Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (abbreviated WWTBAM and informally known as simply Millionaire) is an international television game show franchise of British origin, created by David Briggs, Mike Whitehill and Steven Knight. In its format, currently owned and licensed by Sony Pictures Television, contestants tackle a series of multiple-choice questions to win large cash prizes in a format that twists on many game show genre conventions – only one contestant plays at a time, similar to radio quizzes; contestants are given the question before attempting an answer, and have no time limit to answer questions; and the amount offered increases as they tackle questions that become increasingly difficult. The maximum cash prize offered in most versions of the format is one million of the local currency.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.png
Created by
Original workWho Wants to Be a Millionaire? (United Kingdom)
Owned by
Films and television
Television seriesWho Wants to Be a Millionaire? (see International versions)
Original musicScores composed by Keith and Matthew Strachan
Theme park attraction(s)Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It! (U.S.)
First aired4 September 1998 (1998-09-04)
DistributorSony Pictures Television International Distribution[1]

The original British version debuted on 4 September 1998 on the ITV network and was aired until its final episode on 11 February 2014. A revived series of seven episodes to commemorate its 20th anniversary aired from 5 to 11 May 2018. The revival received mostly positive reviews from critics and fans, as well as high viewing figures, leading ITV to renew the show for another series. Since its debut, international variants of the game show have been aired in around 160 countries worldwide.


The format of the show was created by David Briggs, Mike Whitehill and Steven Knight, who had earlier created a number of the promotional games for Tarrant's morning show on Capital FM radio, such as the bong game. Tentatively known as Cash Mountain,[2] the show took its finalised title from a song written by Cole Porter for the 1956 film High Society, starring by Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm. Since the original version launched, several individuals have claimed that they originated the format and that Celador had breached their copyright. While many pursued litigation, none was successful, and each claim was later settled out-of-court on an agreement/settlement.[3][4][5]

In March 2006, original producer Celador announced that it was seeking to sell the worldwide rights to Millionaire, together with the rest of its British programme library, as the first phase of a sell-off of the company's format and production divisions. British television producer Paul Smith first had the idea to franchise the UK programme internationally. He developed a series of standards for international variants that ensured they mirrored the British original closely. For example, all hosts were required to appear on-screen wearing Armani suits, as Tarrant did in the UK; producers were forbidden from hiring local composers to create original music, instead using the same music cues used by the British version; and the lighting system and set design were to adhere faithfully to the way they were presented on the British version.[6] Some of Smith's rules have been slightly relaxed over the years as the franchise's history has progressed.

Dutch company 2waytraffic ultimately acquired Millionaire and all of Celador's other programmes. Two years later, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased 2waytraffic for £137.5 million.[7] Sony Pictures Television currently owns and licenses the show's format. Disney–ABC Domestic Television, the Walt Disney Company's in-home sales and content distribution firm controls the U.S. version independent of Sony.



A group of contestants on each episode play a preliminary round called "Fastest Finger First". All are given a question by the host and four answers which must be placed within a particular order; in the first season of the original version (1998) and the first four seasons of the Australian version (1999–2002), contestants have to simply answer a multiple-choice question. If any contestants are visually impaired, the host reads the question and four choices all at once, then repeats the choices after the music for this round begins. The contestant who not only answers correctly, but in the fastest time, goes on to play the main game. In the event that no one gets the question right, another question is given; if two or more contestants answer correctly but with the same time, they are given a tie-breaker amongst them to determine who will move on. This round is only used when a new contestant is being chosen to play the main round, and can be played more than once in an episode amongst those remaining within the group seeking to play the main game. In celebrity editions, the round is not used; celebrities automatically take part in the main game.

Once a contestant enters the main game, they are asked increasingly difficult general knowledge questions by the host. Each features four possible answers, in which the contestant must give the correct answer. Doing so wins them a certain amount of money, with tackling much tougher questions increasing their prize fund. During their game, the player has a set of lifelines that they may use only once to help them with a question, as well as two "safety nets" – if a contestant gets a question wrong, but had reached a designated cash value during their game, they will leave with that amount as their prize. While the first few questions are generally easy, subsequent ones after them will prompt the host to ask if the answer they gave is their "final answer" – if it is, then it is locked in and cannot be changed. If a contestant feels unsure about an answer, and does not wish to play on, they can walk away with the money they have won, to which the host will ask them to confirm this as their final decision; in such cases, the host will usually ask them to state what answer they would have gone for, and reveal if it would have been correct or incorrect.

