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In 1999, things were looking bleak for the American Game Show genre. There were no prime-time network game shows, and the only shows around on the networks and syndication were holdovers from the 1970s and 1980s — The Price Is Right, Whoopi Goldberg's The Hollywood Squares revival, the new (and lamest) Match Game revival, and evergreens Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. Cable games weren't faring much better — most of the networks had either cancelled them (Lifetime, Fox Family), were shying away from game shows (Nickelodeon), or had completely rid themselves of them (USA Network). Even GSN was at a low point, with several originals being either cancelled or not very good at all, and having just come out of their "Dark Period" where they lost the rights to almost every Goodson-Todman show.

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Then ABC decided to try out an American version of a British show called Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and quicker than you could say "A Mark Goodson/Bill Todman Production", a new era in the old format was born.

Of course, when a show is successful, everybody else wants to Follow the Leader. Many games, specifically in primetime, shamelessly borrowed many of the elements that made Millionaire so unique and successful.

The oversaturation of Millionaire-styled game show clones largely withered away during The New '10s, as contemporary game shows since that point have largely reverted to more conventional formats.


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Shows that attempt to mirror Millionaire commonly have the following features:

  • A large top prize, usually at least $1,000,000. This value can suffer a substantial demotion if the show doesn't do well enough in primetime and is reduced to a shortened daytime syndicated version.
  • A single contestant or team competing against "the house", as opposed to multiple contestants competing against each other. Which can lead to:
    • Qualifying rounds that decide who will play for the jackpot out of a shortlist of contestants, and when it will be their turn; and...
    • Back-to-back top prize winners, if a "big-brain" contestant is not alone.
  • A "money ladder" or "money tree", in which each right answer moves you up to a higher amount.
  • Multiple-choice questions that tend to get more obscure and trivial as you progress, practically making the advertised jackpot Unwinnable by Design unless you happened to be an expert on the final question. Sometimes the show will water down the questions specifically when the producers recognize a drought in grand prize winners (or when the show is starting to flag in ratings and/or quality).
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  • Losing all of your money if you answer wrong, unless certain levels of the money ladder are "safe havens" where you're guaranteed to win at least that amount.
  • Lifelines.
  • An hour-long primetime format (half-hour format if the primetime version fails and the show is scaled down to daytime syndication), although actual gameplay might be less than three minutes, which leads to...
  • Gratuitous Filler and/or Padding, such as pauses before the reveal of the answers (sometimes spilling over into commercial breaks). Sometimes coupled with running out of time and having to wait till the next episode to see the exciting conclusion. And of course, the mandatory segment where the contestant tells the audience and host a little about him/herself (including any dramatic backstories he/she may have). Which can result in:
    • Camera shots of friends, family members, or relatives of the contestants sitting in the audience (or meaningful photos on hand if the people in question could not be there for the taping) being sprinkled in intermittently during the episodes as a sympathetic-empathetic appeal to the at-home audience.
  • Dark theater-in-the-round sets adorned with complex lighting setups. The lights may grow progressively darker as the stakes get higher until they finally all go out.
  • Foreboding music, oftentimes involving a Heartbeat Soundtrack. The music will become more suspenseful as contestants reach more substantial dollar figures, ending with a minimal but intense "heartbeat" on the final question. It will also react with the outcome of the game, with triumphant fanfares after big wins, dramatic stings when choices are eliminated, etc.
  • Giving away the outcomes of upcoming games, in the hope that it'll entice people to watch.
  • Occasional special episodes, such as those with guest stars playing for charity, those where the top prize value is hiked, or those where something is done to sweeten the jackpot, such as the possibility of winning a new car.
  • Unique tournament-themed episodes where people compete against one another for a shot at the top prize in a bracket.
  • Benchmark values/"safety nets" that act as a tantalizing Opt Out and are used to dissuade contestants from reaching the top value. Contestants are given the option to walk away with what they've won in between these benchmarks, usually starting off with small guaranteed amounts to ensure contestants don't walk away with nothing, but then escalating to potentially life-changing amounts (such as enough to pay off tuition or mortgage that will almost certainly cause contestants who have their family's welfare in mind foremost to walk away on the dot) with more unforgiving drops from accumulated winnings to the last benchmark if the contestant messes up. Conversely, the benchmarks can propel a contestant forward when he/she has nothing to lose.
