Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (US game show)
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|Who Wants to Be a Millionaire|
|Created by||Mike Whitehill|
|Presented by||Regis Philbin (1999–2002; 2009) (ABC)|
Meredith Vieira (2002–present) (Syndicated)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||ABC: 374 (As of Aug. 23, 2009)|
|Running time||60 minutes (1999–2002, 2009)|
30 minutes (2002–Present)
|Original channel||ABC (1999–2002, 2009)|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original run||August 16, 1999 – June 27, 2002|
September 16, 2002 – Present
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (also known as Millionaire) is a television game show which offers a maximum prize of $1,000,000 (originally lump sum; now annuitized) for correctly answering 15 successive multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty. The show is based on and follows the same general format of the original version of the show from the United Kingdom, and is now part of the international Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? franchise.
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.
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. 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.
Preliminary Fastest Finger round
On prime time episodes, 10 contestants had to compete for the right to play the main game. To earn the right to play, the contestants would have to successfully complete a timed task faster than any other player. Every Fastest Finger question had one goal: place four items in the correct order using four lettered keys (A, B, C, D) and pressing the OK key to confirm the answer given or pressing the Delete key to start over. Contestants had 20 seconds to complete the task at hand.
The player with the correct order and in the fastest time of all the contestants would earn the right to play the main game. The remaining contestants, if time permitted, would play another Fastest Finger after the hot seat was empty.
If no one got the task right, they would have to repeat the round with another task. In case of a tie, a tie breaker round would be run for those contestants.
An example of a Fastest Finger task would be the following below:
|Put these tabloid-style White House couples in the order in which they occupied the White House, starting with the earliest.|
|• A: Abrahary||• B: Billary|
|• C: Frankleanor||• D: Roncy|
|Correct order: ACDB|
The Fastest Finger round has been eliminated from the syndicated series. Contestants immediately take the hot seat.
The world record for the shortest amount of time that a contestant has taken to come up with the right order (across all international versions of the show) is 0.87 seconds, which was set on January 12, 2000 (episode 35) by a contestant named Shannon McGehee who correctly sorted the order of four of Elizabeth Taylor's husbands.
Once a contestant gets into the hot seat, the goal is to answer 15 multiple-choice questions correctly from progressively harder sets of questions. