"The Millionaire" is a show unfairly forgotten, today; as popular in it's time as "Queen for a Day", "Private Secretary", and "Our Miss Brooks", it offered a premise that would serve as an inspiration for series as varied as "Magnum P.I,", "Fantasy Island", "Stairway to Heaven", and the current 'Reality TV' craze; top-notch casts in half-hour morality tales; and 'common sense' resolutions that would keep it an audience favorite for five seasons.
Produced for CBS by Don Fedderson Productions (who would also give America "My Three Sons" and "Family Affair"), an unseen millionaire (with obviously WAY too much free time), John Beresford Tipton (voiced by one of TV and film's best-known voice actors, Paul Frees), would dispatch his associate, the ever put-upon Michael Anthony (Marvin Miller, in his best-known role), carrying a tax-free cashier's check for a million dollars, made out to 'random' individuals, on condition that they never attempt to discover who sent it, or reveal where the money came from, except to their husband or wife.
With the frequently bemused Anthony as an observer, the new millionaires would run the gamut of possible scenarios, discovering, ultimately, that money can't buy happiness, but CAN provide a half-hour of frequently engrossing drama. Each episode would generally end with Anthony summarizing the recipient's 'lesson learned' to a satisfied Tipton.
With casts often featuring future 'stars', the series was wise without ever being overly 'preachy', with good direction and strong production values. Frequently lampooned by comedy shows of the period, "The Millionaire" ultimately would have the last laugh, outlasting most of them.
While an attempt to 'reinvent' the show would fail, in 1978, the original certainly qualifies as a TV 'classic'...
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