|Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?|
Latest Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (UK) Logo
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Running time||30–90 minutes|
|Original run||4 September 1998 – Present|
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is a television game show which offers very large cash prizes for correctly answering 15 (some versions, 12) consecutive multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty. The format is owned and licensed by the Japanese production company Sony Pictures Television International. The maximum cash prize (in the original British version) is one million pounds. Most international versions offer a top prize of one million units of the local currency, though the actual value of the prize varies widely, depending on the currency's exchange rate. In the United States the top cash prizes have been changed to annuities.
The programme originated in the United Kingdom, where it is hosted by Chris Tarrant. It is based on a format devised by David Briggs, Steven Knight and Mike Whitehill, who also devised a number of the promotional games for Chris Tarrant's breakfast show on Capital FM radio. The original working title for the show was Cash Mountain. When it first aired in the UK on 4 September 1998, it was a surprising 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.
In 2000, a board game based on the hit television series of the same name was released by Pressman Toy Corp. In March 2006, original producers Celador announced that it was seeking to sell the worldwide rights to the show, together with the UK programme library, as the first phase of a sell-off of the company's format and production divisions. Dutch company 2waytraffic acquired Millionaire and the rest of Celador's programme library. Two years later, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased 2waytraffic for £137.5m. The Who Wants to Be a Millionaire franchise is the most internationally popular television franchise of all time, having aired in more than 100 countries worldwide.
The show served as a major plot device in the award winning film Slumdog Millionaire.
The programme originated in the United Kingdom, where it is hosted by Chris Tarrant. It is based on a format devised by David Briggs, who, along with Steven Knight and Mike Whitehill, devised a number of the promotional games for Chris Tarrant's breakfast show on Capital FM radio, such as the bong game. The original working title for the show was Cash Mountain. It first aired in the UK on 4 September 1998.
The game has similarities with the 1950s show The $64,000 Question. In that show the money won would also double with each question, and if the wrong answer was given all the money was lost. Contestants would win a new car as a consolation prize if they had reached the $8,000 question.
In the 1990s, future Who Wants to be a Millionaire executive producer Michael Davies attempted to revive Question as The $640,000 Question for ABC, before abandoning that effort in favour of the British hit.
Since the show launched, several individuals have claimed that they originated the format and that Celador has appropriated 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. Celador settled out of court with a confidentiality clause.
In 2003 Sydney resident John J Leonard also claimed to have originated a format substantially similar to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (although it had no Lifelines). He has to date been unable to raise the minimum quarter of a million pounds a non-UK resident needs to finance legal action against Celador in the High Court. In an effort to finance his case he published a detailed account of how he created the show.
In 2004, Alan Melville and John Baccini, real name John Bachini, sued Celador over a similar claim. On that occasion Celador reached separate out-of-court settlements with both men.
The contestants first have to undergo a preliminary round, called "Fastest Finger First", where they are all given a question and four answers from the host. They are asked to put those four answers into a particular order. (In the very first series of the British version and until the end of the 2003 season in the Australian version, "Fastest Finger First" required the contestants to answer one multiple choice question correctly as quickly as possible.) The contestant who does this correctly and in the fastest time goes on to sit in the chair (the "hot seat") and play for the maximum possible prize (often a million in the local currency, though this depends on its value).
In the US version, this round was called "Fastest Finger", and was eliminated when the show moved to syndicated distribution in 2002; however it returns whenever the show returns to prime time. US contestants are now required to pass a standard game show qualifying test at contestant auditions.
Once in the hot seat, the contestant is 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. On answering the first question correctly, the contestant wins £500 (in the UK – other countries vary the currency but have the same basic format). 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." Upon making the answer the final answer, it cannot be changed. The first five questions usually omit this rule, unless the contestant has guessed a wrong answer (at which point, the host is hoping the contestant will take the hint), because the questions are generally so easy that to require a final answer would significantly slow the game down; thus, there are five chances for the contestant to leave with nothing if he or she were to give a wrong answer before obtaining the first guaranteed amount; going for £1,000 after winning £500 is the last point in the game at which a contestant can still leave with nothing.
