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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

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Subject: Slumdog Millionaire, 2waytraffic, Keith Strachan, Milionář, Game show
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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Genre Game show franchise
Created by David Briggs
Mike Whitehill
Steven Knight
Country of origin United Kingdom
Running time 30–120 minutes (depending on the version)
Production company(s) Celador (1998–2007)
2waytraffic (2007–present)
Sony Pictures Television (2008–present)
Original run 4 September 1998 (1998-09-04) – present
External links
Official UK version website

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (sometimes informally known as Millionaire) is an international television game show franchise of British origin, created by David Briggs, Mike Whitehill, and Steven Knight. In its format, currently owned and licensed by Sony Pictures Television, large cash prizes are offered for correctly answering a series of multiple-choice questions of increasing (or, in some cases, random) difficulty. The maximum cash prize (in the original British version) was one million pounds. Most international versions offer a top prize of one million units of the local currency; the actual value of the prize varies widely, depending on the value of the currency.

The original British version of the show debuted on 4 September 1998, and aired on ITV with Chris Tarrant as its host until 11 February 2014. The show's format is a twist on the game show genre—only one contestant plays at a time (similar to some radio quizzes), and the emphasis is on suspense rather than speed. In most versions there are no time limits to answer the questions, and contestants are given the question before they must decide whether to attempt an answer. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is the most internationally popular television franchise of all time, having aired in more than 100 countries worldwide.


Original rules

The contestants must first play a preliminary round, called "Fastest Finger First" (or, in the U.S. version, simply "Fastest Finger"), where they are all given a question and four answers from the host and are asked to put those four answers into a particular order; in the first series of the British version and in pre-2003 episodes of the Australian version, the round instead required the contestants to answer one multiple-choice question correctly as quickly as possible. The contestant who does so correctly and in the fastest time goes on to play the main game for the maximum possible prize (often a million units of the local currency). In the event that two or more contestants are tied for the fastest time, those contestants play another question to break the tie. If no one gets the question right, that question is discarded and another question is played in the same manner. If any contestants are visually impaired, the host reads the question and four choices all at once, then repeats the choices after the music begins.

Main game contestants are asked increasingly difficult general knowledge questions by the host. Questions are multiple choice: four possible answers are given (labelled A, B, C, and D), and the contestant must choose the correct one. Upon answering a question correctly, the contestant wins a certain amount of money. In most versions, there is no time limit to answer a question; a contestant may (and often does) take as long as they need to ponder an answer. After the first few questions, the host will ask the contestant if that is their "final answer". When a contestant says "final" in conjunction with one of the answers, it is official, and cannot be changed. The first five questions usually omit this rule, because the questions are generally so easy that requiring a final answer would significantly slow the game down; thus, there are five chances for the contestant to leave with no money if they were to provide a wrong answer before obtaining the first guaranteed amount; going for 1,000 units of currency after winning 500 units is the last point in the game at which a contestant can still leave empty-handed.

Subsequent questions are played for increasingly large sums, roughly doubling at each turn. The first few questions often have some joke answers. On episodes of the UK version aired between 1998 and 2007, the payout structure was as follows: first going from 100 pounds to 300 in increments of £100, then from £500 to £64,000 with the pound value doubling for each new question, and finally from £125,000 to £1,000,000 with the pound value doubling for each new question.

After viewing a question, the contestant can leave the game with the money already won rather than attempting an answer. If the contestant answers a question incorrectly, then all of their winnings are lost, except that the £1,000 and £32,000 prizes are guaranteed: if a player gets a question wrong above these levels, then the prize drops to the previous guaranteed prize. Answering the £2,000 and £64,000 questions wrong does not reduce the prize money. The prizes are generally non-cumulative; for example, answering the £500 question gives the contestant £500, not the previous £300 plus £500 (i.e. £800). The game ends when the contestant answers a question incorrectly, decides not to answer a question, or answers all questions correctly.

