thirty year mark. I believe that Letters and Numbers has the potential to be every bit as successful, and to become the institution that those shows have become in their home countries.
Why should I care?
If you already watch the show then you probably already care. Good for you! If you have not watched it, then (at least for now) you can watch recent episodes on the Letters and Numbers website; perhaps you will find yourself enjoying it.
Even if you do not watch the show yourself, you may well be friends with people who do, or who might want to compete on it some day. Also, as I mentioned in my previous answer, I believe that the show is a particularly important resource for children. If you have children (or grandchildren, etc.) or intend to do so, then you may wish this valuable resource to be around for them to enjoy. Most likely at least some of your friends fall into the previous category, also.
What can I do to help?
Thank you for asking! I expand on the following here, but the short versions are:
- Vote on this website
- Comment here
- Spread the word to others
- Leave a message on the Letters and Numbers facebook page
- Talk to SBS directly
All of these are good actions to take, and the more of them you do the better.
Why bother with this website when I can just talk to SBS?
I certainly encourage you to express your opinion to SBS directly! But the two existing channels for doing so (those contact details, and the Letters and Numbers facebook page) have some drawbacks: The former is not publically visible, and the latter may well disappear at any point, taking away all signs of support.
That is why this website has been created: To provide a stable public record of the level of support that the show has.
Should I vote multiple times?
Please do not; the voting process has been deliberately made easy, but it loses value if it is not an accurate reflection of the actual level of interest. Instead of voting a second time, it is much better to leave your name, post a comment, get involved here and elsewhere. All those actions provide much more visible and credible support for the show.
The show will be replaced by Countdown; isn't that just as good?
In a word: No. I will be very happy to see Countdown on Australian television, since I find the format enjoyable and it is a similar show. However, I would much prefer to watch the locally-produced Letters and Numbers. Here are some of the reasons for that:
- Local production: Letters and Numbers is produced for an Australian audience. This has one immediate consequence in terms of what words are eligible on the show; the Macquarie has always been a rich repository of Australian vernacular and culture that will not be reflected in Countdown episodes. But it has other consequences, reflected in the banter and stories told between rounds. The different cultural background of Countdown results in an overall less engaging show to Australian audiences.
- Participation: With Letters and Numbers (at least
before this "resting"), there was always the possibility of seeing
a contestant that one knew, or of becoming a contestant yourself.
That greatly increases involvement, of course; after my
appearance on the show I received comments from a good many
people about it, as did my parents.
There were some people that I hoped to convince to participate, as I knew that they would be good at it, and that they would enjoy the experience. If the show resumes, then I can hope to do so again. It is much more engaging to watch someone play who you know, but that is not going to happen (or very, very rarely) with Countdown.
- Different format: Countdown has eleven letters
rounds and three number rounds, while Letters and Numbers
has five letters rounds and three numbers rounds
(plus each has a conundrum round).
While more rounds may seem better, the ratio is much worse –
in practice the numbers rounds have very little impact on the
result of a Countdown episode.
In Letters and Numbers, on the other hand, although the weighting is still toward the letters the numbers are significant enough to matter. This was most evident recently in the first quarterfinal of the Masters series, where Toby Baldwin managed to overcome world-class Scrabble champion Andrew Fisher in large part due to good results in those numbers rounds.