    • Let's Just See What WOULD Have Happened: If a contestant does opt out because he/she fears he/she can't answer right, he/she's probed for the answer he/she would have said anyway. If it's a wrong answer, then it's a sigh of relief for the contestant, knowing he/she quit at just the right time. If it's a right answer, however, then it is an utterly ruthless moment of Yank the Dog's Chain.
  • Showing the contestant and everyone else watching actual, bankable checks written for the money won so far in the game to prove that the game isn't staged. Which can lead to:
  • Dramatic ticking if a clock format is used in some way. Expect the ticking to sound even more pressuring near the last seconds of the countdown.

Don't add examples to this page unless they clearly were influenced by WWTBAM. The mere presence of Lifelines or a $1,000,000+ prize does not automatically mean it's Millionaire-inspired. Premiering after Millionaire doesn't instantly make it comparable to the show. We're looking for shows that tried to emulate the whole package — game format, presentation, etc.


Shows that tried to follow in Regis Philbin's footsteps:

  • 1 vs. 100: From the creators of Deal, a multiple-choice quiz against a "mob" of 100 contestants for a $1,000,000 prize. In the NBC version, the resemblance was only made stronger in season 2 with the addition of a money ladder, plus its original question writing style was thrown right out the window in favor of the same style of writing from Millionaire.
  • 500 Questions: Mark Burnett brings ABC another spiritual successor to Millionaire; one person attempts to answer, well, 500 trivia questions in groups of 50. After 50 questions, money earned is kept and a new set of categories is presented. Normal questions allow 10 seconds to answer with no multiple choice options. A right answer with no incorrect guesses earns $1,000; failure to come up with the answer puts a strike on the board — three strikes and you're out, but the next right answer removes the strikes. Unusually for this format, an opponent stands waiting to take over, playing against the contestant in "Battle" questions and choosing the category when there are two strikes in an attempt to force a third. The Millionaire influence is strongly felt in the set, lighting, and music.
  • Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?: A million-dollar quiz where a single player answers up to 11 questions from grade school textbooks, using Lifelines known as "Cheats" to gain answers from an appropriately aged classmate.
  • Child Support: A contestant answers trivia questions in a "money ladder" fashion, with the top prize being $200,000. If they get a question incorrect, the lifelines come in the form of children being asked the same question in a different room, and should they get the question right, the contestant is "saved", but does not go up the money ladder and the top prize is now one tier lower. If neither gets it right, the contestant walks away with nothing; there are a few "milestones" where the contestant has the option to stop and go home with what they have. The overall feel of the show — dark lighting, dramatic music, dramatic pauses, and the basic format give one a whole lot of "Millionaire" vibes.
  • While Deal or No Deal subverted many of the Millionaire clones by being a unique (at the time, anyway) game based more on luck and intuition instead of knowledge, it still managed to hit all of the non-quiz features (i.e. single player, big money, padding, dark and glitzy set, the soundtrack, etc.). Its popularity (along with a Writers Guild of America strike) helped trigger a second major wave of big money primetime game shows on U.S. television (many of which ended up meeting this trope), and helped establish a few newer cliches (including a noted dependency on contestants who are intensely energetic, and grinding the game to a halt to bring out family members and/or discuss the contestant's personal backstories). Many of the presentation elements in the NBC version were copied by subsequent international versions: a lot of the early international versions (such as those in Australia and Europe) were, by contrast, daytime shows that were brighter and more energetic. An exception was the British version hosted by Noel Edmonds, which had a minimalist aesthetic and dark, warehouse-styled studio.
    • The show has its roots in a Dutch lottery game show, Miljoenenjacht (Hunt for Millions): initially, it was a fairly straightforward Millionaire clone from 2000 to 2002, except that the majority of the game was a quiz competition that whittled an audience to one player (with different types of questions and buy-outs along the way), who would play a Bonus Round of 7 general knowledge questions for a top prize of 10,000,000 gulder (with each question adding a 0 to the prize, a la Grand Game on The Price Is Right). This round was later replaced by the briefcase game that formed the basis of the Deal or No Deal format. Some early versions of Deal (including an unsold pilot of the U.S. version filmed for ABC) maintained a downsized series of quiz rounds to determine their player, but some picked a contestant at random from a pool of potential players on-stage instead (who open the boxes or briefcases during the game, and stayed on the show until they were picked to play). By contrast, the U.S. version and those based upon it tended to use pre-selected contestants, and had the briefcases staffed by a crew of models instead.