New formats and variations

When the U.S. Millionaire '​s syndicated version debuted in 2002, Fastest Finger was eliminated for the reduced episode length (30 minutes as opposed to the previous network version's length of 60 minutes). Thus, contestants immediately take the Hot Seat, each of them called in after their predecessors' games end. Contestants are required to pass a more conventional game show qualification test at auditions; however, when the U.S. Millionaire revived its primetime version for specials, it also restored the Fastest Finger round; this was done in 2004 for the Super Millionaire series which raised the top prize to $10,000,000, and in August 2009 for an eleven-night special that celebrated the U.S. version's tenth anniversary. Long after the U.S. version eliminated its Fastest Finger round, numerous other versions (including the Australian, Italian, Turkish, British, Dutch, and French versions) followed suit by eliminating their respective Fastest Finger First rounds; additionally, some versions (such as the British, Dutch, French, and Russian versions) have eliminated their respective Fastest Finger First rounds for special events wherein celebrities play for charity.

In 2007, it was announced that the UK version was changing its format, reducing the number of questions in the game from fifteen to twelve. The new payout structure was as follows: first going from £500 to £2,000 with the prize values doubling for each new question, then from £5,000 to £20,000 with the prize values doubling for each new question, then to £50,000, £75,000, and £150,000, and finally from £250,000 to £1,000,000 with the prize value doubling for each new question. Whereas the first safe haven remained at £1,000, the second safe haven was moved to £50,000. The new rules debuted in an episode that aired on 18 August 2007.[1] Within a period of four years following its introduction to the British Millionaire, the 12-question format was subsequently carried over to a number of international versions, including the Arab, Bulgarian, Dutch, French, Polish, Spanish, and Turkish versions.

In 2007, the German version modified its format, so that contestants would be allowed to choose the option of playing in a new variant called "Risk Mode". If the contestant chooses to play this variant, the tenth-question safe haven is forfeited. This means that if the contestant answers any of questions 11–15 incorrectly, they drop all the way to the guaranteed winnings gained by answering question 5 correctly. If the contestant chooses to the play the classic format, they keep the second safe haven. The risk format was subsequently adopted by such markets as Austria, Hungary, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, and Venezuela.

In 2008, the U.S. version changed its format so that contestants were required to answer questions within a set time limit.[2] The time limits were 15 seconds for questions 1–5, 30 seconds for questions 6-10, and 45 seconds for questions 11-14. After each of the 14 questions were answered correctly, the remaining time after giving an answer was banked for the million-dollar question. The clock for each question began counting down immediately after all of the question was revealed, and was temporarily paused when a lifeline was used. Contestants who exceeded the time limit were forced to walk away with any prize money they had won up to that point. The clock was later adopted by other international versions; for example, the British version adopted it on 3 August 2010,[3] and the Indian version adopted it on 11 October the same year.[4]

On 15 December 2008, the Italian version introduced a new format wherein 6 contestants play at once, with each taking turns to climb the money tree. Contestants are allowed to "pass" the onus of answering the question to the next contestant in line, who is unable to re-pass to the next contestant for that question. Also added were time limits on every question, with 15 seconds allocated for the first five questions, 30 for the middle five, and 45 for the last five. In addition, the option of walking away is eliminated, rendering several questions' values pointless, as they cannot be won. Also, if a player fails to give an answer within the time limit, it is considered an automatic pass. If a contestant cannot pass on or correctly answer a question, he or she is eliminated and the highest value on the money tree is removed. The game ends either when all contestants are eliminated, or when the question for the highest value in the money tree is answered. If the final question is answered correctly, the answering player receives the amount of money; if it is answered incorrectly, or all contestants are eliminated before the final question is reached, the last contestant to be eliminated receives either nothing, or a smaller prize if the fifth question milestone is reached. This format was later introduced to various markets (including Norway, Hungary, Vietnam,[5] Indonesia, Chile,[6] and Spain) over the course of a four-year period from 2009 to 2012.

