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Who Wants to be a Millionaire (U.S. version)

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Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
WWTBAM US Logo
Country: United States
Created by: David Briggs
Mike Whitehill
Steven Knight
Presented by: ABC
Regis Philbin (1999–2002; 2009)
Syndication
Meredith Vieira (2002–2013)
Cedric the Entertainer (2013–2014)
Terry Crews (2014–2015)
Chris Harrison (2015-present)
Broadcast
Original Channel: ABC
Syndicated
Running Time: 39-48 minutes (ABC)
22-26 minutes (Syndicated)
No. of Episodes: ABC: 363
Syndicated : 2,020 (as of Decmeber 6, 2013)[1]
Original Run: ABC: 1999-2009
Sydnicated: 2002-present
Notable Facts
Top Prize Amount 1,000,000 (in annuities)
# of Top Prize Winners 11 (Plus 2 other 1,000,000 winners)
# of Final Question Incorrect 2
# of Final Question Walkers 28Citation needed
# of Contestants Leaving with Nothing 86Citation needed
External Links
Official Website: http://www.millionairetv.com

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (also known as Millionaire) is an American television game show based upon the British program of the same title, which offers a maximum prize of $1,000,000 for correctly answering a series of consecutive multiple choice questions. Originally, as in the UK edition, contestants were required to correctly answer fifteen questions of increasing difficulty; however, in 2010, the format was modified so that the contestants were faced with ten questions of random difficulty and prize value followed by and a second level of four questions of increasing difficulty referred to as "Classic" Millionaire. However, starting from 2015, the program will return to a more classic version of gameplay, in which contestants will be required to correctly answer fourteen questions of random difficulty and fixed value in order to win the million dollar prize. The program follows the same general premise as its original UK counterpart, and is one of many international variants in the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? franchise.

The original U.S. version aired on ABC from August 16, 1999 to June 27, 2002, and was hosted by Regis Philbin. The current syndicated version of the show began airing on September 16, 2002, and was launched by Meredith Vieira, who remained host for eleven seasons, with her final first-run episode airing on May 31, 2013. In the seasons that followed, Vieira was succeeded by Cedric the Entertainer in the 2013–14 season, Terry Crews in the following season (2014–15), and Chris Harrison, who will begin hosting in the fall of 2015.

As the first U.S. network game show to offer a million-dollar top prize, the show made television history by becoming one of the highest-rated game shows in the history of American television. The U.S. Millionaire has gone on to win seven Daytime Emmy Awards, and TV Guide and Game Show Network (GSN) have ranked it #7 and #5 on their respective lists of the 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time. In 2013, TV Guide ranked it #6 in its list of the 60 greatest game shows ever.

HistoryEdit

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire debuted in the United States on August 16, 1999 on the ABC television network, and was hosted by television personality Regis Philbin.

The network version, whose episodes were originally shown just a day after their taping in New York, became explosively popular in 2000, and at its peak was airing in prime time four nights a week on ABC. The show was popular enough to find rival networks creating or reincarnating game shows of their own, and created a brief renaissance of sorts for United States based game shows (e.g. Greed, Twenty One, etc.) as well as a flurry of American versions of UK and Australian originals, such as Winning Lines, The Weakest Link, and It's Your Chance of a Lifetime.

ABC used Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in so many prime time slots that when the show's popularity faded by the fall of 2001, it was left with a dearth of original programs on June 27, 2002. ABC's overall Nielsen Ratings suffered as a result of the show's decline in popularity. Michael Eisner, then CEO of The Walt Disney Company (ABC's parent), a former page at Jeopardy! and The Price Is Right, thought that the show would be successful like many other daytime television shows. However, he had realized too late that a hot show like Millionaire would tire more quickly in prime time than in daytime.[2]

Millionaire's place as a daytime show was granted when ABC's sister company, Buena Vista Television (now Disney-ABC Domestic Television), produced a daily syndicated offering with Meredith Vieira which premiered in September 2002. This version, also taped in New York, began airing its eighth season on September 7, 2009, and has earned Vieira two Emmies for best game show host.[3] The format is licensed by Sony Pictures Television as part of the acquisition of 2waytraffic in 2008, though the U.S. version is still distributed by Disney.

To celebrate Millionaire's 10th anniversary, the show returned to ABC prime time in August 2009 with host Regis Philbin for a two week event.

GameplayEdit

At its core, the game is a quiz competition in which the goal is to correctly answer a series of consecutive multiple-choice questions. However, the format of the show has been overhauled multiple times along its lifetime.

Fastest FingerEdit

On all of the ABC versions (including the Super Millionaire spin-off and the 10th Anniversary Celebration), ten contestants competed in a one question playoff, known as the Fastest Finger question, for the right to play the main game. During this round, the host would read one question and four items that had to be arranged in a specific order. Each contestant would try to input the correct order, using keys on the podiums in front of them, with a time limit of to 20 seconds). The person who did so correctly in the fastest time would join the host in the Hot Seat and begin the main game.