Original formatEdit

During the British original, between 1998 and 2007, the show's format required contestants to answer fifteen questions. The payout structure was as follows:[8]

Question number Question value
(Bold zones are the guaranteed levels)
1 £100
2 £200
3 £300
4 £500
5 £1,000
6 £2,000
7 £4,000
8 £8,000
9 £16,000
10 £32,000
11 £64,000
12 £125,000
13 £250,000
14 £500,000
15 £1,000,000

After 2007, the format was changed, reducing the number of questions to twelve; the overall change in format was later incorporated into a number of international versions over a period of four years, including the Arab, Bulgarian, Dutch, French, Polish, Spanish, and Turkish versions. The payout structure, as a whole, was subsequently changed as a result, with the second safety net relocated to £50,000:[9]

Question number Question value
(Bold zones are the guaranteed levels)
1 £500
2 £1,000
3 £2,000
4 £5,000
5 £10,000
6 £20,000
7 £50,000
8 £75,000
9 £150,000
10 £250,000
11 £500,000
12 £1,000,000

When the game show was revived for British television in 2018, the format was changed a second time, reverting to the original arrangement used before 2007, but with one notable difference, in that the second safety net was made adjustable – once a contestant reached £1,000, the host would ask them, before giving the next question, if they wish to set the next cash prize amount as the second safety net, with this allowing them to set up as high as £500,000 in their game as a result.

U.S. formatEdit

An American syndication of the game show was conceived after the British original proved successful, debuting in 2002. The only difference between it and the British version was that episodes were halved in length – 30 minutes, as opposed to the 60-minute length of the original version. The change meant that the preliminary round of the show was eliminated, and contestants had to pass a more conventional game show qualification test. Exceptions to this arrangement, in which it was used under the name "Fastest Finger" included: primetime special editions of the programme; the 2004 series that was dubbed Super Millionaire, in which the final prize was increased to $10,000,000;[10] and for the 10th anniversary special of the US edition, run during August 2009 for eleven episodes. The decision to remove this round would later occur in other international versions, including the British original.

Clock formatEdit

In 2008, the U.S. version changed its format so that contestants were required to answer questions within a set time limit. The limit varied depending on the difficulty of the question:[11]

  • 15 seconds for questions 1–5
  • 30 seconds for questions 6–10
  • 45 seconds for questions 11–14
  • 45 seconds, plus any remaining time from the previous 14 questions for question 15

Time for each question began counting down immediately after a question was given and its answers were revealed (but before reading all the answers) but was temporarily paused when a lifeline was used. If a contestant exceeded the time limit, they were forced to walk away with any prize money they had won up to that point; however, if the Double Dip lifeline is in use, then the contestant's winnings drops to the last safe haven attained. This format change was later adopted into other international versions – the British original, for example, adopted this change for episodes on 3 August 2010.[12]

Shuffle formatEdit

On 13 September 2010, the U.S. version adopted a second and more significant change in its format. In this change, the game featured two rounds. The first round consisted of ten questions, in which the cash prize associated to each value, along with the category and difficulty for each question is randomised per game. As such, the difficulty of the question in this round, is not tied to the value associated to it, and a contestant does not know what amount they won unless they provide a correct answer, or choose to walk away. As part of this format, the amount of money a contestant won in this round was banked, but if they walk away before completing the round, they left with half the amount that had been banked; if they gave an incorrect answer during this round, they left with just $1,000.[13] If they answered all ten questions correctly, they then moved onto the second round, which stuck to the standard format of the game show – the remaining questions are set to general knowledge and feature cash prizes of high, non-cumulative values. The contestant can, at this point, walk away with the total amount banked from the first round; otherwise, an incorrect answer meant they left with $25,000. The format was later modified for the fourteenth season of the US version, but retained the same arrangement for the last four questions.

In 2015, the so-called "shuffle format" was scrapped and the show returned to a version that closely resembled the original format.[14]

Other international formatsEdit

Risk formatEdit

In 2007, the German version modified the show's format with the inclusion of a feature called "Risk Mode". During the main game, contestants were given the option of choosing this feature, in which if they chose to use it, they gained the used of a fourth lifeline that allowed them to discuss a question with a member of the audience, in exchange for having no second safety net – if they got any question between the sixth and final cash prize amount wrong, they would leave with the guaranteed amount given for correctly answering five questions. This modified format was subsequently adopted for use in a variety of international versions abroad, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Switzerland and Venezuela.