On 13 September 2010, the U.S. version adopted the most recent iteration of its format. Ten questions are asked in round one, each assigned one of ten different money amounts. The dollar values are randomised at the beginning of the game. The contestant is then shown the original order of difficulty for the ten questions as well as their categories, and those are then randomised as well. This means that the difficulty of the question is not tied to its value. The dollar values for each question remain hidden until a contestant either provides a correct answer or chooses to "jump" their question. In this format, the value of each question answered correctly is added to the contestant's bank, for a maximum total of $68,600. A contestant who completes the round successfully can walk at any subsequent point with all the money in their bank, or can walk before the round is completed with half that amount (e.g., a contestant who banked $30,000 would leave with $15,000). Contestants who give an incorrect answer at any point in the round leave with $1,000.[7] After completing round one, the contestant moves on to a second round of gameplay (the "Classic Millionaire" round), in which four non-categorised questions are played for set non-cumulative values and a correct answer augments the contestant's winnings to that point, as in the older formats.[7] The contestant is now allowed to walk away with all the money in their bank; an incorrect answer drops their winnings to $25,000.


Contestants are given a series of lifelines to aid them with difficult questions. After using a lifeline, the contestant can either answer the question, use another lifeline, or walk away and keep the money (although using the "Double Dip", "Plus One", and "Jump the Question" lifelines remove the final two options). Except for the first three seasons of the "Jump the Question" lifeline's use, each lifeline can only be used once. In the Hot Seat format, the concept of lifelines is discarded in favor of the option to pass.

The show's original three lifelines are "50:50", in which the computer eliminates two of the incorrect answers; "Phone-a-Friend", in which the contestant makes a thirty-second call to one of a number of friends (who provide their phone numbers in advance) and reads them the question and answer choices, after which the friend provides input; and "Ask the Audience", in which audience members use touch pads to designate what they believe the correct answer to be, after which the percentage of the audience choosing each specific option is displayed to the contestant. In countries where the show is broadcast live, friends selected for Phone-a-Friend are alerted when their contestant begins to play the main game, and are told to keep the phone free and to wait for three rings before answering.[8] Phone-a-Friend was removed from the U.S. version beginning with the episode that aired on 11 January 2010, after it was determined that there was an increasing trend of contestants' friends using search engines and other Internet resources to assist those unfairly privileged individuals who had computer access over those who did not, and that it was contrary to the original intent of the lifeline, by which friends were supposed to provide assistance based on what they already knew.[9] From 2004 to 2008, the U.S. version had a fourth lifeline called "Switch the Question",[2] earned upon answering question ten, in which the computer replaced, at the contestant's request, one question with another of the same monetary value; however, any lifelines used on the original question were not reinstated for the new question.

During the U.S. Millionaire '​s Super Millionaire spin-off, two new lifelines were introduced: "Double Dip", which allowed the contestant to make two guesses at a question, but required them to play out the question, forbidding them to walk away or use any further lifelines; and "Three Wise Men", in which the contestant was allowed to ask a sequestered panel of three people chosen by the producers, appearing via face-to-face audio and video feeds, which answer they believed was correct, within a time limit of thirty seconds. When the clock format was implemented, Double Dip replaced the 50:50 lifeline,[2] and the show also introduced a new lifeline called "Ask the Expert", which was like Three Wise Men but had one person (usually a celebrity or a former Millionaire contestant) functioning as an expert instead of a panel of three people, lacked the time limit of its predecessor, and allowed the contestant and expert to discuss the question. Ask the Expert was originally available after the fifth question,[10] but was moved to the beginning of the game after Phone-a-Friend was removed.

The U.S. version sometimes used corporate sponsorship for its lifelines. Phone-a-Friend was sponsored by the original AT&T throughout the run of the ABC primetime show and in the first season of the syndicated version, then by the current AT&T for the 2009 primetime episodes. From 2004 to 2006, Ask the Audience was sponsored by AOL, which allowed users of its Instant Messenger to add the screen name MillionaireIM to their contact list and receive an instant message with the question and the four possible answers, to which the users replied with their choices.[11] In addition, the Ask the Expert lifeline was sponsored by Skype for its live audio and video feeds.[10]

The German Millionaire '​s risk format features an extra lifeline called "Ask One of the Audience", in which the host will reread the question, and ask the audience who think they would be able to answer that question to stand up. The contestant may choose one of these (judging by looks only) and discuss the question at length with said audience member. He may or may not choose an answer after that. If he chooses the suggested answer and it proves to be correct, the audience member will also receive a prize of €500. This lifeline is also implemented in the Costa Rican version, after the first milestone is reached. Starting in its thirteenth season, the U.S. syndicated version uses a variant of this lifeline, called "Plus One", which allows the contestant to bring a companion with them for help, rather than having them select their companion from the audience.

The U.S. Millionaire '​s shuffle format introduced a new lifeline, "Jump the Question", which was able to be used twice in a single game for seasons nine through twelve of the syndicated version. At any point prior to selecting a final answer, a contestant could use Jump the Question to skip the current question and move on to the next one, thus reducing the number of questions they had to correctly answer. However, if the contestant uses Jump the Question, they do not gain any money from the question they choose to skip[7] (for example, a contestant with a bank of $68,100 may jump the $100,000 question, but will still have only $68,100 instead of the typical $100,000 when they face the $250,000 question). Unlike other lifelines throughout the show's history, this lifeline cannot be used on the $1 million question, since it is the final question in the game. The introduction of Plus One reduced the number of Jump the Question lifelines available from two to one. On occasional specially designated weeks, starting with a Halloween-themed week that aired from 29 October 29 to 2 November 2012, the shuffle format uses a special lifeline called "Crystal Ball", which allows the contestant to see the money value of a round one question prior to giving an answer.[12] On the kids week in 2014, it also uses another special lifeline called "Cut the Question," which is similar to "Switch the Question" from the original format. When used, the lifeline switches to another question of the same difficulty, but does not help contestants to see the value of the question unless they use "Jump the Question."

Top prize winners

Out of all contestants that have played the game, few have been able to win the top prize on any international version of the show. The first was John Carpenter, who won the top prize on the U.S. version on 19 November 1999. Carpenter did not use a lifeline until the final question, using his Phone-a-Friend not for help but to call his father to tell him he had won the million.[13]

Other notable top prize winners include Judith Keppel, the first winner of the UK version; Kevin Olmstead from the U.S. version, who won a progressive jackpot of $2.18 million; Martin Flood from the Australian version, who was investigated by producers after suspicions that he had cheated, much like Charles Ingram, but was later cleared;[14] and Sushil Kumar from the Indian version, who is often referred to in Western media as the "real-life Slumdog Millionaire".[15][16][17][18][19]

Specific versions

Chris Tarrant, host of the original British version

The original British version of Millionaire, hosted by Chris Tarrant, debuted on the ITV network on 4 September 1998. At its peak in 1999, the show was watched by up to 19 million viewers (an astonishing one out of every three Britons).[20] Originally the contestants were predominantly members of the general public, but in the show's later years, only celebrities appeared on the show, in special live editions that coincided with holidays and the like. On 22 October 2013, Tarrant decided to quit the show after 15 years, and ITV decided to cancel the show after his contract finished, stating that there would not be any further specials beyond the ones that had already been planned.[21][22] Tarrant's final live celebrity edition aired on 19 December 2013, and the final episode, a clip show entitled "Chris' Final Answer", aired on 11 February 2014.[23]

The U.S. version of the show was launched in the primetime by ABC on 16 August 1999, and was originally hosted by Regis Philbin.[24] The original network version was the highest-rated of all television shows in the 1999–2000 season, reaching an average audience of approximately 29 million viewers,[25] but before long, ABC overexposed the primetime series and the audience tired of the show,[26] which ultimately grilled it to cancellation, with its final episode airing on 27 June 2002.[27] A daily syndicated version of the programme debuted on 16 September 2002, and was launched by Meredith Vieira,[28] who remained host for eleven seasons, with her final first-run episodes airing in May 2013.[29] Cedric the Entertainer was named the new host in 2013,[30][31] but after production of his first (and only) season had ceased, decided to leave the show in order to lighten his workload,[32] resulting in him being succeeded by Terry Crews for the 2014–15 season.[33]

The Australian version of the show debuted on the Nine Network on 18 April 1999, and was hosted by Eddie McGuire until he became the CEO of the Nine Network, a position that required him to sacrifice his on-air commitments.[34] The final episode of the original Australian series aired on 3 April 2006;[35] however, after his resignation as Nine Network CEO,[36] McGuire resumed his duties as Millionaire host for subsequent versions. Millionaire returned to Australia in 2007,[37] as six episodes with a new format aired during October and November of that year. This was followed by an abbreviated version called Millionaire Hot Seat which debuted on 20 April 2009.[38][39]

An Indian version of the program, titled Kaun Banega Crorepati ("Who will become a millionaire"), debuted on 3 July 2000, with Amitabh Bachchan hosting in his first appearance on Indian television.[40] Subsequent seasons of the show aired in 2005–06,[41] 2007, and every year since 2010.[42] The Indian version was immortalised by director Danny Boyle in his 2008 drama film Slumdog Millionaire,[43] adapted from the 2005 Indian novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup,[44] which won eight U.S. Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director)[45] and seven BAFTA Awards.

A Filipino version of Millionaire was broadcast from 2000 to 2002 by the government-sequestered Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation, produced by Viva Television,[46][47] and was hosted by Christopher de Leon. On 23 May 2009, the show returned with a new home on TV5,[48] with Vic Sotto as the new host.[49][50] The show aired its season finale on 7 October 2012 to give way to another game show hosted by Sotto, The Million Peso Money Drop (the Philippine version of The Million Pound Drop Live created by Endemol). However, the show returned to the air on 15 September 2013 for a new season together with Pinoy Explorer and Wow Mali! Pa Rin after the cancellation of the talent show Talentadong Pinoy (which would be revived just one year later).

A Russian version of Millionaire debuted as О, счастливчик! ("Oh, lucky man!") on NTV from 1 October 1999 to 28 January 2001.[51] On 19 February 2001, the show was relaunched as Кто хочет стать миллионером? ("Who wants to become a millionaire?"), which aired on Channel One and was hosted by Maxim Galkin before 2008, and Dmitry Dibrov after that.[52] A Dutch version of the show, titled Lotto Weekend Miljonairs, first aired on SBS 6 from 1999 to 2006 with Robert ten Brink as its host, then was moved to RTL 4, where it aired until 2008 (later to be revived in 2011) with Jeroen van der Boom hosting. A Japanese version called Quiz $ Millionaire, hosted by Monta Mino, was launched by Fuji Television on 20 April 2000;[53] it was a regular weekly programme for its first seven years, after which it only aired in occasional specials.[54]

Millionaire has also existed in many other countries, including a Chinese version aired in 2007 and 2008 with Lǐ Fán as its host; a French version on TF1, which debuted on 3 July 2000 and is hosted by Jean-Pierre Foucault; a German version launched by RTL Television on 3 September 1999, hosted by Günther Jauch; and a Hong Kong version called Baak Maan Fu Yung, which was broadcast by Asia Television from 2001 to 2005, with actor Kenneth Chan as its host. In total, over 100 different international variations of Millionaire have been produced since the original UK version made its 1998 debut.[55]


In March 2006, original producer Celador announced that it was seeking to sell the worldwide rights to Millionaire, together with the rest of its British programme library, as the first phase of a sell-off of the company's format and production divisions. Millionaire and all of Celador's other programmes were ultimately acquired by Dutch company 2waytraffic. Two years later, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased 2waytraffic for £137.5 million.[56] The format of the show is currently owned and licensed by Sony Pictures Television; however, the U.S. version is distributed not by Sony but by The Walt Disney Company's in-home sales and content distribution firm, Disney-ABC Domestic Television.

The idea to transform the UK programme into a global franchise was conceived by British television producer Paul Smith. He laid out a series of rules that the international variants in the franchise were to follow: for example, all hosts were required to appear on-screen wearing Armani suits, as Tarrant did in the UK; producers were forbidden from hiring local composers to create original music, instead using the same music cues used by the British version; and the lighting system and set design were required to adhere faithfully to the way they were presented on the British version.[57] However, some of Smith's rules have been slightly relaxed over the years as the franchise's history has progressed.


The format of the show was created by David Briggs, Mike Whitehill, and Steven Knight, who had earlier created a number of the promotional games for Tarrant's morning show on Capital FM radio, such as the bong game. Tentatively known as Cash Mountain,[58] the show takes its finalised title from a song written by Cole Porter for the 1956 film High Society, in which it was sung by Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm.