  • Don't Forget the Lyrics!: A carbon copy of Fifth Grader, using song lyrics as opposed to academia. Its use of a dark set can be excused as evoking a concert/American Idol-styled setup rather than Millionaire, but many of the other aspects still check out.
  • Duel: Millionaire meets Poker. Players compete for a growing jackpot by defeating opponents in a multiple-choice quiz. The second season enhanced the comparison even further by awarding the jackpot to winners of five consecutive matches. Defeated champs who had won at least three matches had their winnings cut in half; otherwise, it was All or Nothing.
  • Downfall (2010): Answer categories of clues correctly to ascend a money ladder, with the added risk of throwing additional prizes off the side of a building, and Chris Jericho.
  • Gra w ciemno (Clueless) created by Polish TV network Polsat (a primary rival of TVN, the channel that bought the licence to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?): The major difference from WWTBAM are sealed envelopes instead of a traditional money ladder. Each envelope has a check inside worth an unknown value, ranging from 0 to 100,000 (in Polish zlotys). There are also traps like -50% and -100%. If the player got a -100%, they would lose the game and end with 0. If they got -50%, then the player would walk out with half of what they have. The contestant begins the game by choosing several numbered envelopes from a board of 50. Next, the host poses 5 multiple-choice questions that the contestant tries to answer. For each correct answer, the player gets to keep one envelope but for every incorrect answer, they have to destroy the envelope by shredding it in a paper shredder. After the five questions, the host starts offering the player various amounts of money to tempt them to trade their kept envelope(s) for cash. Not knowing how much money is in each envelope makes the decision very difficult and changes the show into a mind game of bidding and bluff between the player and host (much like Let's Make a Deal, but trickier). The show ran from 2005 to 2007 and became very popular, prompting Polsat to sell the format to other countries, including Spain, Czech Republic, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. An English-language edition is yet to appear.
  • Greed: One of the first major imitations; co-created by Dick Clark for FOX and hosted by Chuck Woolery of Wheel of Fortune fame, it featured teams playing to split up to two million dollars. The first four questions played out like Millionaire, but with each question answered sequentially by the team members, a designated captain given the responsibility to accept the guess or veto it in favor of their own, and the third and fourth questions having five options instead of four. The final four questions require teams to select four correct answers out of a selection of six, then seven, then eight, and finally nine options, which is as difficult as it sounds. Plus, a "Terminator" round is played after each question, allowing a randomly-selected team member to challenge someone else for a chance to win their share of the prize money (at the expense of eliminating the loser).
    • A Super Greed sweeps stunt doubled the prize amounts of the final three questions, thus requiring only seven questions to win the two million, and upping the top prize to four million. Unsurprisingly, this was the only way a team managed to win the two million dollar prize.
  • Identity: Another primetime game from NBC in 2006 (and hosted by magician/comedian Penn Jillette) in which contestants tried to match 12 strangers up with their "identities" (facts including occupations, hobbies, ages, etc.) based on just by looking at them. This show might be considered more Fifth Grader-esque (though premiering beforehand) with an 11-level money ladder topping at $500,000 and a stack of three helps - one of which, "Mistaken Identity", functioned just like the Safe in Fifth Grader but without crediting the player with a right answer. All of the other elements appeared as well: intensely energetic players and family members; a dark and dramatic setting; the overusage of the catchphrase "Is... that... your... Identity?" and a TON of padding; a notorious example of which was when one female contestant was about to lock in her final guess for the grand prize and Penn then managing to stretch the tension out with a lot of questioning and two ad breaks before her victory was confirmed.
    • All music cues in this show were reused in the 2007 pilot American Know-It-All, a second attempt at the Reg Grundy pilot Run for the Money (which had spawned the successful Going for Gold across the pond, and long-running Questions pour un Champion in France), with a million-dollar bonus round for the champion. This pilot, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, also contained a dramatic setting particularly in the end game; the other parts of the show were mostly lighthearted and fast-paced.
  • It's Your Chance of a Lifetime: FOX brought this out in June 2000 to try and give Greed a companion. The only differences between this show and its forefather were: an opening question to pay off a credit card bill, only nine questions in your stack instead of 15, and wagering on each question to determine its value. Aside from that, probably the closest imitator of the bunch, as well as the shortest-lived — only lasting a single, week-long event before getting canned (though it was supposed to be a full weekly series; but FOX's then-new president hated game shows so he stopped it from happening — full details here). The series was originally created by Australia's Seven Network (where it was known as the Million Dollar Chance of a Lifetime, unrelated to the U.S. syndicated game show of the same name) after a rival acquired the rights to Millionaire.