Hot Seat formatEdit

In November 2008, the Norwegian version modified the show format under the title of "Hot Seat". In this variation of the game, six contestants took part, with each taking it in turns to answer questions and build up their prize fund. Utilising the time limit format introduced in the US version, this variation on the format granted a contestant the right to pass the question on to another player, who cannot pass it on themselves, while eliminating both the option of walking away from a question, and the use of lifelines. If a contestant cannot pass on or correctly answer a question, they are eliminated, and the highest cash value they made is removed. The game ends when all contestants are eliminated or the question for the highest cash value is answered – if a contestant who answers the final question gives a correct answer, they win that prize; otherwise, the last contestant to be eliminated receives a small prize if they reach the fifth question safety net. This format was later introduced to various markets over the course of a four year-period from 2009 to 2012, including Italy, Hungary, Spain, Vietnam,[15] Indonesia, Australia, and Chile.[16]

In 2009, Australia's version was modified to use the Norwegian's Hot Seat format. In 2017, as part of new modification to the format, the game incorporated the use of the Fastest Finger First round, with the winner able to select a lifeline, out of three that the show provided. or to keep a check for a AU$1,000.


During a standard play of the game, a contestant is given a series of lifelines to aid them with difficult questions. In the standard format, a contestant has access to three lifelines – the contents can use each only once per game, but can use more than one on a single question. The standard lifelines used in the original format of the game show include:

  • Ask the Audience: the audience takes voting pads attached to their seats and votes for the answer that they believe is correct. The computer tallies the results and displays them as percentages to the contestant.
  • 50:50: the game's computer eliminates two wrong answers from the current question, leaving behind the correct answer and one incorrect answer. From 2000, the selection of two incorrect answers were random.
  • Phone a Friend: the contestant is connected with a friend over a phone line and is given 30 seconds to read the question and answers and solicit assistance. The time begins as soon as the contestant starts reading the question.

In the US, "Ask the Audience" and "Phone a Friend" had corporate sponsorship at different periods. The original AT&T sponsored "Phone-a-Friend" during the original ABC primetime show and the syndicated version's first season; the current AT&T sponsored the 2009 primetime episodes. From 2004 to 2006, AOL sponsored "Ask the Audience" and allowed users of Instant Messenger to participate in the lifeline by adding the screen name MillionaireIM to their contact list. When a contestant used the lifeline during the show, users would receive an instant message with the question and the four possible answers and would vote for the correct answer. The computer would tally these results alongside the results from the studio audience.[17]

Contestants pre-select multiple friends for "Phone a Friend," and as soon as the contestant begins to play, producers alert the friends and ask them to keep their phone lines free and await three rings before answering.[18] On 11 January 2010, the US version eliminated the use of "Phone a Friend" in response to an increasing trend of contestants' friends using web search engines and other Internet resources to assist them during the calls. Producers came to feel that the lifeline was giving contestants who had friends with Internet access an unfair advantage, and they also believed it was contrary to the original intent of the lifeline, by which friends provided assistance based on what they already knew.[19]

During tapings of the current British version, security personnel from the production office stay with contestants' friends at their homes to ensure integrity. During The People Play specials in 2012 and 2013, friends traveled to the studio and stayed backstage. When a contestant used the lifeline, the friend they called appeared on a monitor in the studio, and both the friend and contestant were able to see and communicate with each other.[20][21]

Unique lifelinesEdit

During the course of the game show's history, there were a number of unique lifeline additions in various versions of the programme:

  • Switch the Question – Used in the US version between 2004 and 2008, and in the UK original during celebrity specials between 2002–03 and standard episode between 2010–14, this lifeline became available after a contestant answered the tenth question of the game. The computer replaced the current question with another of the same difficulty. The contestant could not reinstate any lifelines used on the original question.[11] A variation of this lifeline for the US version, called "Cut the Question", was brought into use in 2014 for a week-long run of special episodes that featured child contestants, in which it could only be used within the first ten questions.
  • Double Dip – One of two lifelines created for the Super Millionaire spin-off of the US version. When used, this lifeline allowed contestants to make two guesses at a question, but forbade them from using any other lifelines they had left or from walking away. If the contestant first used 50:50 and then used Double Dip on the same question, it would guarantee them the correct answer. When the standard US format incorporated a time limit on questions, the show retired 50:50 and replaced it with Double Dip.[11] This lifeline was also used in the Russian version (without a clock format) but did not replace 50:50.[22]
  • Three Wise Men – The other lifeline created for the Super Millionaire. When chosen, a sequestered panel of three experts (chosen by the producers) appears via face-to-face audio and video feed to provide assistance. Like "Phone a Friend," this lifeline incorporated a 30-second time limit for its use. This lifeline was also used in the Russian version between 2006 and 2008 but did not feature experts.
  • Ask the Expert – Inspired by "Three Wise Men," this lifeline provided the contestant with one person, an expert selected for them, to help them with the question. Unlike its predecessor, this lifeline had no time limit on its use, but was only available after the fifth question;[23] after "Phone a Friend" was removed in 2010, it was made readily available at any time in the game. In the US version, the lifeline was sponsored by Skype for its live audio and video feeds.[23] In the Hong Kong edition, it replaced the "Phone a Friend" lifeline for one-off special in 2001 and for two celebrity specials in 2018, though with the celebrity contestants able to ask a panel of experts for help, present in the audience, all of whom had the question and possible answers visible to them.
  • Ask One of the Audience – Used in the German version of the show, this lifeline was designed for use as part of its "Risk Mode" format. When used, the contestant selects someone from the audience, whereupon the host rereads the question and the possible answers and asks them to choose one. If the contestant goes for the answer they chose and it proves correct, the audience member is given a small cash prize in return. This lifeline was implemented as part of the Costa Rican version, but made available after passing the first safety net.
  • Ask Three of the Audiences – Used in the Vietnamese version of the show, this lifeline was designed for use as part of its Original format. When used, the contestant selects three from the audiences, whereupon the host rereads the question and the possible answers and asks them to choose one. If the contestant goes for the answer they chose and it proves to be correct, the audience members are given a small cash prize in return (600000 ₫ divided to members that answered correctly in the 3 audiences). This lifeline was implemented as part of the Vietnamese version, but made available after passing the first safety net. In the Philippine version, the lifeline is called People Speak, which can be used at any point in the game.
  • Jump the Question – Used in the US version of the show, as part of the "Shuffle Format", from the start of the ninth season to the end of thirteenth season. When used, prior to giving a final answer, a contestant would skip the current question and move on to the next one, but would earn no money from the question they skipped; the lifeline could not be used if they have reached the final question. Unlike other lifelines, it could be used twice during a game, except for the thirteenth season – the introduction of "Plus One" led to the lifeline being modified as a result. The lifeline was removed following the 2014–15 season.
  • Crystal Ball – Used in the US version of the show, as part of specially designated weeks that used the "Shuffle Format". When used during the first round, the contestant is allowed to see the cash amount that is designated to the question they are currently on.[24]
  • +1 – Used in the US version of the show from 2015 to 2019. Based on "Ask One of the Audience", the lifeline allows a contestant to invite on a friend from the audience to come and help them answer the question. There is no time limit, but after that question has been answered the friend has to return to the audience.
  • Ask the Host – Used in the 20th anniversary of the British original, the French revival, and the Italian revival. When used by the contestant, the host uses their knowledge of a question's subject, gives their thoughts about the question, and tries to assist them with finding the correct answer out of the choices given. The lifeline features no time limit, and the host reassures all they have no connection to the outside world and receive the question and possible answers for it at the same time as the contestant, and thus have no knowledge of what the correct answer is.

Top prize winnersEdit

Out of all contestants that have played the game, few have been able to win the top prize on any international version of the show. The first was John Carpenter, who won the top prize on the U.S. version on 19 November 1999. Carpenter did not use a lifeline until the final question, using his Phone-a-Friend not for help but to call his father to tell him he was about to win the million.[25]

Other notable top prize winners include Judith Keppel, the first winner of the UK version;[26] Kevin Olmstead from the U.S. version, who won a progressive jackpot of $2.18 million;[27] Martin Flood from the Australian version, who was investigated by producers after suspicions that he had cheated, much like Charles Ingram, but was later cleared;[28] and Sushil Kumar from the Indian version, who is often referred to in Western media as the "real-life Slumdog Millionaire".[29][30][31][32][33]

Original versionEdit

Chris Tarrant was host of the original British version, from its debut in September 1998, until its final episode in February 2014

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? debuted in Britain on 4 September 1998, with episodes broadcast on the ITV network. When it began airing, the show was hosted by Chris Tarrant, and became an instant hit – at its peak in 1999, one edition of the show was watched by over 19 million viewers.[34] While most of the contestants were predominantly members of the general public who had applied to take part, the show later featured special celebrity editions during its later years, often coinciding with holidays and special events.