Since the original version launched, several individuals have claimed that they originated the format and that Celador had breached their copyright. Sponsored by the Daily Mail, Mike Bull, a Southampton-based journalist, took Celador to the High Court in March 2002, claiming authorship of the lifelines, but Celador settled out of court with a confidentiality clause. In 2003, Sydney resident John J. Leonard claimed to have originated a format substantially similar to that of Millionaire, but without the concept of lifelines.[59][60] In 2004, Alan Melville sued ITV for using the opening phrase "Who wants to be a millionaire?" from his ideas for a game show based on the lottery, called Millionaires' Row, for which he had sent his documents to Granada Television; ITV counter-claimed, and the parties reached an out-of-court agreement/settlement.

In 2002, John Bachini started a claim against Celador, ITV, and five individuals who claimed that they had created Millionaire. Bachini claimed they had used ideas from his 1982 board game format, a two-page TV format concept known as Millionaire dating from 1990, and the telephone mechanics from another of his concepts, BT Lottery, also dating from 1990. Bachini submitted his documents to Paul Smith, from a sister company of Celador's, in March 1995 and again in January 1996, and to Claudia Rosencrantz of ITV in January 1996. Bachini claimed that they used 90% of his Millionaire format, which contained all of the same procedures as the actual British Millionaire's pilot: twenty questions, three lifelines, two safe havens (£1,000 and £32,000), and even starting from £1.00. Bachini's lifelines were known by different names; he never claimed he coined the phrase phone-a-friend, but Bull and Tim Boone claimed they did. Celador claimed the franchise originated from a format known as The Cash Mountain, a five-page document created by either Briggs or his wife Jo Sandilands in October 1995. The defendants brought Bachini to a summary hearing, and lost. Bachini won the right to go to trial, but could not continue at trial due to serious illness, so Celador reached an out-of-court settlement with Bachini.[61]


The musical score most commonly associated with the franchise was composed by father-and-son duo Keith and Matthew Strachan. The Strachans' score provides drama and tension, and unlike older game show musical scores, Millionaire '​s musical score was created to feature music playing almost throughout the entire show. The Strachans' main Millionaire theme song takes inspiration from the "Mars" movement of Gustav Holst's The Planets, and their question cues from the £2,000 to the £32,000/£25,000 level, and then from the £64,000/£50,000 level onwards, take the pitch up a semitone for each subsequent question, in order to increase tension as the contestant progressed through the game.[62] On Game Show Network (GSN)'s Gameshow Hall of Fame special, the narrator described the Strachan tracks as "mimicking the sound of a beating heart", and stated that as the contestant works their way up the money ladder, the music is "perfectly in tune with their ever-increasing pulse".[58]

The Strachans' Millionaire soundtrack was honoured by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers with numerous awards, the earliest of them awarded in 2000.[62] The original music cues were given minor rearrangements for the U.S. version's clock format in 2008; for example, the question cues were synced to the "ticking" sounds of the game clock. Even later, the Strachan score was removed from the U.S. version altogether for the introduction of the shuffle format in 2010, in favour of a new musical score with cues written by Jeff Lippencott and Mark T. Williams, co-founders of the Los Angeles-based company Ah2 Music.[63]


The basic set design used in the Millionaire franchise was conceived by British production designer Andy Walmsley, and is the most reproduced scenic design in television history.[57] Unlike older game shows whose sets are or were designed to make the contestant(s) feel at ease, Millionaire '​s set was designed to make the contestant feel uncomfortable, so that the programme feels more like a movie thriller than a typical quiz show.[58] The floor is made of Plexiglas[57] beneath which lies a huge dish covered in mirror paper.[58] The main game typically has the contestant and host sit in chairs in the center of the stage, known as "Hot Seats"; these measure 3 feet (0.91 m) high, are modeled after chairs typically found in hair salons,[58] and each seat features a computer monitor directly facing it to display questions and other pertinent information.

