Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? First broadcast: 4th September 1998
Success! • Millionaire was immediately successful. Towards the end of the first series, it had more than 18 million viewers. It even beat some editions of Coronation Street, which usually gets some of the highest ratings. • It was voted the nation's favourite game show in a 2008 survey for Churchill Insurance.
The format (1) • At the beginning of each show, the host introduces a group of ten ordinary people – the contestants - giving their names and where they are from. • The first round is called "Fastest Finger First", where the contestants are all given a question and four answers, and they put those four answers into the correct order. The contestant who does this in the fastest time goes on to sit in the ‘hot-seat’ and play for the prize. • The contestant is asked increasingly difficult general knowledge questions. Questions are multiple choice: four answers are given and the contestant must choose the correct one.
The format (2) • The contestant can opt for a lifeline at any point, using each lifeline only once. These are the 50/50, the Phone a Friend and the Ask the Audience. • The questions are played for increasingly large sums (more or less doubling at each turn). • The game ends when the contestant answers a question incorrectly, decides not to answer a question, or answers all twelve questions correctly, and wins the top prize of £1 million.
A new idea? • The format for Millionaire is based on The $64,000 Dollar Question, an American TV quiz show where the money doubled at each question. • The $64,000 Dollar Question was based on an Amercian radio show called Take It or Leave It, which had the prize of just $64. It transferred to TV in 1955 and became The $64,000 Question.
The Set • The show is filmed in front of a studio audience who are arranged in circular tiers around a pit in which the action takes place. • The set is ‘in the round,’ which increases the tension – the contestant is fully exposed on all sides! • The spotlights zoom down on the contestant after each major question answered, increasing the tension. • The feel of the set is quite high-tech, and the blue colour scheme reflects this. It is futuristic and technological, rather than friendly and homely. • Again, this focuses attention on the contestant, making them seem more isolated and under pressure.
Building the drama • The host uses dramatic pauses before he says whether or not the answer is correct. The pauses become longer and more tense the higher the amount of money the contestant is aiming to win. • Occasionally, if it is time to go for a commercial break, the host will take the final answer but not announce if it is right until after the break, which prolongs the tension.
Increasing the tension • Each contestant brings along a friend, partner or relative who sits in the audience. If the contestant moves into the hot-seat, the camera will cut to the friend looking pleased, excited, nervous etc. The friend’s reactions model the reactions expected by the audience at home. This acts in a similar way as a laughter track cues an audience to laugh, by showing reactions the audience then imagine or feel too. • The spotlight keeps the focus on the contestant in the hot-seat. The contestant and the host seem very isolated and alone, which makes it more tense. This is similar to the black chair in Mastermind, although a bit more high-tech!
"Is that your final answer?" • The series uses the catchphrase "Is that your final answer?" This question comes from a rule that the player must clearly indicate his or her choice before it is made official. • This is because the contestants are encouraged to ‘think aloud’ while they are making their decision. This encourages the audience to identify with them, and increases the tension.
Chris Tarrant ~ man of the people • Chris Tarrant’s first role was as a news reporter on ATV Today, where he specialised in the ‘quirky’ story, then as a DJ on Capital FM. He first came to fame on TV as a presenter of the chaotic Saturday morning kids show ‘Tiswas.’ • He projects an image of an ‘ordinary bloke,’ not too clever or too posh, but with a good sense of humour. This means he can relate to a wide audience. • As Millionaire has no regular contestants or panel members, the host is the only regular person on the show and the only one with whom the audience can build a relationship.
Format TV goes global • Over 100 countries have bought the format for Millionaire, making it the most widely distributed format of any TV programme. • The trend in format TV - programmes bought and copied wholesale for different countries - is now worth £1.6bn each year. • The Weakest Link is the second most popular show, selling to 98 countries, followed by Pop Idol in 30 countries. • Britain is leading the genre, with 29% of all formats coming from the UK. • Game shows dominate, taking up 50% of the total hours of format TV, largely due to the success of Millionaire.
Worldwide distribution • The Millionaire format has been sold to 106 other countries. It was the first Western game-show ever to be licensed by Japan where it is produced by Fuji Television. • The different versions of Millionaire around the world are virtually identical but there are some differences from country to country. The show starts with different number of contestants playing ‘fastest finger,’ in different countries. Also, in Russia, contestants can't always rely on the audience who are known to sometimes deliberately give the wrong answer during 'Ask The Audience'.
In America • Millionaire is hosted by Regis Philbin. • An average of about two hundred and forty thousand people per hour call in on "Contest Day" in an attempt to become contestants. • Viewing figures regularly top twenty-nine million per show. • Even the title of the show reflects the basic idea of the America Dream: loads of cash. The show's producers have tapped into a value already widespread in society.
Other presenters • Millionaire attracts very famous people to host it in other countries. • In India a famous Bollywood actor Amitab Bachan hosted the programme. The third series was hosted by another Bollywood legend, Shahrukh Khan. • There are currently only two female hosts worldwide: Meredith Viera on the syndicated version of the programme in the USA and Dian Sastro in Indonesia. • Who would you choose to host Millionaire? Why do you think this person would be successful?
Multi-platform distribution • Part of Millionaire’s success is the audiences’ ability to buy into it in many different ways. • The Millionaire PC game was the fastest selling PC game ever. In its first 8 weeks it sold the same number of games that Tomb Raider sold in total. The Millionaire PC game sold 1.3 million units in its first year. • The Millionaire board game sold more than 1 million units during the first two years that it was on the market. • Passengers on over 25 airlines worldwide including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air France can play Millionaire on an in-flight entertainment application which allows them to play alone or with their traveling companions.
Easy Money • One of Millionaire’s unique selling points isthe huge amount of cash that a contestant can win, along with relatively easy questions. • The average viewer sees themself as a potential winner. You do not need to be particularly clever or well-educated to stand a good chance of winning a large amount of money. • Viewers get both the fantasy that it could happen to them, and the spectacle and excitement of watching it happen to someone else.
Get Rich Quick • Millionaire plays into the desire of ordinary people to have a better life, not by the traditional route of hard work, but by ‘get rich quick’ schemes. • This is also seen in the popularity of National Lottery which started in 1994 in the UK. • Other routes to wealth and riches are through celebrity culture and people’s desire to become instantly famous – like the contestants on Big Brother, and through the music industry, particularly in the rap music scene.
Scheduling • Millionaire benefits from ‘event scheduling’ where it is broadcast on consecutive nights for a short period only, rather than once a week for a 12 week run. This allows the audience to anticipate it as an ‘event’ and for the audience not to get bored. • The TV schedules are often disrupted because of it, and once even Coronation Street was displaced for millionaire. • With this scheduling, Millionaire retains its novelty value, and completes its run before people get bored with it. Big Brother works in much the same way.
Who wants to be a millionaire? I don't! • The show is named after a song called Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? It was written in1956 by Cole Porter and it is from the film High Society. • The film and the song said that love is more important than money. • The answer to the question, in the song at least is: "Who wants to be a millionaire? I don't. ... And I don't 'cause all I want is you."