On 22 October 2013, Tarrant decided to quit the show after hosting it for 15 years. His decision led ITV to subsequently make plans to cancel the programme at the end of his contract, with no further specials being made other than those that were already planned.[35][36] Tarrant's final episode was a special clip show entitled "Chris' Final Answer", which aired on 11 February 2014.[37]

Four years later, ITV revived the programme for a special 7-episode series, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the British original.[38] This series of special episodes was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson and aired every evening between 6 and 11 May 2018. The revival received mostly positive reviews from critics and fans, and, as well as high viewing figures, led to ITV renewing the show for another series with Clarkson returning as host.[39]

International versionsEdit

Since the British original debuted in 1998, several different versions of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? have been created across the world, including Australia, the United States, and India. In total over 100 different international variations have been made.[40]


On 18 April 1999, Nine Network launched an Australian version of the game show for its viewers. This version ran until its final episode, aired on 3 April 2006.[41] After the first version ended, a second version was created, running for six episodes across October and November 2007,[42] before a third version, entitled Millionaire Hot Seat, made its debut on 20 April 2009.[43][44] The original version was hosted by Eddie McGuire, until he was forced to sacrifice his on-air commitments upon being made the CEO of the network;[45] after his resignation from this role,[46] he resumed his duties as host of subsequent versions of the programme.

United StatesEdit

On 16 August 1999, ABC launched an American version of the game show for its primetime viewers. Hosted by Regis Philbin,[47] it proved to be a ratings success, becoming the highest-rated television show during the 1999–2000 season, with its average audience figures reaching approximately 29 million viewers.[48] However, ABC overexposed the series, causing viewers figures to drop.[49] This version was cancelled as a result, with its final episode aired on 27 June 2002.[50] On 16 September 2002, Meredith Vieira launched a daily syndicated version of the programme,[51] in which she presided as host for 11 seasons until May 2013.[52] After her departure, the show was hosted by Cedric the Entertainer in 2013,[53] and Terry Crews in 2014,[54] before Chris Harrison took full hosting responsibilities in Autumn 2015. On 17 May 2019, the American version was canceled after a total of 20 seasons encompassing both primetime and first-run syndication; the final episode of the series would air on 31 May. However, ABC reversed the cancellation of the program on 8 January 2020, and announced plans for a twenty-first season consisting of eight episodes to be presented by Jimmy Kimmel starting 8 April.[55]


On 1 October 1999, NTV launched a Russian version the game show, entitled О, счастливчик! ("Oh, lucky man!!!"). This version ran until its final episode on 28 January 2001,[56] whereupon a few weeks later it was relaunched under the Russian translation of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, on Channel One. The relaunched version was hosted by Maxim Galkin until 2008, when he was replaced as host by Dmitry Dibrov after that.[57]


On 3 July 2000, an Indian version of the game show was launched. The show was hosted by Amitabh Bachchan in his first appearance on Indian television,[58] and received additional seasons in 2005–06,[59] 2007, and then every year since 2010.[60] Subsequent Indian versions were also made, including one on 9 April 2012 entitled Ningalkkum Aakaam Kodeeshwaran, and hosted by Suresh Gopi.[61] The original Indian version became immortalised in 2008, within the plot of Danny Boyle's award-winning drama film Slumdog Millionaire,[62] adapted from the 2005 Indian novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup.[63][64]

Sri LankaEdit

On September 18, 2010 a Sinhalese version called, "Obada lakshapathi mamada lakshapathi"(ඔබද ලක්ෂපති මමද ලක්ෂපති) was launched by Sirasa TV of Capital Maharaja Television Network. Since then, it has grown its popularity immensely through local audiences. It is presented by Chandana Suriyabandara, a senior commentator in Sri Lanka. It offers 2 million rupees (Sri Lankan rupees-LKR) as the ultimate prize.