  • Million Dollar Mind Game: An American version of the Russian series What? Where? When?, where six contestants work as a team to answer increasingly complex questions, often involving logic puzzles and visual components, with each player taking a turn as team captain, up to three incorrect answers are allowed and the contestants vote on whether they want to keep playing the game or walk away after each question. It's worth noting that the original version was structured as a Panel Game (played between a group of experts, and the viewers who submit questions), and had neither lifelines nor a money tree (it did have a lot of padding though).
  • The Million Pound Drop: A team is given £1,000,000, which they must place on trap doors corresponding to the answers of a multiple-choice question. The team must leave one of the answers clear, and any money placed on a wrong answer is lost, hence the teams can allocate a larger amount of money to answers they're confident on, but still potentially have some left if they answer incorrectly. Over the course of the game, the number of choices decrease from four, to three, to two on the final question, essentially turning it into a 50/50 shot at whatever money is left. The British version ran for a few series, and also got a lower-stakes daytime version with a maximum grand prize of £100,000. A U.S. primetime version on FOX, Million Dollar Money Drop, lasted only one season.
  • Perhaps the earliest clone was an obscure entry for the equally-obscure America One network, The Million Dollar Word Game (premiering in 1999), in which contestants had to clear through 14 rounds of word unscrambling and creating anagrams in order to reach a prize board where they could possibly win $1,000,000. However, from a production standpoint, it had a very No Budget look more akin to a public access show than one purporting to give away $1,000,000 (at the start of the circulating episode, the host even announced that they would be increasing the top prize to $5,000,000!), and the host's demeanor slowed things down more than anything.
  • Minute to Win It: Millionaire money ladder meets Beat the Clock-type stunt show for NBC, with bonus heavily caffeinated Guy Fieri. The first episodes played it straight, but by the next run of episodes (which aired over the following summer to accompany America's Got Talent), the show had been retooled to give it a looser feel and faster pace. The second season, however, succame to Deal or No Deal-like padding that slowed the game to a halt, and the GSN revival went down the same path.
  • Moment of Truth: The hopefuls were called upon to answer highly embarrassing and potentially damaging questions about themselves (affairs and past crimes were common subjects), with a prize structure similar to that on Millionaire (and pyramid schemes, apparently). The contender faced a maximum of 21 questions for a grand prize of $500,000 and could only walk away before seeing their next question. Not answering truthfully as determined by a lie detectornote  sent them home with nothing... except all the humiliation that may ensue. The friends and family joining had an access to a big glowing button that may be used only once during the game (at their mercy) to switch the question in case the current one was too unbearable.
  • Paranoia: A single studio contestant tries to win money while three other contestants playing via satellite and scores of online players tried to siphon the money away.
  • Million-Dollar Password: Tried to slap a money ladder onto the classic Password game while overhauling the front end to be rapid-fire. Was hosted by original Millionaire host Regis Philbin.
  • Power Of 10: Players answered survey questions to win up to ten million dollars.
  • As a follow-up to a run of primetime specials paying tribute to the U.S. military after the September 11 attacks, The Price Is Right started doing Million Dollar Spectacular specials in 2002: their main difference was that contestants could win a million dollars by hitting the dollar on a bonus spin in the Showcase Showdown (as opposed to the $11,000 given out in daytime at the time, and the current $25,000), which featured a darkened studio and suspenseful music. These episodes were otherwise conducted almost identically to the daytime version, but with with a higher prize budget, and a redecorated set with a giant, light-up "$1,000,000" sign at the back of the audience. A second run of MDS episodes was done with then-new host Drew Carey during the Writers Guild of America strike (which awarded the million by meeting an objective during a specific pricing game, such as beating Clock Game within a certain amount of time).
    • While they have not been held again since (later primetime specials have been more in line with the daytime shows but with more celebrity guests, now known as The Price is Right At Night), the daytime show has since held annual theme weeks — typically during sweeps — featuring pricing games played for large cash prizes (Big Money Week) or luxury and sports cars (Dream Car Week). In most cases, these prizes are assigned to games known for their difficulty, such as 3 Strikes, Pay the Rent (which, coincidentally, recycled the aforementioned $1,000,000 sign for its introduction), and Plinko.
