Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
This page is dedicated to Regis Philbin (1931 - 2020)
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (abbreviated to WWTBAM and more commonly known as Millionaire) is a game show created by David Briggs, Steve Knight and Mike Whitehill, owned by Sony Pictures Television and broadcast by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Game Show Network in the US.
The original UK version has been produced by Celador (from 1998-2007), 2waytraffic (from 2007-2010), Sony Pictures' Victory Television (from 2011-2014) and Stellify Media (from 2018 onward), and broadcast on ITV and Challenge.
A contestant can win up to $1,000,000 if he or she answers 15 multiple choice questions correctly.
Along the way to hitting the $1,000,000 mark, they have four life-lines: "Ask the Audience" (which allows the audience to give the contestant their answer to the question), "50:50" (which removes two incorrect answers, narrowing the choice down to a 50:50 shot), "Phone-a-Friend" (where the contestant calls a friend to see if they know the answer within 30 seconds) and "Ask the Host" (where the contestant asks the host to see what they think the answer is).
Contestants also have certain thresholds, and should they answer a question incorrectly, will leave with what the threshold amount is (if it is within the first five questions, they leave with nothing). However, contestants have the option to "walk away" with whatever amount they have if they get stuck and want to play it safe.
Why It's a Millionaire (in a Good Way)
- It revolutionized the way game shows should work with its use of lighting.
- Its music soundtrack is a perfect balance of action and suspense.
- The use of threshold questions doesn't make the show too punishing if one incorrectly answers a question.
- Speaking of WIR#3, the questions offered to contestants makes the show fairly challenging.
- Iconic hosts such as the late, great Regis Philbin (who popularized the iconic phrase "Is that your final answer?"), Meredith Vieira and Chris Harrison in the US, and Chris Tarrant and Jeremy Clarkson in the UK.
- When it first came out, it had the highest cash prize of any game show at that time.
- The show even had a few winners who went all the way and won the $1,000,000.
- Contestants who had previously flunked out on the first five questions sometimes get a second chance in the US version.
- The new Jimmy Kimmel-hosted US revival is amazing.
- The original episodes (the ones that first aired in Britain) can be quite slow at times.
- Both the US and UK versions went downhill in later seasons:
- The US version needlessly introduced the "Shuffle" format from 2010 to 2015 and a new, less dramatic soundtrack.
- The UK version introduced a time limit and a "rave" remix of the soundtrack, both of which were abolished in the 2018 UK revival.
- The UK version was rocked by the infamous "Major Fraud" scandal in 2001 (see "Trivia" below for more details).
- The "Phone-a-Friend" lifeline was removed when executives found out that more and more people were using search engines like Google and Bing to look up the answers, and replaced it with the "+1". "Phone-a-Friend" would eventually return in the 2020 US revival, with all friends now being closely monitored by a member of the show's production team to prevent cheating.
- At one point in 2004, the game show had a top prize of $10,000,000 as part of a special.
- Out of the very few $1,000,000 winners the show has had, the most famous is John Carpenter, who did not use any lifelines except for "Phone-a-Friend", which he used on the final question to tell his father that he was about to win the $1,000,000.
- Another winner, Ed Toutant, won $1,860,000 after being invited back onto the show when the production team discovered that the $16,000 question on his previous run had mistakenly deemed the correct answer of "tomato" as incorrect (the $860,000 bonus was due to a rule at the time that added a $10,000 bonus to the prize money every time an episode finished without a millionaire).
- The UK version saw the infamous "Major Fraud" scandal in September of 2001, which involved British Army major Charles Ingram, his wife Diana and fellow contestant Tecwen Whittock conspiring to cheat the show out of £1,000,000. However, their deception (which consisted of Whittock coughing whenever Ingram read a correct answer out loud) was quickly discovered by the production team, and all three were eventually tried and found guilty of attempting to deceive the show.
- Following the success of the UK version, several international versions have been produced and aired exclusively in their respective countries all around the world.