If two or more contestants tie, they would play an additional Fastest Finger question to break the tie. If none of the contestants answer the question correctly, they would all play as many Fastest Fingers questions as needed until at least one contestant gets it right. If the main game ended and there was still time available for another game, the remaining contestants played another Fastest Finger round for a chance to play the main game.

If any of the contestants are visually-impaired, the host would read the question and 4 choices all at once (which are included in an envelope), then repeat the choices after the music began.

The Fastest Finger question was eliminated from the gameplay when the syndicated version premiered in 2002, each contestant being brought out individually instead.

Main gameEdit

Original formatEdit

On the primetime version of the show and during the first eight seasons on syndication, a contestant was asked a series of up to 15 consecutive multiple-choice answers of increasing difficulty. Each question had a fixed cash value, and if they were to be answered correctly, the contestant's total earnings would be raised to that value (for example, giving a correct answer to the $500 question would increase their earnings to $500, not by $500). This would continue until either the contestant answered all 15 questions correctly, miss a question or decide to walk away with all of the money they had received thus far. Any of these conditions being met marked the end of a contestant's game.

There was no time limit, a contestant could take as much time to answer a question as they needed. Most contestants who cannot answer a question immediately often think out loud, and try to work out the answers by either elimination or other means. However, in order for an answer to be considered valid and binding, the contestant must confirm it is what they intend to play by either stating Final answer, Final, or anything similar. The iconic phrase "Is that your final answer?" exists because of this rule, and is said by the host to a contestant when they seem to be commiting to an answer but don't do so correctly. However, during the first five questions, segments of contestants stating that their answers are final are often cut out or even do not happen in order to speed up gameplay.

Questions 5 and 10 were known as milestone questions, because if they were to be answered correctly, they would increase the contestant's minimum payout to the cash value they had attached. If at any moment a contestant gave a wrong answer, their total winnings would be reduced to the cash value attached to the last milestone question correctly answered. For example, on the primetime version, answering questions 7 or 11 incorrectly would reduce a contestant's winnings from $4,000 to $1,000 and from $125,000 to $32,000 (or $100,000 to $25,000 on Seasons 3-8 of the syndicated version). A direct consequence of this was that questions 6 and 11 ($2,000 and $64,000; $50,000 from Seasons 3-8 of the syndicated version) were freebies, because they could be answered without fear of losing any accumulated money.

Because there is no initial milestone question, a contestant could leave empty handed if they provide a wrong answer to any of the first five questions. The first person to do so, Robby Roseman, and its infamous answer to the $100 question "Hannibal crossed the Alps using what animals?" were responsible for the creation of the term llama to refer to any contestant who misses any of the first five questions and leaves the show empty-handed.

Clock formatEdit

Ken Basin

Ken Basin's Million Dollar Question.

At the start of the seventh syndicated season, time limits were introduced to each question. The host would read a question, and as the four answers appear simultaneously, the clock would start ticking down, even while the host is reading the four possible choices. The contestant is not required to wait for the host to read all the answers, they can commit to an answer as soon as it appears (Alan Carver being the most notable example). Contestants had up to 15 seconds to answer questions one through five, up to 30 seconds for questions six through ten, and up to 45 seconds for questions eleven through fifteen. However, any unused time from the first fourteen questions was added to the clock during the last question, giving contestants much more time to think through the million dollar question. If a contestant runs out of time before committing to an answer, they are forced to walk away with the winnings they had until that point, unless certain conditions are met.

During this format, contestants were presented with a revamped money tree, that displayed at all times the categories for all of the questions they had yet to answer. Also introduced during this era were Celebrity questions. Most often found in mid-tier questions, these were provided by notable individuals whose identities were not revealed until the contestant reached their special questions. Barring a few other exceptions, the clock format was identical to the original format in every other way.

Money TreeEdit

Primetime 1999-2002; Daytime 2002-2004Edit

Question
No.
Correct Answer
Value
Walk Away
Value
Miss Answer
Value
Amount Lost for a
Wrong Answer
1 $100 $0 $0 $0
2 $200 $100 $0 $100
3 $300 $200 $0 $200
4 $500 $300 $0 $300
5 $1,000 $500 $0 $500
6 $2,000 $1,000 $1,000 $0
7 $4,000 $2,000 $1,000 $1,000
8 $8,000 $4,000 $1,000 $3,000
9 $16,000 $8,000 $1,000 $7,000
10 $32,000 $16,000 $1,000 $15,000
11 $64,000 $32,000 $32,000 $0
12 $125,000 $64,000 $32,000 $32,000
13 $250,000 $125,000 $32,000 $93,000
14 $500,000 $250,000 $32,000 $218,000
15 $1,000,000 $500,000 $32,000 $468,000