  • Press Your Luck: The 2019 version features a bonus game which consists of six rounds and is played by the main game's winner; the goal is to accumulate $500,000 or more without earning four Whammies. If the contestant achieves that goal, the winnings are augmented to $1,000,000. Subverted, as the show is still played relatively straight as a modernized iteration of the original run.
  • Pyramid: The 2002-04 version (often referred to as Donnymid, after host Donny Osmond) felt like Sony was trying to replicate Millionaire and fuse it with classic Pyramid (strict judging, purple and black color scheme, dark metallic set, and loud techno theme), just minus a budget. Not helping was that one of the 2000 Osmond pilots was in fact The $1,000,000 Pyramid (for a run on NBC that didn't happen). Pretty much averted by the current primetime $100,000 Pyramid on ABC, which is an updated rendition of the classic $25,000 format, except with the payouts upped to $50,000 and $100,000.
  • Das Quiz mit Jörg Pilawa (The Quiz with Jörg Pilawa): A highly straightforward imitator from the German free-to-air network ARD1, premiering in 2001 (two years after RTL acquired the rights to Millionaire and shortly after Jörg Pilawa, the presenter, left Die Quiz Show — the German version of the aforementioned It’s Your Chance Of A Lifetime). Distinctions include: teams of two instead of a solo person play (with each question played by one member, then the other gets to decide whether to agree or to use a Veto to reject and change the answer; roles switch for every next level), a money tree with twelve levels (in which the players themselves choose two safety nets before starting the game) for a grand prize originally at 500,000 DM (then €300,000 from 2002 to 2010, down to €50,000 for the 2020-2021 revival) and instead of lifelines are four Vetos, each of which can be used to override a given answer; one Veto can alternatively switch the current question out. The show was also vastly popular among German viewers; DVD and video game versions have also been released.
  • Show Me The Money; a show for ABC from the creators of Deal or No Deal and hosted by William Shatner of all people. Contestants answered open-ended questions to potentially win just over $1,000,000 (up to $1,150,000 to be exact, although the odds of this were 1 in 924, and that's assuming no mistakes are made). Instead of lifelines, the contestant was given common themes with three possible questions, and could switch to another question but was not allowed to return to a previous one. 12 cash amounts and one "killer card" were hidden in scrolls randomly distributed among 13 "Million-Dollar Dancers". The contestant won money on correct answers but lost money on wrong answers, possibly resulting in a negative score. If the killer card was picked, the contestant had to answer a single question correctly to continue, otherwise the game was over and the contestant left with nothing. It was also possible for the game to end immediately if it was impossible for the contestant to finish with a positive score.
    • The show was an adaptation of a format Endemol first premiered in Italy, Tutto x Tutto (literally "Everything x Everything", which will make sense in a moment. An unsold British pilot of this version was titled Show Me What You Got). Unlike the U.S. version, there was no trivia: in the first round, the player played 4 minus signs and 4 plus signs on eight picks of money amounts from 12 scrolls, which performed said operation to their bank (basically trying to play the subtractions on low numbers and vice versa). In the second round, the player similarly played 4 multiplications and 4 divisions, with the scrolls determining the multiple or divisor (between 1 and 5). The endgame came down to a 50/50 shot between their bank being divided by the number of one last pick, or multiplied.
  • 21: The 2000 revival of the rigged quiz had a cumulative money ladder that ultimately awarded a million dollars for a player's seventh consecutive win, and a Lifeline in the form of a family member being brought on stage to help on one question. All of the questions were multiple choice (although for the most difficult questions, players would have to pick two correct answers out of five choices).
  • The Wall: A pachinko-based quiz for NBC hosted by Chris Hardwick; a player must choose where they want to drop one or more balls from on the board — which land into slots with different dollar amounts — based only on seeing the options for the next question. The question itself is answered by a partner in a Sound Proof Booth behind the wall, with correct answers adding the money to their bank, and wrong answers deducting it (hence, where you play the balls depends on your confidence, as higher values are placed towards the right end of the board). The bank can fluctuate wildly between over $2,000,000 (the last round features a $1,000,000 space!), or down to nearly nothing (because your balls turned into a Whammy by landing into said space). However, in a mechanic partially lifted from the aforementioned "Guardian Angel" on Set for Life, the partner has to secretly choose between taking whatever the contestant won, or a Consolation Prize buy-out based on the number of questions they answered correctly. Unlike Set for Life, however, the partner is not given any information on their team's progress. As usual for an NBC game show, its loaded with padding and melodrama, especially during the aforementioned endgame; you could make a drinking game out of how many times the show and its promos mention things like "life-changing money". The set, while dark and glitzy, does admittedly have Scenery Porn in the form of the Wall itself.
