Series: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? aka: Who Wants Tobe A Millionaire
"Is that your final answer?"
TV Game Show, originating in the United Kingdom (where it has been hosted since its inception by Chris Tarrant, until he left in 2014) in 1998 and now sold to multiple countries. Celador, its former production company, claims that the format has been aired in 100 countries worldwide. Regis Philbin and Meredith Vieira were the American hosts on ABC and in syndication, respectively. In early 2013, Vieira announced her departure from the show; Cedric the Entertainer succeeded her on 9/2/2013, and Terry Crews will succeed him in September 2014.The game starts with a "Fastest Finger First" (or just "Fastest Finger" in the United States) round, wherein about ten contestants have to place four answers in order; (e.g., "List these U.S. Presidents in chronological order, starting with the earliest"). The first contestant to give the correct answer moves to the main game; everybody else goes home.In the main game, the contestant must answer 15 (since changed to 12 in the UK version, or 14 in the U.S. version) multiple-choice questions, worth increasing amounts of money to win up to £1 million (or local currency equivalent). They start with three "Lifelines", which are one-time-only helps they can use if they're unsure about a question.Possible Lifelines include:
"Ask The Audience": The audience votes for the correct answer. Audiences of the Russian version are infamous for deliberately giving the wrong answer out of spite, especially to certain aggravating celebrities.
In the Brazilian version, the audience consisted of people waiting for their turns to play.
"Phone-A-Friend": The contestant is given thirty seconds to speak to someone (whom they chose beforehand) on the phone. Discontinued in October 2009, since it had become "Phone-A-Google-User" in practice. The British version fixed this problem by bringing in the contestant's three friends backstage and isolated them in Sound Proof Booths until they were called.
"Switch The Question": Allowed contestants to change a question that baffled them for a new question of the same value. Only available in special episodes of the UK version, but permitted for all contestants on the American version from 2004 to 2008, provided the player answered the tenth question (then reduced to $25,000 from $32,000) correctly.
"Double Dip": Used only on Super Millionaire at first, but later replaced 50:50 in the American version in 2008. Contestants are allowed to make two guesses at the same question, but once this lifeline is used, they are locked into answering the question and cannot walk away, nor can they use any further lifelines on that question.
"Ask The Expert": After winning $1,000 (later $5,000) on the US version, the contestant earned this lifeline. Ask the Expert was basically an enhanced Phone-A-Friend, but with a (sometimes) genuinely-smarter person. In early 2010, this lifeline replaced Phone-A-Friend and was available from the outset.
"Three Wise Men": Used only on Super Millionaire, this allowed a panel of three experts (one of whom was a former Millionaire contestant) to deliberate and provide an answer within 30 seconds. Was a precursor to Ask the Expert, noted above.
In the Brazilian version, the panel was made of six college students.
"Jump the Question": Used only on the new shuffle format implemented on the American version in September 2010, the player skips to the next question and does not earn its resulting payout (the payout goes out of play in the first round (the shuffle round) and the question value is merely passed up in the second round (Classic Millionaire)). A contestant receives two of these. Three in the Brazilian version.
"The Cards": Instead of the "50:50", the Brazilian version had each player being allowed to ask for help from cards. 4 cards were left face down for the player to pick one. If the picked card was a King, no wrong answer would be removed; if the card was an Ace, one wrong answer would be removed; if it was a Two, two wrong answers would be removed and; if the card was a Three, all three wrong answers would be removed.
"Crystal Ball": Allows the contestant to reveal the cash value of one question in the shuffled portion of the game. It first appeared during the 2012 Halloween Week episodes in America, and is set to return for a week in January 2013.