Primetime 2009; Daytime 2004-2009Edit

Question
No.
Correct Answer
Value
Walk Away
Value
Miss Answer
Value
Amount Lost for a
Wrong Answer
1 $100 $0 $0 $0
2 $200 $100 $0 $100
3 $300 $200 $0 $200
4 $500 $300 $0 $300
5 $1,000 $500 $0 $500
6 $2,000 $1,000 $1,000 $0
7 $4,000 $2,000 $1,000 $1,000
8 $8,000 $4,000 $1,000 $3,000
9 $16,000 $8,000 $1,000 $7,000
10 $25,000 $16,000 $1,000 $15,000
11 $50,000 $25,000 $25,000 $0
12 $100,000 $50,000 $25,000 $25,000
13 $250,000 $100,000 $25,000 $75,000
14 $500,000 $250,000 $25,000 $225,000
15 $1,000,000 $500,000 $25,000 $475,000

Daytime 2009-2010Edit

Question
No.
Correct Answer
Value
Walk Away
Value
Miss Answer
Value
Amount Lost for a
Wrong Answer
1 $500 $0 $0 $0
2 $1,000 $500 $0 $500
3 $2,000 $1,000 $0 $1,000
4 $3,000 $2,000 $0 $2,000
5 $5,000 $3,000 $0 $3,000
6 $7,500 $5,000 $5,000 $0
7 $10,000 $7,500 $5,000 $2,500
8 $12,500 $10,000 $5,000 $5,000
9 $15,000 $12,500 $5,000 $7,500
10 $25,000 $15,000 $5,000 $10,000
11 $50,000 $25,000 $25,000 $0
12 $100,000 $50,000 $25,000 $25,000
13 $250,000 $100,000 $25,000 $75,000
14 $500,000 $250,000 $25,000 $225,000
15 $1,000,000 $500,000 $25,000 $475,000

Syndicated VersionEdit

In 2002, Disney's Disney-ABC Domestic Television started selling a new version of the show for daily syndication, with a new host, Meredith Vieira (who previously appeared on the nighttime show and won $250,000 during a celebrity week where all the money would go to charities related to victims of 9/11). It was initially proposed and developed under the assumption that the prime time show would still be airing on ABC, but the prime time show was canceled a few months before the syndicated show premiered. The syndicated version doesn't include the Fastest Finger competition; contestants are brought out individually during each half-hour show after passing contestant auditions, consisting of a written test and an interview.

QualificationsEdit

Unlike the original network version, where aspiring contestants made a phone call, answered a few questions correctly on the phone, and were randomly selected, leading to a Fastest Finger competition to determine the player in the hot seat, the current version uses a more traditional game-show procedure, similar to what is used for most games. This toughens the contestant pool.

Contestants, depending on touring tryouts or tryouts held at ABC's New York studio center, are required to pass a quiz between 30 and 40 questions which is electronically scored.

Contestants who pass the general-knowledge test are then interviewed by production staff. People who impress the production staff the most are later sent a postcard in the mail stating that he/she is in a pool of to-be contestants, which by the producers' discretion are sent to New York for their tapings.[4]

Fill-In HostsEdit

Since 2007, guest-hosts have appeared in the second half of each season due to Meredith's busy schedule.

Super MillionaireEdit

Main Article: Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire

In 2004, Regis Philbin returned to ABC for 12 episodes of a spin-off Millionaire called Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire or better known as Super Millionaire. The show offered a $10 Million top prize. The show premiered in February 2004 and showed 5 episodes. The show returned later in May 2004 for 7 more episodes. The board went as follows:

Question
No.
Correct Answer
Value
Walk Away
Value
Miss Answer
Value
Amount Lost for a
Wrong Answer
1 $1,000 $0 $0 $0
2 $2,000 $1,000 $0 $1,000
3 $3,000 $2,000 $0 $2,000
4 $4,000 $3,000 $0 $3,000
5 $5,000 $4,000 $0 $4,000
6 $10,000 $5,000 $5,000 $0
7 $20,000 $10,000 $5,000 $5,000
8 $30,000 $20,000 $5,000 $15,000
9 $50,000 $30,000 $5,000 $25,000
10 $100,000 $50,000 $5,000 $45,000
11 $500,000 $100,000 $100,000 $0
12 $1,000,000 $500,000 $100,000 $400,000
13 $2,500,000 $1,000,000 $100,000 $900,000
14 $5,000,000 $2,500,000 $100,000 $2,400,000
15 $10,000,000 $5,000,000 $100,000 $4,900,000

Upon correctly answering the 10th question, the contestant received Double Dip and 3 Wise Men lifelines, making the Super Millionaire format of the show the only version to eventually offer contestants a maximum of five lifelines.

On the second episode, Robert "Bob-O" Essig correctly answered the 12th question and would later walk away with $1,000,000, a feat that would not be matched or surpassed for the rest of Super Millionaire's run.

ReferencesEdit

  1. http://thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20090727abc02 "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary
  2. CNBC
  3. Hollywood.com
  4. NWsource

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