  • In 2019, FOX premiered another game show called Spin the Wheel; its format lifts quite a bit of its mechanics and presentation from The Wall (one of its producers also worked on both, so that's likely to blame), although with a few amendments.
  • Another show that followed in Millionaire's footsteps was the Arabian game show Waznak Dahab, which was broadcast by Abu Dhabi TV between 2002 and 2003. Contestants faced 18 general knowledge questions with three possible answers, each worth a specific value of gold (from 100 grams to at least 50 kilograms of gold). Unlike Millionaire, however, contestants were not allowed to walk away on any questions and there were no predefined "safety nets"; they had to use "gold cards" (which were earned via a preliminary round consisting of 5 true-or-false questions) in order to exchange a question for a new one or set the value of the current question as a "safety net". The concept of setting the value of a question as a "safety net" was later adopted by UK version of Millionaire when it was revived in May 2018.
  • The Weakest Link: The influence is present in its overall look and feel, with a foreboding atmosphere and music, and Anne Robinson famously hosting the show as a antagonizing Deadpan Snarker. However, the game itself subverts it by being a team-based game built around timed rounds of trivia followed by democratic elimination, and not necessarily having a large cash prize (though the U.S. primetime version did ramp up the theoretical top prize to $1 million so it could be more competitive with Millionaire).
  • Wheel of Fortune:
    • The American version has been showing signs of this ever since Millionaire has been introduced to the United States. At first, Wheel mainly borrowed the usage of darker sets and heartbeat soundtrack additions to the Speed-Up and the Bonus Round. Later on, the Mystery Round was introduced with the show revealing the backs of the wedges whenever they are hit shortly afterward. Then, the Million-Dollar Wedge was introduced for Season 26 with the prize available in the Bonus Round if the contestant wins possessing said wedge. After the $1,000,000 was won within a month of its introduction, the show made the prize harder to win by making the second Bankrupt present throughout the whole game. Plenty of trailers have suggested that somebody could win the top prize even if the wedge is merely picked up.
    • At least a few international versions (including France, New Zealand, and Poland) used complex lighting setups in their 2000s revivals, whereas their original versions did not. These versions also used heartbeat soundtracks.
    • Australia's 2008 revival not only saw a set and soundtrack change, but a $1,000,000 top prize was added.
    • And then there's the Malaysian gameshow, Roda Impian (lit. Wheel of Dreams), an unofficial Foreign Remake of Fortune which rips off the entire premise wholesale.
  • Winning Lines: Originally produced by the same people behind Millionaire, its U.S. version for CBS was adjusted to compete against it. The relatively minor changes included the addition of a $1,000,000 top prize to its Bonus Round, along with additional Lifelines, a way to lose, and veteran television personality Dick Clark as host.
  • Who's Still Standing?: In the U.S. version of the Israeli show, there's one main challenger who challenges a circle of other contestants in trivia battles. Most of the hallmarks are there, plus it also ripped off the "shuffle" format the syndicated version of Millionaire had recently begun using; each contestant is worth a random value between $1,000 and $20,000, and the final three contestants are worth $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000. Eventually got destroyed by The Voice and cancelled.
  • ABC's You Deserve It featured a contestant being given a vague clue towards a subject. If they answer correctly, they win the round's pot (the game is played in five rounds, $10,000-$25,000-$50,000-$100,000-$250,000). They can receive up to nine more clues, but each one requires the player to select a Mystery Box that deducts a share from the round's pot. The game was very drawn out, plus the contestant is not playing for themselves, but for a beneficiary who gets "surprised" by Brooke Burns on-location to be told that someone had won (hopefully) a decent amount of money just for them, in a scene of melodrama rivaling Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
  • Pak De Poen De Show Van 1 Miljoen is a subversion. It was a Belgian game show financed by the national lottery that included a top price of 1 million BF that in its first round looks more like a contest. However the final round, where the only still standing contestant is trying to get his price of 1 million BF, is straight-up this, as the contestant gets a lifeline (in the form of switching one question for another) to answer 10 questions and he would win $100,000 per correct question, but if he fails to answer a question correctly he would only gain the money that he had won with previous ones. The 100 questions were also arranged in separate packages of 10. It's a subversion because the show was made in 1987, 10 years before Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? debuted.
