From Tuesday night, players will head straight to the Millionaire hot seat where they'll have a mere 15 seconds to answer questions up to £1000, and 30 seconds up to £50K. Once contestants hit that big money milestone the clock will disappear and they’ll receive an extra lifeline known as a "Switch." This lets players swap one question for another randomly selected one. But will these drastic shifts estrange the show’s audience, or make Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? unmissable television once again?
"There is a thing called a real die-hard Millionaire fan," says Chris Tarrant, who told TV.com why he was persuaded that the revamp was necessary. "They have Millionaire as this classic thing in their mind and you don’t want to alienate them by changing it. So half of me was thinking it would be a good idea to look at some changes but the other half was saying 'If I'm really not happy with these then I don’t think we should do it as we might kill the show stone dead.'"
Now, though, Tarrant seems hopeful that the new format will be a hit. "What [the changes] have done is speed it up. And it's focussed people's minds. It does make it more dramatic--it's scarier now." And he confesses that it's not the first time that the show's creators have considered major modifications. "One format we looked at was a sudden death thing where there were no milestones, so you could get up to £20,000 or £50,000 but you went straight back to zero if you got it wrong," he says. "We quite liked it, but then we thought maybe it was a bit brutal."
The new look Millionaire, while not exactly brutal, will certainly put contestants under extra pressure. And the time limit will at long last stop players from lingering on those easy low-money questions. "The worst ever was 17 minutes," recalls Tarrant. "I knew the answer was Saudi Arabia, and he could have walked to Saudi Arabia and back with a bucket of sand in that time. He was a very odd man… In 12 years and over 600 shows we've really had on every conceivable piece of humanity."