Under the classic rules, the contestant can stop at any time and keep whatever money they've earned up to that point. If they pass the 5- or 10-question mark (2- and 7- mark in the current UK version), they are guaranteed to get that amount of money, even if they answer wrong on a later question. If they get an answer wrong, they lose their money, except for whatever was guaranteed. See below for the changes in the US Shuffle format.Britain has had four top-prize winners to date. A fifth, Charles Ingram, lost his money after it was proved that a friend gave him the answers by "strategic coughing" in a very famous case. Ironically, the first-ever winner was a middle-aged woman who was already quite wealthy. The first American winner famously did it without using a single lifeline in the process, with the exception of Phone-A-Friend — which he only used to inform his father that he was about to win the Million. He also got a little good natured ribbing over the fact that he worked for the tax bureau.The American version was a massive hit in the beginning, spawning a huge revival in game shows in general and big money, prime time quiz shows in particular (including many other imported shows). Ratings eventually tanked, however, with most people pointing the finger atABC for milking the show to the point of overexposure (at one point, it was aired four nights a week). It's still lives, however, in a more normal (for a game show) weekday afternoon syndication format, but the show's popularity and viewership has dipped quite a bit since then.In Hungary, after the departure of the original host (the new one is a well-known humorist, turning the whole show into a sort of comedy), the format was temporarily changed to a fast-paced version: Six players played a single series of 15 questions, there were no lifelines and there was a time limit of 15 seconds for questions 1-5, 30 seconds for questions 6-10 and 45 seconds for questions 11-15. Each player could "pass" once a game, which rotated the next player into the same question, and that player couldn't pass that one even if he/she hadn't passed yet. Giving a wrong answer eliminated the player and called in the next one with a new question at the same level. The total number of questions couldn't exceed 15, meaning the highest possible prize decreased as well. This version ran once a month with one normal and one Celebrity Edition game per show. The Australian version adapts a similar format. However Hungary later abandoned this comedy version in favor of going back to the original set-up, though again with a new host.The US version underwent a massive alteration of its format for its ninth syndicated season. The game is now played in two distinct rounds, and the first ten questions (the first round of the game — the Shuffle Round) are worth an amount ranging from $100 to $25,000, but what a question is worth is only revealed once the question is answered correctly, and this money is accumulated rather than progressed through. Not only are dollar amounts random in the Shuffle Round, but so are question difficulties and categories. Missing a question drops the player down to $1000, and bailing out forfeits half the banked money. The final questions in the second round, named Classic Millionaire (worth $100K, $250K, $500K, and $1,000,000 of course), are played in the traditional manner, including walking away with whatever they've earned up to that point. The lifelines were also changed for this, only Ask the Audience remains alongside two instances of a new lifeline called Jump the Question which lets the player skip over a question, at the expense of not being able to collect the money behind it. For its 2014-15 season, one of the Jumps will be replaced by "Plus One", which is basically Phone-a-Friend except you have to bring the friend with you.The Brazilian version was originally called "Jogo do Milhão" (Million Game). However, the Brazilian network broadcasting it (SBT) had to rename it because the word 'Jogo' suggested gambling. (Many assume it was an exaggeration from Moral Watchdogs) The Brazilian version became known as "Show do Milhão" (Million Show) ever since. In that version, each contestant who got the chance to answer the million real(Brazilian currency) question was traditionally given twenty seconds before deciding between risking all the money they've got so far (R$ 500,000.00) or playing it safe by keeping the money and not answering the final question. The player can stop at any time they desire and those who do so keep all the money they earned to that point. The prize was usually (if not always) delivered as gold bars.The Russian version was originally called "O Schaslivchik!" (Oh, lucky man!), but was renamed to a literal translation of its English name soon. For a period of time it was hosted by a Russian parodist Maxim Galkin, but most of the time it was (and still is) Dmitry Dibrov. The Russian version also was notorious in that the prize was one million rubles, which is, like, 30 times less than one million dollars. Later the prize was increased to the current sum of 6 million rubles, but it's still 5 times less.After Chris Tarrant decided to leave the original UK version in 2013, ITV announced its cancellation and the final show aired in January 2014.
All or Nothing: In classic editions, the first two or five questions. In these editions, the questions are generally going from easiest to hardest, and the first question always has one answer that is hilariously wrong. Averted altogether in the current American format, where missing any of the first ten questions drops the contestant down to $1,000, and the difficulties are randomized in the first round (hence the universal minimum payout).
