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SBS to reboot Letters & Numbers

Cult SBS favourite is set for a comeback, with new host Michael Hing.

EXCLUSIVE: SBS game show Letters & Numbers is on the comeback trail.

TV Tonight understands SBS is planning a reboot of game show which ran from 2010 – 2012 with ITV Studios Australia.

Comedian Michael Hing, best known as host of Where Are You Really From? will host the new version, tipped for Saturday nights.

Hing is also known from The Feed, Good Game Pocket and acting in The Other Guy. He co-hosts Free to a Good Home podcast with Ben Jenkins, appears on triple J and recently performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Based on UK format Countdown and French show Des chiffres et des lettres, the series was hosted by Richard Morecroft with with word-wiz David Astle and mathematician Lily Serna. It ran for 450 episodes, with contestants showing skills in both arithmetic and lexicon skills. It was axed rating 130,000 and replaced with the UK version, presumably as a cost cutting measure, but drawing an outcry on social media.

Since then endless repeats continue to draw a loyal following in a late arvo timeslot, at around 90,000 viewers.

It isn’t clear if fan favourites Lily Serna (who became something of a TV cult figure) and David Astle are to be involved in the new edition.

An SBS spokesperson said, “Letters and Numbers has always been a hit with SBS audiences, and the iconic game show has been entertaining our viewers for years. Though we can’t confirm anything just yet, we may have some exciting news to share soon. In the meantime, viewers can catch up at SBS On Demand.”

30 Responses

  1. Letters and Numbers was cancelled after 2 years, because they had 450 episodes, which as they have demonstrated, they could run every afternoon for a decade to fill a daytime slot. The British version is Countdown, which hasn’t ever aired in Australia. SBS started airing 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countown, after they started airing 8 out of 10 Cats on Viceland a couple of years ago.

    Lily would be essential. Morecroft was a newsreader and struggled with the banter and ad libbing. Astle performed better on TV after the Letters and Numbers when he had gained more experience.

    1. In fairness Letters and Numbers is designed as afternoon light entertainment using the low budget games show genre British TV specializes in, so having a host like Mr. Morecroft fitted the bill nicely, especially for viewers unfamiliar with ABC News in Sydney, nowadays Richard’s low key polite persona probably does look a bit old fashioned in an age of stand up comedian political satirists and passive aggressive quips.
      Lily Serna definitely was the star of the original show but apparently she is now a mother and data analyst so is maybe too busy to make a TV comeback.

  2. I’m very proud to say I was part of the team which originally commissioned Letters and Numbers for SBS. Finding Lilly was a marathon task – thanks to a fantastic casting effort. Someone of her skills is rare. She was an absolute delight (as was David) so I do hope she returns. Full power to Matt Campbell for spotting the potential of this format!

  3. Back in my high school, my teacher used to play this game and it was fantastic.
    A couple of years ago i watched replays of the L&N show. David Astle was good – provides a good insight in literacy and Lily studied mathematics at Sydney university.
    I just hope that they keep the music theme intro as well as the G classification.

  4. I know getting the band back together is going to be hard as David Astle has other commitments now, but Lily Serna’s non-return is a nearly deal-breaker for me. Fingers crossed I guess. Michael Hing is a great choice for host. Just left-field enough for me.

    Now I guess we wait for SBS to commission a local version of ‘Taskmaster’.

  5. Oh my god! The power of TVTonight.com.au! You merely mentioned the idea and, boom! Green lit!! I do wish them all the best, but they’ll need Lily, or a version of who she was back then. Not so easy.

  6. Mostly excellent news (as I’m absolutely hooked on my Jeopardy/Letters and Numbers double), but only once a week? And on a Saturday? What a waste!

    I’ve also noticed that SBS Viceland has 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown on weeknights, but I’m not sure I can make a daily 2 hour game show commitment (plus, I can’t stand some of the comedians they have on there).

    It’s also a shame that Richard Morecroft won’t be returning to L&N. Gentlemen like him and David Astle have become a rarity on Australian television, and I’m not keen on comedians hosting game shows unless his name happens to be Shaun Micallef.

        1. Jeopardy! was an Australian game show based on the classic American format of the same name created by Merv Griffin. The original 1970s version aired Saturday evenings at 5:30 PM on the Seven Network, was hosted by Graham Webb and later by Mal Walden and Andrew Harwood involving students from various Australian schools and colleges as contestants.

    1. That’s what I was thinking too!

      But considering that both shows are on different networks, I doubt it will happen.

      But here’s an idea… Jeopardy Does Letters and Numbers as a weekly hour-long show with alternating trivia/word/number rounds, with the letters and numbers rounds being “Word Jeopardy” and “Math Jeopardy”, requiring that contestants place a bet ahead of drawing the letters/numbers, raising the stakes in a similar manner to the Daily Double/Final Jeopardy questions.

      But of course SBS wouldn’t have the money to blow on such a show (Letters and Numbers had only given away dictionaries, which were likely provided by Macquarie Dictionary themselves, with the set provided by ABC).

  7. It’s good news to hear that there could be an impending reboot. I hope going by Michael Hing’s background in comedy and Triple J peak timeslots that it could be a cross or a hybrid between Letters & Numbers and 8 Out of Ten Cats Does Countdown. There is also potential to turn the selection of letters into a game itself by rewarding strategic consecutive consonant and vowel selection choices that result in a word being spelled out on the letter board.

    1. mmm, you might be right. Comedian host and presumably prime-time Saturday slot speak to this maybe being an 8 out of 10 cats does countdown clone rather than straight reboot of L&N

      1. If so, I’d prefer to see a bit of the seriousness and earnestness from L&N instead of a straight 8 Out of Ten Cats Does Countdown clone, hence mentioning hybrid or a cross.

  8. Love! Love! Love This news has given me a spring in my otherwise lethargic Monday morning step.
    While I’m happy to take whatever SBS serve up, it was perfect Monday to Friday early evening viewing.

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