In 2000, a Filipino version of the game show was launched by the government-sequestered Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation. Hosted by Christopher de Leon, and produced by Viva Television,[65][66] it ran for two years before being axed. On 23 May 2009, the show was relaunched on TV5,[67] with Vic Sotto as the new host.[68][69] The relaunched version was aired until 7 October 2012, when it was replaced by the Philippine version of The Million Pound Drop Live, but returned the following year on 15 September 2013, following the success of Talentadong Pinoy that year.


It was first launched by Endemol (until 2011) on Canale 5 with the name “Chi vuol essere miliardario?”. In 2001, it changed its name to “Chi vuol essere milionario?” after that Italian Lira was replaced with the Euro. In 2018 it broadcast four special episodes for the 20th anniversary, followed by another eight special episodes in 2019[70] but the new season is produced by Fremantle Italia's unit Wavy. The host was Gerry Scotti for every edition from 2000 to 2011 and for the 20th anniversary special edition.


Ko Banchha Crorepati (Who Wants to be a Millionaire; also simply known as KBC Nepal, Nepali: को बन्छ करोडपति) is a Nepali television game show based on the British program Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. The show first premiered on 2 February 2019 on AP1 Television and will run for 52 episodes. It is hosted by Rajesh Hamal and produced by SRBN Media Pvt. Ltd. Contestants can win a huge cash prize up to 1 crore (10 million) Nepali rupees.

Other versionsEdit

Other notable versions created in other countries, include the following:



The musical score most commonly associated with the franchise was composed by father-and-son duo Keith and Matthew Strachan. The Strachans' score provides drama and tension, and unlike older game show musical scores, Millionaire's musical score was created to feature music playing almost throughout the entire show. The Strachans' main Millionaire theme song takes inspiration from the "Mars" movement of Gustav Holst's The Planets, and their cues from the 6th/3rd to 10th/7th question, and then from the 11th/8th question onwards, take the pitch up a semitone for each subsequent question, in order to increase tension as the contestant progressed through the game.[77] On Game Show Network (GSN)'s Gameshow Hall of Fame special, the narrator described the Strachan tracks as "mimicking the sound of a beating heart", and stated that as the contestant works their way up the money ladder, the music is "perfectly in tune with their ever-increasing pulse".[2]

The Strachans' Millionaire soundtrack was honoured by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers with numerous awards, the earliest of them awarded in 2000.[77] The original music cues were given minor rearrangements for the U.S. version's clock format in 2008; for example, the question cues were synced to the "ticking" sounds of the game clock. Even later, the Strachan score was removed from the U.S. version altogether for the introduction of the shuffle format in 2010, in favour of a new musical score with cues written by Jeff Lippencott and Mark T. Williams, co-founders of the Los Angeles-based company Ah2 Music.[78]


TV studio of ¿Quién quiere ser millonario?, the Salvadorian version of the show.

The basic set design used in the Millionaire franchise was conceived by British production designer Andy Walmsley, and is the most reproduced scenic design in television history.[6] Unlike older game shows whose sets are or were designed to make the contestant(s) feel at ease, Millionaire's set was designed to make the contestant feel uncomfortable, so that the programme feels more like a movie thriller than a typical quiz show.[2] The floor is made of Plexiglas[6] beneath which lies a huge dish covered in mirror paper.[2] The main game typically has the contestant and host sit in "Hot Seats",[2] which are slightly-modified, 3 foot (0.91 m)-high Pietranera Arco All chairs situated in the centre of the stage; an LG computer monitor directly facing each seat displays questions and other pertinent information.

The lighting system is programmed to darken the set as the contestant progresses further into the game. There are also spotlights situated at the bottom of the set area that zoom down on the contestant when they answer a major question; to increase the visibility of the light beams emitted by such spotlights, oil is vaporised, creating a haze effect. Media scholar Dr. Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University, stated that the show's lighting system made the contestant feel as though they were outside a prison while an escape was in progress.[2]