Celebrity Edition: Most (if not all) of the versions of Millionaire have had episodes set aside for celebrities to play the game, usually for charity. In the Australian version, the celebrity splits the cash with a designated home viewer, and they were also done live.
Confetti Drop: A snowstorm of confetti is released when someone wins the top prize or at the end of the last show of a run. In some countries, this is accompanied by fireworks.
Most editions offer a smaller amount if one fails on a question past a checkpoint (usually questions five and ten, or two and seven in the UK's newer format).
The 2010 US version offers $1,000 for missing any of the ten first questions, and $25,000 for missing any of the last four.
The filming of episodes can't be properly structured. They have to wait for the current question to finish up before they're allowed to go to a commercial break (though there are a few very extreme exceptions.) Every now and then, this results in a commercial break right after a contestant finished their run, but there wouldn't be enough time left in the episode to bring out the next contestant. Meridith usually takes the last few minutes to call a selected member of the audience and give them a chance to answer the next question that would have been asked to the former contestant. Whether they guessed correctly or not, they walked away with a copy of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire video game for the Nintendo Wii, but would also earn $1000 if they got it right.
In the Brazilian version, players who gave an incorrect answer to any question (other than the million real one) got half the money won from the previous questions.
Game Show Appearance: A foreign version was the setting (and point) of the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. Its success, in fact, helped to fuel the 10th-Anniversary specials on ABC. The production company behind Who Wants To Be a Millionaire was part of the movie project.
Home Game: Board and video. Coincidentally, the latter was the first video game to reach a million sales in the United Kingdom.
ABC also offered an interactive component through its "Enhanced TV" service, which allowed users to play along with the show live on the internet.
The show enjoys happily promoting the Facebook version of the game.
Potential Tear Jerker if done on the last question and the guess was right. A notable example was on the Celebrities Week, when everyone was playing for charity. This happened to Norm MacDonald, who was solemnly told that he would've gotten the million for his charity.
Losing Horns: Type A, in a sense, whenever you go for a question worth at least $1,000 and miss. The piece played for a $32,000 loss is particularly jarring, and should you be unfortunate enough to miss the $1,000,000 question, the show takes this Trope up to about 13.
Interestingly, starting in 2010, the US version had to use new music for legal reasons, and now uses the same theme no matter what question in the stack is answered incorrectly. Even the last question.
Game Show Host: Regis Philbin in the ABC version, Meredith Vieira (or substitutes) on the US syndicated run from 2002 to 2013; Cedric the Entertainer from then on. Chris Tarrant in the original and continuing UK version. Silvio Santos in the Brazilian version.
Product Placement: Those 15 Capital One checks, Netflix Movie Week, and Ask The Expert's Skype service. AT&T sponsored Phone-A-Friend during the ABC era, and AOL sponsored an secondary Ask the Audience poll conducted through an AIM bot. There was also a "tax free" week sponsored by H&R Block, where prize values were adjusted so that their advertised winnings would actually be what they win after taxes.
In the UK, Barclays Bank's logo appeared on the 15 cheques, something which disappeared almost immediately after a rival bank started sponsoring the programme. (For what it's worth, product placement in the UK was entirely forbidden until 2011.)
Progressive Jackpot: One on occasion during Regis's era on the American version, the grand prize would increase by $10,000 for every person who failed to reach the million dollars. The prize reached $2,180,000 until it was won, although one other contestant during the jackpot phase came back due to a faulty question and went on to win the jackpot of $1,860,000 he was playing for the first time.
A Day in the Limelight: Regis actually played a charity question to wrap-up the 10th-Anniversary specials. Meredith took the hosting duties for this occasion — the chairs were reversed, Meredith hosting in the usual contestant position. Inverted in the daytime version, when Regis came back to host the week after Thanksgiving 2009.
Regis won the money by answering which of four answers was NOT a million-dollar winning answer on the US version of Millionaire.