Subsequent questions are played for increasingly large sums (roughly doubling at each turn). On the first few questions, some choices often have joke answers. The complete sequence of prizes for the UK version of the programme is as follows:
Former (15 question format)
Current (12 question format)
After viewing a question, the contestant can "take the money" (or rather "get the cheque" or "walk away" in some versions) that he has already won, rather than attempting an answer. If the contestant answers a question incorrectly, then he loses all the money he has won, except that the £1,000 and £50,000 prizes are guaranteed: if a player gets a question wrong above these levels, then he drops down only to the previous guaranteed prize. This means that the players can always attempt the £2,000 and £75,000 questions without fear, since they are guaranteed the previous amount even if they get the answer wrong. The question values are not cumulative.
The game ends when the contestant answers a question incorrectly, decides not to answer a question, or answers all twelve questions correctly, thus usually letting the host rip the cheque for £500,000 apart and winning the top prize of £1 million.
Several international versions of the show have recently changed or modified their version of Millionaire.
In 2002, the syndicated US version eliminated the preliminary Fastest Finger round; contestants immediately take the hot seat. This was also done in the 2007 Australian, New Zealand and Italy formats. The 2009 ABC "10th Anniversary edition" did feature the Fastest Finger round, as well as the 2004 ABC Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire? series. Also, this format is eliminated in some versions when celebrities play for charity (Denmark, Russia, Netherlands, Bulgaria, France and the United Kingdom versions).
On 13 August 2007, it was announced that the UK version was changing its format, cutting the number of questions it takes to reach the £1 million jackpot. The prize money started at £500 rather than £100 and there are only 12 questions to replace the former 15. After reaching £1,000, the prize fund increases to £2,000, £5,000, £10,000, £20,000 and £50,000, which is the second "safe haven", previously £32,000. The first set of contestants to face the new rules were comedians Jon Culshaw and John Thomson in a charity special, shown on ITV on 18 August 2007. The Show returned on Saturday 13 June 2009 on ITV1 at 7.30pm with a new episode after a long absence since 31 January 2009.
In 2007, before they adopted to "Hot Seat" competition format, the Australian version slightly modified the normal format to add an additional bonus 16th question, worth AUS$5 Million. Thailand also used this format before switching to the 12-question format.
Beginning in 2008, the US version changed its format; now limiting its contestants to answer questions within a time limit each of 15 seconds for questions 1–5, 30 seconds for questions 6-10, and 45 seconds for questions 11-14. After 14 questions have been answered correctly, the time paused after giving an answer is "banked" for the last question. The clock for each question begins counting down immediately after all four answer choices have been revealed, and is temporarily paused when a lifeline is used. Contestants who exceed this time limit are forced to walk away with all prize money they have won up to that point; however, the only exception to this rule is if the "Double Dip" lifeline is currently being used; if the clock expires before a second final answer is given, it is treated as an incorrect answer.
In addition to the clock, contestants now see the category of their questions before they are asked, and the lifelines 50:50 and Switch the Question were replaced with Double Dip and Ask the Expert. Later changes included a change to the money tree and the controversial removal of Phone a Friend. For a period in November 2009 the show also had a one-off event called the Million Dollar Tournament of 10 in response to the show's lack of a top-prize winner since Nancy Christy in 2003. The winner of the tournament was Sam Murray, who became the first person to win the top prize of $1 Million with the Clock format. No contestant has won the top prize under the clock format in the normal tradition.
The Japanese version adopted this format beginning on 15 September 2009; although using the original three lifelines, a time limit each of 30 seconds for questions 1–9, 1 minute for questions 10–12, and 3 minutes for questions 13–15, and the unused time will not be banked.
Similar clock rules and time limits also exist in the Taiwanese version, the former Play It! Disney theme park attraction, the Video Games based on this game show, as well as the Hot Seat format (See Below). The former Australian version had no true time limit, although a 60-second shot clock would go into effect if the player took too long to answer a question; if the shot clock expired, the contestant would be forced to walk away.
In 2008, the Norwegian version tried out a new format, essentially involving 6 contestants playing at once, with each taking turns to climb the money tree. The usual lifelines are removed, replaced with a single 'pass' that can, at any one time, transfer the onus of answering the question to the next contestant in line, who cannot then re-pass to the next contestant. Also added are 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. Walking away is no longer allowed, rendering several questions' values pointless, as they cannot be won. If a player fails to give out an answer in the time limit, it is considered an automatic pass. If that question can't be passed on or if answered incorrectly, that player 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 this last 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 player to be eliminated receives either nothing, or a smaller prize if the 5th question milestone is reached.