  • The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime both subverted it (because it premiered in 1986) and played it straight; you had the dramatic fanfares, the massive confetti drops, the family in the audience. But there weren't any Lifelines, and no money ladder; rather, champions had to be on for three days and play the bonus round on their third day to get the million- which wasn't even a lump sum but rather an annuity and, for the second season, an annuity worth $900,000 in total plus $100,000 in various prizes, including two cars. Indeed, it was more of a normal game show which just happened to have a really big set and top prize (apparently it started as a 1979 pilot called The Letter Machine. The British version, All Clued Up, similarly went in a low-stakes direction).
  • A discussion of overdramatic, big money quiz shows is not complete without the Ur-Example from CBS, The $64,000 Question. Based on Take It or Leave It — a popular radio quiz from the 1940s, the show offered the chance for contestants to win up to $64,000 by answering questions regarding a single specialized subject. The contestant's money doubled with each correct answer, starting with $64 (the original top prize of the radio version), up towards $512, then to $1,000 and beyond. Beginning at $4,000, contestants only played one level per-episode, and at $8,000, the contestant answered questions from a Sound Proof Booth. The questions also got more demanding too, often requiring multiple answers. The show made a huge deal out of all of these aforementioned features, as well as having security guards on set and an IBM sorting machine for "randomizing" the questions, to play up the drama. The series was a massive hit, to the point that its big winners became instant celebrities, Question overtook I Love Lucy as the #1 show of the 1955–56 season, and other big-money game shows of the era, such as 21, took numerous stylistic cues from Question. It also had a competitive spin-off series, The $64,000 Challenge.
    • There was one other feature that Question and several other game shows of the era shared: dishonesty. At the time, sponsors held a high degree of influence over the production of television programs, and it was in their best interests to keep viewer interest (and in turn, ratings) high. It was common for shows to play up contestants with personalities and stories that would be memorable to the audience, so that viewers would be encouraged to continue following their journey every week. Revlon CEO Charles Revson frequently meddled against contestants he didn't like, such as Joyce Brothers — who was forced into having boxing be her category. However, she beat the producers at their own game by studying the subject extensively, and became the only woman to win the $64,000 grand prize. Oh, and that IBM sorting machine? It was just a prop.
    • However, several other shows went the extra mile and resorted to Kayfabe. After its sponsor was unimpressed by how the contestants performed in early episodes, Twenty-One became outright scripted — with contestants being told to answer certain questions in specific ways, to win or lose specific matches, and coached on how to portray themselves on-air. The most infamous example was that of Herb Stempel, who was portrayed as a scrawny underdog and spent six weeks as champion. That is, until ratings were falling and they decided to bring in a new champion they felt would be more appealing: university professor Charles Van Doren — who became a celebrity after "winning" $129,000 on the show.
    • Stempel attempted to expose the fraud, but it wasn't until a Smoking Gun exposing coaching on another quiz show, Dotto, that he was taken seriously. The scandal was a Genre-Killer for the big-money game show, with networks preferring more low-stakes games and more control over productions; it took until the 1970's for shows such as The $10,000 Pyramid to break the five-figure barrier again, while the 1986 The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime was the first to break the seven-figure barrier as an annuity (but as mentioned, besides the bonus round, it was otherwise a typical game show of the era). In the 1990's, an ABC executive was actively considering reviving Question, until he caught wind of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, and decided to pursue a U.S. version of that instead. CBS filmed a pilot for a revival in 2000 to capitalize on Millionaire (with a top prize of $1,028,000), but it didn't make it to air (and as mentioned, the network ultimately decided to order a big-money version of Winning Lines — another series from the studio behind Millionaire).
  • Downplayed with MrBeast's $1,000,000 Dollar Challenge. It had the large cash prize, had more moments played for drama, and its final part had a darker atmosphere and had foreboding soundtrack, complete with confetti getting dumped on the winner. But it still didn't completely shed the goofiness of Mr Beast challenges; for instance, one of the qualifiers involved being the last to sit on a toilet, and the finale had the coaches go home and cook a meal for their contestants.


Some notable parodies of Milliomaire's tropes include

  • The Amanda Show parodied Millionaire with So You Wanna Win Five Dollars, where the host would grow increasingly infuriated with the contestants' antics.
  • Win Ben Stein's Money lampooned the Millionaire motif in one episode, with dramatic (and increasingly unnecessary) music and silly lifelines, though the episode's top prize didn't exceed WBSM's standard $5,000 pot (also doubles as Biting-the-Hand Humor, as an ABC subsidiary actually produced the show).
