SBS revives Letters & Numbers

Michael Hing, Lily Serna & David Astle to front new celebrity version on SBS.

As previously tipped by TV Tonight, SBS has officially rebooted Letters & Numbers, now in a celebrity version.

Triple J presenter Michael Hing takes the host chair of Celebrity Letters & Numbers with wordsmith David Astle and numbers expert Lily Serna returning to SBS after 9 years.

Each episode features three comedic celebrities and a special guest alongside David in Dictionary Corner, in a quest for the prize: ..one single book, from a vintage 1980s encyclopedia collection, generously gifted by Michael Hing’s parents after they cleaned out their garage.

Guests across twelve, hour-long episodes include Hamish Blake, Matt Okine, Merrick Watts, Jennifer Wong, Aaron Chen and Susie Youssef.

Host Michael Hing said: “When SBS offered me the opportunity to work on a Letters & Numbers reboot, I was worried that appearing on television opposite Lily and David (famous smart people), I might come off looking very, very dumb. And look, that’s still not impossible, but luckily, SBS have also packed the show with celebrities and I remain hopeful I walk away okay. The real joy has been two-fold. Firstly, watching people who haven’t had to do maths since school panic and regress as soon as the Letters & Numbers clock starts, and secondly, the moments of triumph and success on the show are so rare that when they happen it’s the kind of genuine, pure joy that is quite rare in an otherwise, extremely grim world.”

Crossworder, broadcaster and verbivore David Astle said: “Imagine I gave you nine letters – like VUNEDARET. What can you see? What’s the longest word there? That’s the thrill of Celebrity Letters & Numbers. Every game will be like an inkblot test with the alphabet. Panic may well set in. NERD or TUNA might be the best a player can do. Interesting. Or maybe a guest will nail TAVERN or VERDANT, or swear black and blue that DUNERAT is a type of beach rodent. Curious. Do you need to lie down? Add celebrities to each session, a stopwatch, healthy egos, bragging rights, desperation, and the results will be revealing. Let’s play.”

Numbers expert Lily Serna said: “Returning to the numbers game is like getting back to the gym, a mental workout of stretching and tweaking to reach the random target. I can’t wait. There’s a real thrill when I hit that magic button and we all get to see what total needs chasing down. It’s like reuniting with old friends, the bigs and the smalls, my board and marker, the 75-times table, and travelling to a new destination each time. Well, three or four destinations every episode! Bring it on. Numbers can be so exhilarating, so elegant, and I look forward to helping people see that. Just as fun, I get to lead our celebrities, and our viewers, to those little lightbulb moments along the way.”

SBS Director of Television and Online Content, Marshall Heald said: “Letters & Numbers has been entertaining Australian audiences for over a decade, and we’re thrilled to bring it back to SBS in this new format. Celebrity Letters & Numbers brings together a large cast of comedic personalities for an evening of compulsive games that will have the whole family playing along. SBS aims to provide Australians with programming that entertains, educates and unites, and the revival of this cult quiz show is a testament to its dedicated fans. We can’t wait for you to join us every Saturday evening.”

The series is produced by ITV Studios Australia.

7:30pm Saturday 2 October on SBS. Season two will premiere in 2022.

19 Responses

  1. Matt Campbell and I commissioned the original series and the big challenge was finding a maths genius who could cope with the cameras. We were also determined to find someone from a diverse background. I remember vividly when Kirsty de Vallance of The Cast of Thousands found Lily and we saw her numbers magic for the first time. We were blown away. I’m so pleased she’s up for the return series. It would not have been the same without her or the utterly brilliant David Astle.

  2. This is great news. It’s fantastic to have Letters & Numbers back for new seasons. I’ve probably seen every episode at least two or three times from the SBS repeats and I’ve had to resort to 8 Out of 10 Cats to get a fix of the format. I can understand that the celebrity factor won’t appeal to some and that part of the appeal was having devoted and well-educated contestants from the general public that enthusiastically applied to go on the show, though it could be an opportunity for celebrities to show their intelligence and for viewers to gain a new perspective of the celebrities that will be appearing on the program. Hopefully, we could be pleasantly surprised.

  3. Disappointing that it’s celebrity only, I was lucky enough to be a contestant on L&N so always had a soft spot for it.

    Like to face the Hey Hey reunion in ratings so can’t see it doing well

  4. One of the things I liked about the original series was watching people be smart. I love comedy, but I don’t know how many ways you can make being bad at maths funny. I think the UK comedy version with Jimmy Carr seems popular though, so it probably works. Will have to see.

  5. Looking forward to this!

    Not sure I’d I’ll like the celebrity format, if it gets a bit silly. I know it doesn’t have to be serious, but HYBPA already has it covered with the funny quiz show.

  6. Ugh. A lot of my enthusiasm died with the “celebrity” angle. I am so tired of seeing these same faces show in show out. The return of Serna and Astle is most welcome though. It’s a pity that they couldn’t also get Morecroft to return. Hing (like Fennel on Mastermind, and Szubanski on The Weakest Link) is already grating and I’ve only seen a few seconds of him.

    And hour-long episodes? Oof. The show already drags on a fair bit (unlike the rapid-fire Jeopardy that typically airs before it) in its half-hour format. I want more games and less idle chit-chat, please.

    I know I’m sounding like a backseat producer with my bitching and moaning, but, aargh! I’m losing my patience with inferior reboots…

    But I shall tune in with caution.

    1. 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown had the advantage that Countdown is the longest running quiz show ever and Jon Richardson and Sean Locke who did 100+ episodes and made them all highly entertaining. With no new eps being made at the moment, and the last half dozen not having aired on either UK TV or SBS2 will give it a try. Will have to brush up on my skills.

  7. Although i would have liked a normal version to air also, im glad that this is returning.

    Saturday nights quzzing on SBS 🙂 (first with Celebrity Mastermind, then with Celebrity Letters and Numbers).

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