The first contestant to ever win with this format was Bjørn Lien in the Norwegian version on 19 January 2010. He was also the first person to win in that version of the show; Normal or Hot Seat format.
If at any point the contestant is unsure of the answer to a question, he or she can use one or more "lifelines". After using lifelines, contestants can either answer the question, use another lifeline, or walk away and keep the money (except for the Double Dip lifeline). Each lifeline can only be used once.
In February 2004, the U.S. launched a short-lived spin-off known as Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire. On this particular version, two new lifelines were introduced, but they were only available after a contestant cleared the $100,000 question (the tenth question in this version):
In 2004, the syndicated U.S. version introduced another new lifeline:
In 2008, the syndicated U.S. version eliminated the 50:50 and Switch the Question lifelines, revived the Double Dip (to replace the 50:50) and introduced a new lifeline.
The 2009 10th Anniversary Primetime series uses the four lifelines from the U.S. Syndicated Clock Version: Double Dip, Ask the Audience, and Phone a Friend always available—Ask the Expert available after $1,000 has been won.
In the Hot Seat versions of the show, a new lifeline was introduced to replace all existing lifelines:
In the German version, an additional lifeline exists, which will be given if the player decides to forfeit the second save haven before the game starts.
The series also used the catchphrase with "Is that your final answer?", or more commonly the ultimatum "Final Answer?" This question derived from a rule requirement that the players must clearly indicate their choices before being made official (since the nature of the game allows the player to think aloud about the options before committing to an answer). As a side effect, once a final answer has been given, it cannot be changed. Many parodies of the game show capitalised on this phrase.
Players can pre-empt the host asking this question by themselves stating "final answer" or some variant, and this is common during the early questions of each round.
Another hallmark of the show is using dramatic pauses before the host acknowledges whether or not the answer was correct. Occasionally, if it is time to go for a commercial break, the host will take the final answer but not announce if it is correct until after the break. Because of the clock format in the United States, this is not usually done when there is a commercial break.
The host of the Australian show, Eddie McGuire, popularised the catchphrase "Lock it in?" rather than "Is that your final answer?". This has been adopted on the New Zealand and Finnish versions, "Lukitaanko vastaus?" in the latter. This phrase is also used in the game show Don't Forget the Lyrics, where contestants 'lock in' lyrics.
In April 2003, British Army Major Charles Ingram, his wife Diana and college lecturer Tecwen Whittock were convicted of winning £1 million on the UK version of the show by fraudulent means when Ingram was a contestant on the show in September 2001. The allegation was that when host Chris Tarrant asked a question, Whittock, one of that edition's nine other Fastest Finger contestants, would cough in order to guide Ingram to the correct answer. Ingram won the £1 million top prize, but members of the production crew raised suspicions over Whittock's coughing and the police were called in to investigate. The program was not broadcast until after the trial. The defence claimed that Whittock simply suffered from allergies, but all three were found guilty and given suspended sentences. They maintained their innocence.
In 2006, a screenshot from the UKGameshows.com site was digitally altered and used in a piece on the satire site BS News. The image was also widely circulated as an email in which it was purported to show a contestant named Kathy Evans failing to answer her $100 question correctly after using all three lifelines because she was too skeptical of the assistance that was given.
|Which of the following is the largest?|
|• A: A Peanut||• B: An Elephant|
|• C: The Moon||• D: A Tennis Ball|
This parodies the actual performances of contestants, who answered the first question incorrectly, such as Robby Roseman, Brian Fodera, Paul Weir Galm, Chase Sampson, and Lovi Yu. It also parodies a contestant who missed the $500 question after using all three lifelines, again because he doubted the assistance that was given.
The screenshot used in the parody image was actually a digitally-altered image of real-life contestant Fiona Wheeler on the original UK version answering a different question from a higher tier. Far from failing at the first question, Wheeler won £32,000, only to miss another question later on after passing that mark. She was famous for stating that she wanted to bathe in a bathtub filled with chocolate, which she later went on to do in a photo shoot.
Since its debut in the UK in 1998, international versions have spawned in over a hundred countries, more than any other game show. While most versions follow the original format, some have altered or changed the format as written above.
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 would win the million.
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 accused of cheating much like Charles Ingram but was later acquitted; and Takeshi Kitano from the Japanese version, who participated in 2 celebrity episodes, one of which answered the final question incorrectly and won the top prize in a later episode.
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