Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (1998– )

TV Series  -   -  Game-Show
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The original British version of the quiz show that's become a worldwide hit. Host Chris Tarrant asks hopeful contestants a series of questions, each more difficult than the last. As the ... See full summary »

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Chris Tarrant ...
 Himself - Host (58 episodes, 1998-2014)
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The original British version of the quiz show that's become a worldwide hit. Host Chris Tarrant asks hopeful contestants a series of questions, each more difficult than the last. As the questions get harder, the prize money increases, until at last the lucky (or smart) contestant reaches the million-pound prize. Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>

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4 September 1998 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Cash Mountain  »

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The hit show was originally going to be called "Cash Mountain". See more »

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Referenced in The Big Fat Quiz of the Year (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

A good formula but they killed the goose that laid the golden eggs
10 July 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

From a group of ten contestants, the quickest to answer a simple question is selected to come to the middle of the studio and play for a million pounds. Starting off with a question worth £100 the money doubles (more or less) with each question – but they also get progressively harder and harder. If the contestant gets a question wrong he drops back down to either £1000 or £32000, depending on which he has passed, however to help him he can select 50/50 (two of the four answers disappear), ask the audience (the audience chose the answer for him in percentage terms) or phone a friend (the contestant can ring someone to ask him the question). As if that wasn't tense enough, Chris Tarrant never lets it lie for a second.

I'm not a big fan of this show because, like many viewers I just saw it too many times. However, at its peak it was the show everyone wanted to be on and was the one everyone watched. The questions start with the obvious and build to the increasingly more difficult and the TV audience generally start out going 'well durr' before then entering the stage where they shout the right answer at the telly and then eventually taking guesses and muttering 'don't risk it, don't risk it' like some sort of mantra under their breath. It makes for riveting viewing even if the first 4 or 5 questions are always pretty dull. The formula is simple but the UK presenter Chris Tarrant is responsible for making it as successful as it was.

Tarrant may be a little smug for my personal tastes but here he found a vehicle that he could use his smarmy character to good effect. 'Are you sure' he repeatedly asks with a rather self-satisfied smirk on his face while the contestants suddenly suffer a crises of confidence and the audience holds its breath. Combined with the atmospheric music, low lighting and the constant heartbeat effect it made it an enjoyably tense quiz show even if it was hardly anything like Mastermind in terms of intellect. However, when ITV found they had a hit on their hands they made the decision to ride it as hard as they possibly could and in fairness I suppose that this was the best decision in the short term. It would be off for a few months while people rang in and sponsors jockeyed for position and then it would be everywhere for a few months – on almost every night of the week, on several times a day at Christmas time etc and this continued for quite a while. But then viewers started to get too used to the formula and turned off. ITV countered with the twists of couples taking part, celebrities, father/son etc but eventually they dropped it down into a teatime slot and now it appears to occasionally turn up on a Saturday afternoon (but I think it is all repeats). I can understand why ITV did this – it gave them a sudden massive boost in the ratings, they were selling advertising space for as high a price as they could and it looked like it would never end – and then it did.

Overall this is not a great quiz show. The questions are not so hard that most people with a good general knowledge couldn't get to £32k without too much stress and really it is only the atmosphere created by the music, lighting and the host that really made this as successful as it was. It was easy to veg in front of this show and think 'I could do that' and also enjoy seeing people get stressed and a) risk it all and win, b) risk it all and lose, c) just take the money or d) cheat and get taken to court! Fun but basically killed off by ITV chasing as much cash as it could get as quickly as possible.


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