    Jimmy Kimmel: If you are too stupid to answer the questions in this round, we've got three ways to help you cheat. Number one, you can dial 1-900-ASS-PARTY; they may not have the answers, but it is a lot of fun. Number two, you could poll our audience, but they're really only good if it's a drug question. And, number three, you can ask me, but that's not usually much help either.
    • Hilarious in Hindsight: Kimmel wound up hosting an ABC primetime revival of Millionaire in 2020, where one of the Lifelines ended up being "Ask the Host".
  • The short-lived game show based on the video game series You Don't Know Jack (which aired on ABC, no less) lampooned Millionaire with a "$2,000,000 Question" during its second round, where the value of the question would start at $2 million and decrease in value until someone answered it. However, the countdown started when the host began to read the question, and was inevitably disrupted by a gag to pad things out (such as the host being attacked by ninjas), leaving it worth around $200 or less (a fraction of the value of most normal questions) when he actually did read the question.
    • Regis Philbin even made a voice cameo in the first episode, calling the host to congratulate him on his new show.
  • 30 Rock featured several in-universe NBC game shows that had the stereotypical big money aesthetic, such as Homonym — an unfair quiz show where contestants are given a word and asked to give the definition for one of its homophones (with the contestants always being driven to frustration when the host is actually looking for "the other one"; a banner ad for the show in another episode lists Homonym as being on from 8:00 to midnight every day), and Gold Case — a pilot for a Deal or No Deal clone where one of the briefcases contains a grand prize of $1 million in gold bars. Unfortunately, the producers forgot that gold bars are quite heavy.
  • The Peter Serafinowicz Show: Played straight with nearly every Game Show parody.
    • Heads Or Tails?: A game where you can win millions just by guessing the side the host's (a fake Chris Tarrant) coin will land on... it somehow lands on its edge. Cue disappointed audience.
    • Subverted on one occasion with a Retraux version of the original (Who Would Like To Win £100?) set in the middle of World War II.
  • The second episode of Mysterious Phenomena of the Unexplained has Elmer Fudd abducted by Marvin the Martian to play a game called "Who Wants to be a Martianaire". He asked Elmer "What ruthless martian leader has dominated the galaxy for the last decade?" The answer happens to be Martha Stewart instead of either Vernell the Omnipotent nor Refleb 578.
  • This promo for The Big Cartoonie Show spoofs the show.
  • FoxTrot had a week-long series where Jason talked his father into participating in a game show he'd invented called "I Want to Be a Millionaire". The set-up is a fairly direct clone of the original, but it turns out to be yet another Get-Rich-Quick Scheme of Jason's; he's the "I" in the title, the questions are impossibly hard, and he expects Roger to give him money for every wrong answer (getting a right answer would let him walk away without getting soaked). Roger puts a stop to it with a lifeline: giving Jason a choice between "justified braticide" or dropping the whole thing and walking away.
  • One of the games on Whose Line Is It Anyway? is "The Millionaire Show", which is basically Millionaire with some goofy quirk — everyone's German, or they're hillbillies, or they're old people, etc.
  • The current Let's Make a Deal occasionally plays "Who Wants to Answer Multiple-Choice Questions for Cash and Prizes?"
  • During Millionaire's original ABC run, Operation Lifesaver produced a railroad crossing safety video for motorists titled Final Answer, produced as a mock game show in this style. Three contestants come across something relating to a railroad crossing and the host gives each contestant a multiple-choice question (such as what a railroad crossing protected only by crossbuck signs means, or what to do if you're in backed-up traffic approaching a crossing), and if the contestant gives the wrong answer, he or she is hit by a train at the crossing. The host even asks each contestant, "Is that your final answer?" The first two contestants give the wrong answer and are killed off by trains, while the third contestant, hoping to make it to a business dinner on time, gives the correct answer, and her prize is that she gets to make it to the restaurant on time. (Though the host also provides a "what-if" scenario showing if she chose an incorrect answer and the consequences that'd play out.)
  • Mario Party Advance has Mini-Game Attack. 15 mini-games in order to win coins, 3 special items (Switch, Replay, and Practice) that serve as lifelines. If the player wins five games, they can win 1,000 coins, ten games results in 10,000 coins, and 100,000 coins for all fifteen games. The player can stop and quit at any time, because if they fail, they will lose everything.

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