When the U.S. Millionaire introduced its shuffle format, the Hot Seats and corresponding monitors were replaced with a single podium and as a result, the contestant and host stand throughout the game and are also able to walk around the stage. According to Vieira, the Hot Seat was removed because it was decided that the seat, which was originally intended to make the contestant feel nervous, actually ended up having contestants feel so comfortable in it that it did not service the production team any longer.[79] Also, two video screens were installed–one that displays the current question in play, and another that displays the contestant's cumulative total and progress during the game. In September 2012, the redesigned set was improved with a modernised look and feel, in order to take into account the show's transition to high-definition broadcasting, which had just come about the previous year. The two video screens were replaced with two larger ones, having twice as many projectors as the previous screens; the previous contestant podium was replaced with a new one; and light-emitting diode (LED) technology was integrated into the lighting system to give the lights more vivid colours and the set and gameplay experience a more intimate feel.[80]


Millionaire has made catchphrases out of several lines used on the show. The most well-known of these catchphrases is the host's question "Is that your final answer?", asked whenever a contestant's answer needs to be verified.[81] The question is asked because the rules require that the contestants must clearly indicate their choices before they are made official, the nature of the game allowing them to ponder the options before committing to an answer. Regularly on tier-three questions, a dramatic pause occurs between the contestant's statement of their answer and the host's acknowledgement of whether or not it is correct.

Many parodies of Millionaire have capitalised on the "final answer" catchphrase. In the United States, the phrase was popularised by Philbin during his tenure as the host of that country's version,[50] to the extent that TV Land listed it in its special 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases, which aired in 2006.[82]

On the Australian versions, McGuire replaces the phrase with "Lock it in?"; likewise, the Indian version's hosts have used varying "lock" catchphrases. There are also a number of other non-English versions of Millionaire where the host does not ask "[Is that your] final answer?" or a literal translation thereof.[83] Besides the "final answer" question, other catchphrases used on the show include the contestants' requests to use lifelines, such as "I'd like to phone a friend"; and a line that Tarrant spoke whenever a contestant was struggling with a particular question, "Some questions are only easy if you know the answer."[81]


Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has been credited with single-handedly reviving interest in, and breaking new ground for, the television game show.[2] It revolutionised the look and feel of game shows with its unique lighting system, dramatic music cues, and futuristic set. The show also became one of the most popular game shows in television history, and is credited by some with paving the way for the phenomenon of reality programming.[2]

Awards, accolades and honoursEdit

In 2000, the British Film Institute honoured the UK version of Millionaire by ranking it number 23 on its "BFI TV 100" list, which compiled what British television industry professionals believed were the greatest programmes to have ever originated from that country.[84] The UK Millionaire also won the 1999 British Academy Television Award for Best Entertainment Programme, and four National Television Awards for Most Popular Quiz Programme from 2002 to 2005.

The original primetime version of the U.S. Millionaire won two Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show in 2000 and 2001. Philbin was honoured with a Daytime Emmy in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host in 2001, while Vieira received one in 2005 and another in 2009, making her the second woman to win an Emmy Award for hosting a game show, and the first to win multiple times.[85] TV Guide ranked the U.S. Millionaire No. 7 on its 2001 list of the 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time,[86] and later ranked it No. 6 on its 2013 "60 Greatest Game Shows" list.[87] GSN ranked Millionaire No. 5 on its August 2006 list of the 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time,[88] and later honoured the show in January 2007 on its first, and so far only, Gameshow Hall of Fame special.[2]

Charles Ingram cheating scandalEdit

Charles Ingram became infamous for cheating on the programme with a method that staff had not anticipated

Although the show employed many ways of preventing cheating, no one working on the British original was prepared for a unique style employed by one contestant – British Army Major Charles Ingram. In September 2001, Ingram took part in the game show for two days, joined by his wife Diana and college lecturer Tecwen Whittock. After his first day, he devised a plan to help him win the £1 million cash prize the following day – for each question he faced, Ingram would read out the answers for a question, whereupon Whittock, who sat amongst the contestants who would play Fastest Finger First, would cough whenever the correct answer was spoken out. As Ingram drew close to the top prize, production staff backstage became suspicious over the amount of back noise Whittock was creating with his coughing. In addition, they also became concerned that Ingram showed no sign of having specialist knowledge on any subject he faced in his questions, in contrast to previous contestants. After the episode had been filmed, an investigation was ordered. Ingram was informed that he was suspected of cheating, and thus was not allowed to take his winnings; his reaction to this news further justified suspicions he had cheated. When the footage was reviewed, staff began to notice the pattern between Whittock's coughing and Ingram's behaviour when he chose an answer. After suspending the broadcast of both episodes Ingram featured in, police were called in to investigate the matter further.