This episode was also famous for being the only time on the American show when a contestant attempted the million-dollar answer and missed it.
All Gays Love Theater: In the Celebrity Millionaire episode with Norm MacDonald, the $500,000 question was about a play Samuel Beckett wrote. After seeing the choices, Norm said:
Norm: Well, I'm not gay, so I don't know that much about Broadway musicals... (audience laughs)
Artifact Title: After the switch to the Euro, a few countries in Europe ended up with only six-figure top prize amounts (Greece and Portugal changed their top prizes to €250,000; for example), but the titles weren't always modified to reflect this change.
Inverted in Belgium where the show originally was called "Who wants to be a multi-millionaire?". The original top prize was 20 million BEFnote 1 USD was worth about 35 BEF. After the switch to the Euro, it became "Who wants to be a Euro-millionaire?".
This actually became a point of controversy in some countries. It was the popularity of the American version that inspired other countries to start doing the show themselves. "Becoming a Millionaire" did not mean winning 1 million dollars, it meant winning 1 million of that country's currency. Converting 1 million into US dollars (or even British Pounds) often resulted in a relatively very small amount, and contestants demanded that they be given the equivalent to 1M $US.
Ascended Contestant: A few months before Meredith Vieira became the host of the syndicated US version of Millionaire, she was a contestant on the primetime version. Meredith was one of the last contestants out of the Fastest Finger circle, and made a joke about it when premiering the syndicated version, which nixed the Fastest Finger concept altogether.
Catch Phrase: "Is that your final answer?". This is used as "insurance" to prevent any legal dispute if someone says an answer, gets it wrong, and then claims they were just deliberating out loud as the hosts try to encourage.
During the first episode of the short-lived Irish version presented by Gay Bryne (that's his real name, and he was such a well-loved celebrity that nobody seems to have made a joke about it — now that is respect), he said "Is that your final answer?", "Are you sure?", "No regrets?" in that order after every. Single. Question. Every single one. Even the first five (aka "piss-easy") questions. It was unbelievably annoying, but luckily he packed it in by the second episode.
After a few American episodes, Regis' "Final Answer" insurances were edited out during the initial questions (because they usually were "piss-easy" and often included joke answers) to save time and keep the beginning of the game flowing.
Also, from Tarrant, "But we don't want to give you that!"...which managed to mutate itself into the public consciousness.
Cheaters Never Prosper: The UK version had a rather infamous case with then-Major Charles Ingram, who conspired with his wife and fellow contestant Tecwen Whittock to cheat their way to winning £1,000,000 in 2001. Needless to say, he didn't get the prize and subsequently ended up being sued by the producers, which in turn led to him being thrown out of the Army and bankrupted. He did manage to eke out a career as a Z-list celebrity for a short while afterwards, but even that didn't last long.
Commercial Break Cliffhanger: Played straight in the UK, Australia and Japan; averted in the US. The closest the US came to playing this straight a rare occasion when a contestant switched out a high-level question and the replacement was only shown after commercials, but even then, the answer to the first question was shown before the break.
Couch Gag: The first question almost always has a gag answer for D. Subverted in that, if it isn't an obvious gag, it's probably the correct answer. And if that's the case, usually it would occur in the second question.
Crowd Chant: Cedric's debut was met with chants of "CED-RIC! CED-RIC! CED-RIC!"
2000: A contestant named Kati Knudsen was hell-bent on being the first woman to win the Million. This resolve never wavered, despite burning off all her Lifelines at the $8000 level. She even managed to claw her way to the $500,000 question. She then spent over an hour on the question (who was the most recently added member of the United Nations), saying "I'm pretty sure it's ___" on three of the four answer choices. Even Regis looked uncomfortable, and was practically begging her to stop (and probably would've physically removed her from the Hot Seat if he could have). Kati, not to be denied, plays the question, locks in an answer, and gets it wrong, dropping her to $32,000. Viewers could hear Kati cursing herself out as she left the stage.
Celebrity Huey Lewis decides to ask the audience if the answer is A or B...resulting in exactly 50% voting for each one.
