Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

Weekdays on Premiered Aug 16, 1999 In Season


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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

Show Summary

From the four corners of the continent, people with dreams of instant riches are flown to New York City, to seize the day when they, with courage and wisdom, gain the opportunity to change the course of their lives in one short day. This is the world's greatest game show..... Who Wants to Be a Millionaire!!!

Based upon the British program of the same title, this show offers a maximum prize of $1,000,000 for correctly answering a series of multiple choice questions. Originally, as in the UK edition, contestants were required to correctly answer 15 questions of increasing difficulty, but in 2010, the format was modified so that the contestants are now faced with 14 questions of random difficulty. This show has endured as one of the longest-running and most popular variants in the global Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? franchise.

The original hour-long prime-time version of the show was broadcast on ABC from August 16, 1999 to June 27, 2002, and was hosted by Regis Philbin, a famed media personality, actor, and singer with a career going back to the 1960s, who is most widely known for hosting a "live" morning talk show. ABC's overexposure of the program led audiences to tire of it, and grilled the show to cancellation. However, not all hope was lost for the property: the production team reincarnated the show as a half-hour syndicated series, which premiered on September 16, 2002. The syndicated Millionaire's original host was Meredith Vieira, a news anchor and journalist who, at the time of the show's debut, was chiefly known as the moderator of ABC's daytime talk show The View, then later co-hosted NBC's Today Show from 2006 through 2011, and is now set to become the host of a syndicated talk show that will premiere in the coming year. Vieira remained Millionaire's host through eleven seasons, hosting over 1,800 episodes and giving away over $70,000,000 to a vast multitude of contestants, before deciding to abandon her then-current career and pursue new opportunities. Subsequently, Cedric Kyles, an actor, director and (as his stage name implies) an entertainer, signed on to become the show's new host, and his run is set to begin in September 2013.

The game play of the Millionaire show has been changed substantially since the program's introduction to American airwaves. Originally contestants were required to call the phone number 800-433-8321 and play a telephone game wherein they had to answer three questions correctly, then get selected into a random drawing, then compete for ten spots on the show and subsequently play a preliminary "Fastest Finger" round before finally advancing to the Hot Seat to begin their journeys for $1,000,000. Now potential contestants take a written test, participate in an interview, and advance to the syndicated program, where they are simply called onstage after the preceding contestant's game ends.

The show originally adhered to the same format as the British version, but in 2008 the formula began to deviate substantially from the original, with the addition of a clock that would time contestants' questions, and the use of experts who would contact the contestant for answers via a face-to-face Skype connection. The format was given its biggest overhaul yet in Fall 2010, with the introduction of question randomization and the retirement of all the lifelines (with the exception of "Ask the Audience") in favor of "jumps" that would allow contestants to skip the question and move on to the next level automatically.

ABC has occasionally brought back the prime-time version for special editions. In 2004, the production team created Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire, which was aired on a more limited basis, and which featured a top prize of $10,000,000, more money than anyone else has ever won in television history to date. Then 2009 saw a special 10th Anniversary Celebration which celebrated the milestone of the program's debut with a number of special celebrity guests, including a "Mystery Guest" revealed to be Vieira, who would turn the tables on Philbin himself - and invite the remaining "Fastest Finger" contestants to compete on the syndicated show.

There were also a number of special events and gameplay twists on the mainstream program's run. A progressive jackpot was briefly used on the primetime show, increasing by $10,000 for each episode wherein the top prize was not won, and celebrity editions have also been conducted, with notable individuals from various fields playing for charitable organizations of their choice.

The U.S. version of Millionaire has been credited with single-handedly reviving - and even breaking new ground for - the game show genre. It revolutionized the look and feel of game shows with its unique lighting system, dramatic music cues, and futuristic set, and became one of the highest-rated shows in the history of American television. It paved the way for the genre of reality programming, and made catchphrases out of such lines as "Is that your final answer?"


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AIRED ON 9/2/2013

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  • Cedric the Entertainer

    Cedric the Entertainer

    Himself - Host (season 12) (syndicated version)

    Regis Philbin

    Regis Philbin

    Himself - Host (season 1-4)

    Terry Crews

    Terry Crews

    Himself - Host (season 13) (syndicated version)

    Leeza Gibbons

    Leeza Gibbons

    Guest Host (syndicated version)

    Meredith Vieira

    Meredith Vieira

    Herself - Host (season 5-11) (syndicated version)

    More Info About This Show


    Game Show


    pop culture references, cultural institutions, competing for money, cultural phenomenon, rags to riches