In April 2003, Ingram, Diana, and Whittock were taken to court on the charge of using fraudulent means to win the top prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. During the trial, the defence claimed that Whittock had simply suffered from allergies during recording of the second episode, but the prosecution refuted this by revealing footage that showed his coughing stopped, upon Ingram leaving the set and Whittock subsequently taking his turn on the main game. The trial concluded with all three being found guilty and receiving suspended sentences.[89] After the trial, ITV aired a documentary about the scandal, along with Ingram's entire game, complete with Whittock's coughing sounds. As a joke, Benylin cough syrup paid to have the first commercial shown during the programme's commercial break.[90]

Other mediaEdit


Three board game adaptations of the UK Millionaire were released by Upstarts in 1998, and a junior edition recommended for younger players was introduced in 2001. The U.S. version also saw two board games of its own, released by Pressman Toy Corporation in 2000.[91][92] Other Millionaire board games have included a game based on the Australian version's Hot Seat format, which was released by UGames;[93] a game based on the Italian version released by Hasbro;[94] and a game based on the French version which was released by TF1's games division.[95]

An electronic tabletop version of the game was released by Tiger Electronics in 2000.[96] Six different DVD games based on the UK Millionaire, featuring Tarrant's likeness and voice, were released by Zoo Digital Publishing[97] and Universal Studios Home Entertainment between 2002 and 2008. In 2008, Imagination Games released a DVD game based on the U.S. version, based on the 2004–08 format and coming complete with Vieira's likeness and voice,[98] as well as a quiz book[99] and a 2009 desktop calendar.[100]

The UK Millionaire saw five video game adaptations for personal computers and Sony's PlayStation consoles, produced by Hothouse Creations and Eidos Interactive. Between 1999 and 2001, Jellyvision produced five games based on the U.S. network version for PCs and the PlayStation, all of them featuring Philbin's likeness and voice. The first of these adaptations was published by Disney Interactive, while the later four were published by Buena Vista Interactive which had just been spun off from DI when it reestablished itself in attempts to diversify its portfolio. Of the five games, three featured general trivia questions,[101][102][103] one was sports-themed,[104] and another was a "Kids Edition" featuring easier questions.[105] Two additional U.S. Millionaire games were released by Ludia in conjunction with Ubisoft in 2010 and 2011; the first of these was a game for Nintendo's Wii console and DS handheld system based on the 2008–10 clock format,[106] with the Wii version offered on the show as a consolation prize to audience contestants during the 2010–11 season. The second, for Microsoft's Xbox 360, was based on the shuffle format[107] and was offered as a consolation prize during the next season (2011–12).

Ludia also made a Facebook game based on Millionaire available to players in North America from 2011 to 2016. This game featured an altered version of the shuffle format, condensing the number of questions to twelve—eight in round one and four in round two. Contestants competed against eight other Millionaire fans in round one, with the top three playing round two alone. There was no "final answer" rule; the contestant's responses were automatically locked in. Answering a question correctly earned a contestant the value of that question, multiplied by the number of people who responded incorrectly. Contestants were allowed to use two of their Facebook friends as Jump the Question lifelines in round one, and to use the Ask the Audience lifeline in round two to invite up to 50 such friends of theirs to answer a question for a portion of the prize money of the current question.[108]

Disney Parks attractionEdit

The building housing the California version after its 2004 closure

A theme park attraction based on the show, known as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It!, appeared at Disney's Hollywood Studios (when it was known as Disney-MGM Studios) at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California. Both the Florida and California Play It! attractions opened in 2001; the California version closed in 2004,[109] and the Florida version closed in 2006 and was replaced by Toy Story Midway Mania!

The format in the Play It! attraction was very similar to that of the television show that inspired it. When a show started, a "Fastest Finger" question was given, and the audience was asked to put the four answers in order; the person with the fastest time was the first contestant in the Hot Seat for that show. However, the main game had some differences: for example, contestants competed for points rather than dollars, the questions were set to time limits, and the Phone-a-Friend lifeline became Phone a Complete Stranger which connected the contestant to a Disney cast member outside the attraction's theatre who would find a guest to help. After the contestant's game was over, they were awarded anything from a collectible pin, to clothing, to a Millionaire CD game, to a 3-night Disney Cruise.[110]


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External linksEdit

Original United Kingdom version
Internet Movie Database pages