Several contestants have whiffed on the $100 question of the original money ladder. The first such instance, a contestant who answered "What animal did Hannibal cross the alps on?" with "Llama" instead of "Elephant", was a subversion — it just happened to be more of a $1,000 or $2,000 level question, whereas $100s were usually more along the lines of "What color is the sky?" This still led to the fan term "Llama" for any such failure, though.
Golden Snitch: The amount of money won in the Australian Hot Seat version depends entirely upon the final question. You can't walk away, so you have 45 seconds to answer a question. If you get it wrong, you only get $1,000.
Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: In the revised 2010 US edition, no matter what happens, the contestant will walk away with money. For the poor saps who miss the first question, or aren't able to accumulate more than $1000 for losing, they come out ahead of the game by walking away with $1000. Winning more than $2000 just means they walk away with more.
Heartbeat Soundtrack: Gradual, but the background music fades away as the contestant goes up the money ladder; the sole sound (aside from a held low chord) remaining at the last question is, as you might have guessed, the heartbeat.
The pattern is inverted in the US Re Tool, which had to use new music for legal reasons. The percussion maintains the heartbeat-like rhythm for all three forms of the Round 1 music and the $100K question, but more instruments are added for the $250K, $500K and $1 million questions, making this motif less noticeable.
Hint System: In the celebrity versions of the Regis run, if a contestant was stuck on a question valued at $32,000 or below, the remaining contestants in the Fastest Finger seats were allowed to help the player out, usually of the comedic *Cough* Snark *Cough* variety. According to the Celebrity Edition rules, any player who made it to the Hot Seat was guaranteed at least $32,000 for his or her charity, so this playful hinting allowed the contestant to play his or her way up to that level while keeping all three lifelines for the final five questions. After that point, the game would be played straight.
Info Dump: More common in the earlier episodes, obviously. It sometimes occurred in the later questions when Regis had to remind the contestant how much they stood to win or lose if they succeeded or failed:
Regis: You'll lose $218,000 if you get it wrong, back down to $32(000). No lifelines. Got $250(000). $500(000) if you get this.
Loophole Abuse: One contestant during the timer era constantly interrupted Vieira's reading of the answers, so that he could bank up more time for later questions. This trick could have been averted entirely if they rejiggered the clock to start after she's read the "D" answer...
For a little while, Ain't No Rule saying you can't phone a friend and have them look up the answer on the internet. This got fixed in an Obvious Rule Patch.
Luck-Based Mission: Australia's Millionaire Hot Seat, which is the same format as the Hungarian version mentioned above.
The current US format to a lesser extent, since the first ten questions and their values are separately randomized.
Manipulative Editing: When a contestant walked away with time remaining on the clock, you could sometimes see for a split-second how much time the contestant actually had left (a jump in the music also signified an edit). This was most notable during the Tournament Of Ten.
Mind Screwdriver: Cedric the Entertainer will joke around a lot before he tells contestants that they're right.
Moon Logic Puzzle: A bad trend in recent American episodes: questions that ask what celebrities did before they became famous (or which of four celebrities had a specific job). These are almost always the hardest in Round 1 and frequently jumped or walked away from, and none have been answered correctly.
Negated Moment of Awesome: During the US Celebrity Millionaire, Norm MacDonald was going for the Million and almost answered correctly, but was talked out of it by a nervous Regis, who was concerned Norm was merely recklessly guessing (he kinda was) and might potentially lose $468,000 to Paul Newman's charity. Still, how awesome would it have been to see Norm win the Million, especially since it would've been a great Take That at everyone who had picked on Norm all week (Norm was the last contestant in the batch of shows) for supposedly being dumb?
Taken Up to Eleven on the Australian Hot Seat version of the game. Even the American version, with the time limit, gave you your unused time back for the final question. The Australian version gives you a flat 45 seconds, no lifelines, and you cannot walk away with the amount you have. Similarly, if you get the answer wrong, you drop back down to $1,000, regardless of how much the final question is worth. Yes, if you get the million-dollar question wrong, you only receive $1,000.