The lighting system is programmed to darken the set as the contestant progresses further into the game. There are also spotlights situated at the bottom of the set area that zoom down on the contestant when they answer a major question; to increase the visibility of the light beams emitted by such spotlights, oil is vaporized, creating a haze effect. Media scholar Dr. Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University, stated that the show's lighting system made the contestant feel as though they were outside of prison when an escape was in progress.[58]

When the U.S. Millionaire introduced its shuffle format, the Hot Seats and corresponding monitors were replaced with a single podium, and as a result, the contestant and host stand throughout the game and are also able to walk around the stage. According to Vieira, the Hot Seat was removed because it was decided that the seat, which was originally intended to make the contestant feel nervous, actually ended up having contestants feel so comfortable in it that it did not service the production team any longer.[64] Also, two video screens were installed–one that displays the current question in play, and another that displays the contestant's cumulative total and progress during the game. In September 2012, the redesigned set was improved with a modernised look and feel, in order to take into account the show's transition to high-definition broadcasting, which had just come about the previous year. The two video screens were replaced with two larger ones, having twice as many projectors as the previous screens; the previous contestant podium was replaced with a new one; and light-emitting diode (LED) technology was integrated into the lighting system to give the lights more vivid colours and the set and gameplay experience a more intimate feel.[65]


Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has been credited with single-handedly reviving interest in, and breaking new ground for, the television game show.[58] It revolutionised the look and feel of game shows with its unique lighting system, dramatic music cues, and futuristic set. The show also became one of the most popular game shows in television history, and is credited by some with paving the way for the phenomenon of reality programming.[58] It has also made catchphrases out of various lines used on the show, including "Is that your final answer?", asked by hosts whenever a contestant's answer needs to be verified; contestants' requests to use lifelines, such as "I'd like to phone a friend"; and a line that Tarrant spoke whenever a contestant was struggling with a particular question, "Some questions are only easy if you know the answer."[66]

Awards, accolades, and honours

In 2000, the British Film Institute honoured the UK version of Millionaire by ranking it number 23 on its "BFI TV 100" list, which compiled what British television industry professionals believed were the greatest programmes to have ever originated from that country.[67] The UK Millionaire also won the 1999 British Academy Television Award for Best Entertainment Programme, and four National Television Awards for Most Popular Quiz Programme from 2002 to 2005.

The original primetime version of the U.S. Millionaire won two Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show in 2000 and 2001. Philbin was honoured with a Daytime Emmy in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host in 2001, while Vieira received one in 2005 and another in 2009, making her the second woman to win an Emmy Award for hosting a game show, and the first to win multiple times.[68] TV Guide ranked the U.S. Millionaire #7 on its 2001 list of the 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time,[69] and later ranked it #6 on its 2013 "60 Greatest Game Shows" list.[70] GSN ranked Millionaire #5 on its August 2006 list of the 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time,[71] and later honoured the show in January 2007 on its first, and so far only, Gameshow Hall of Fame special.[58]


Charles Ingram and his wife Diana in August 2006

In April 2003, British Army Major Charles Ingram, his wife Diana, and college lecturer Tecwen Whittock were convicted of using fraudulent means to win £1 million on the UK version of the show when Ingram was a contestant on the show in September 2001. The allegation was that when Tarrant asked a question, Whittock, one of that episode's nine other Fastest Finger First contestants, would cough to guide Ingram to the correct answer. Ingram won the £1 million top prize, but members of the production staff raised suspicions over Whittock's coughing along with the Ingrams' behaviour after the recording, and the police were called in to investigate. The defence claimed that Whittock simply suffered from allergies; however, all three were found guilty and given suspended sentences.[72] After the trial, ITV aired a documentary about the scandal, along with Ingram's entire game, complete with Whittock's coughing sounds. As a joke, Benylin cough syrup paid to have the first commercial shown during the programme's commercial break.[73]

In 2006, a screenshot from the site[74] was digitally altered and used in a piece on the satire site BS News. The image was also widely circulated as an email[75] in which it was purported to show contestant Fiona Wheeler from the UK version failing to answer her £100 question correctly after using all three lifelines because she was too sceptical of the assistance that was given; the image was actually a digitally altered screenshot of Wheeler answering a different question from a higher tier.[74] The hoax may have been inspired by an infamous moment from the French version in which a contestant requested help from the audience on a €3,000 question which asked which celestial body orbits the Earth: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, or Venus. The audience provided the answer of "the Sun",[75] and the player ended up leaving with €1,500 as a result. The hoax also borrows elements from a number of infamous moments on the U.S. versions where unlucky contestants won nothing after giving a wrong answer to one of the first five questions.

Other media


Three board game adaptations of the UK Millionaire were released by Upstarts in 1998, and a junior edition recommended for younger players was introduced in 2001. The U.S. version also saw two board games of its own, released by Pressman Toy Corporation in 2000.[76][77] Other Millionaire board games have included a game based on the Australian version's Hot Seat format, which was released by UGames;[78] a game based on the Italian version released by Hasbro;[79] and a game based on the French version which was released by TF1's games division.[80]

Several DVD games based on the UK Millionaire, featuring Tarrant's likeness and voice, were released by Zoo Digital Publishing[81] and Universal Studios Home Entertainment. In 2008, Imagination Games released a DVD game based on the U.S. version, based on the 2004–08 format and coming complete with Vieira's likeness and voice,[82] as well as a quiz book[83] and a 2009 desktop calendar.[84]

The UK Millionaire saw five video game adaptations for personal computers and Sony's PlayStation consoles, produced by Hothouse Creations and Eidos Interactive. Between 1999 and 2001, Jellyvision produced five games based on the U.S. network version for PCs and the PlayStation, all of them featuring Philbin's likeness and voice. The first of these adaptations was published by Disney Interactive, while the later four were published by Buena Vista Interactive which had just been spun off from DI when it reestablished itself in attempts to diversify its portfolio. Of the five games, three featured general trivia questions,[85][86][87] one was sports-themed,[88] and another was a "Kids Edition" featuring easier questions.[89] Two additional U.S. Millionaire games were released by Ludia in conjunction with Ubisoft in 2010 and 2011; the first of these was a game for Nintendo's Wii console and DS handheld system based on the 2008–10 clock format,[90] with the Wii version offered on the show as a consolation prize to audience contestants during the 2010–11 season. The second, for Microsoft's Xbox 360, was based on the shuffle format[91] and was offered as a consolation prize during the next season (2011–12).

Ludia has also created a Facebook game based on Millionaire, which has been available to players in North America since 21 March 2011. This game features an altered version of the shuffle format, condensing the number of questions to twelve—eight in round one, and four in round two. A contestant can compete against eight other Millionaire fans in round one, and play round two alone if they make it into the top three. There is no "final answer" rule; the contestant's responses are automatically locked in. Answering a question correctly earns a contestant the value of that question, multiplied by the number of people who responded incorrectly. Contestants are allowed to use two of their Facebook friends as Jump the Question lifelines in round one, and to use the Ask the Audience lifeline in round two to invite up to 50 such friends of theirs to answer a question for a portion of the prize money of the current question.[92]

Disney Parks attraction

The building housing the California version after its 2004 closure

A theme park attraction based on the show, known as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It!, appeared at Disney's Hollywood Studios (when it was known as Disney-MGM Studios) at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California. Both the Florida and California Play It! attractions opened in 2001; the California version closed in 2004,[93] and the Florida version closed in 2006 and was replaced by Toy Story Midway Mania!

The format in the Play It! attraction was very similar to that of the television show that inspired it. When a show started, a "Fastest Finger" question was given, and the audience was asked to put the four answers in order; the person with the fastest time was the first contestant in the Hot Seat for that show. However, the main game had some differences: for example, contestants competed for points rather than dollars, the questions were set to time limits, and the Phone-a-Friend lifeline became Phone a Complete Stranger which connected the contestant to a Disney cast member outside the attraction's theater who would find a guest to help. After the contestant's game was over, they were awarded anything from a collectible pin, to clothing, to a Millionaire CD game, to a 3-night Disney Cruise.[94]


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External links

  • at the National Film and Sound ArchiveWho Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Original United Kingdom version
  • Millionaire at
  • websiteClassic WWTBAMChallenge TV
  • Who Wants to be a Millionaire? at
  • Major Charles Ingram affair in detail
Internet Movie Database pages
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