The removal of Phone-a-Friend in the US version. It was obvious that these friends were often typing keywords into Google or other search engines to try to find the answer in the 30 seconds allowed. They often didn't even try to hide it. Neither did the show when they invoked said Obvious Rule Patch and replaced it with giving the Ask the Expert lifeline throughout the game.
The UK version fixed this problem by changing how this lifeline worked. Instead of the contestant having all three people on the telephone line, the contestant chose helpers ahead of time, who were brought backstage and isolated in Sound Proof Booths until they were called. Since the audience can see them when this lifeline is used, it pretty much eliminated any chance to Google for an answer. The U.S. version will do the same for its upcoming season, except under the name "Plus One".
Poor, Predictable Rock: During Celebrity Week 2012, A question came up about which choices would win against a certain pattern in Rock, Paper, Scissors. One of the (wrong) choices was rock, rock, rock.
Reverse Psychology: One of Meredith's hosting trademarks is trying to psych out contestants who just gave a final answer before telling them they're right. She never does this when the contestant gets a question wrong, however. Cedric the Entertainer puts more effort into it.
Of course, feigning disappointment before telling a contestant they were right was also a Regis trademark, to the point of parody.
Right for the Wrong Reasons: Occurs a few times, such as in this $100,000 question.note For starters, krypton is not fictional, but she could have simply misspoken when she said neon "doesn't sound like a gas" (maybe she meant to say it didn't sound like the right answer?).
Scare Chord: The "out of time" chord that chimes if a contestant is still playing when the episode is finished is pretty unsettling-sounding and seems to come out of nowhere.
Sequel Difficulty Spike: The US syndicated version is much harder than the ABC version, with entire seasons going by without million-dollar winners. Justified, considering ratings of the syndicated version aren't as huge as the network version once was (ABC's Executive Meddling didn't help matters), and thus can't offer as much money.
The Canadian version bragged about this, even though it was done for the same reason.
Sweeps: In the US syndicated version, many of each season's best and most memorable contestants as well as games that get into the very high-level questions are aired during sweeps periods.
Before the show became a regular fixture on ABC, the first two two-week network runs were done during August and November (1999) Sweeps periods.
Regis shouted "Peanuts!" when Ken Basin answered how much he won on Jeopardy!.
A similar crack by Meredith can be found here, aimed at the Phone-a-Friend rather than the contestant.
Tempting Fate: In a 2001 episode of the UK version, a contestant won £32,000, the highest "safe" amount on that version. Chris Tarrant handed him a cheque for that amount, as he often does in that situation — which the contestant immediately crumpled up and tossed away, saying he intended to win a lot more. Said contestant promptly blew the next question, and Tarrant refused to write him another cheque, forcing the contestant to go looking on the studio floor for the original one.
That Came Out Wrong: In one of his first episodes, Cedric quipped to a female contestant that "this is the furthest anyone has gone with me." Cue the audience laughing while quickly clarifying that he meant furthest into the game.
Time Keeps On Ticking: Under the US clock and current UK formats, the clock starts ticking down after each question is read, but while the four choices are read. Most contestants waited until Meredith or Regis was done reading the choices before speaking (see Loophole Abuse above for an exception), which nearly cost some players.
Trailers Always Spoil: When three contestants ended up winning the top prize within a month of each other in Summer 2000, network executives thought it would be a good idea to tell people ahead of time that a glut of millionaires was coming. In truth, the ratings weren't really affected either way, but it set a precedent for many other game shows in later years to do the exact same thing.
What the Hell, Player?: On the original computer game, if you didn't do the "Fastest Finger" thing fast enough, Regis would declare, "You are pathetic! This game is over...I'm not playing." The program would then terminate.
You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Subverted. Before Ken Basin's penultimate question (for $500,000), former million-dollar winner Nancy Christy said to him from the audience, "You know more than you think you do. Trust yourself." He became the first person to blow the $1,000,000 question in American Millionaire history.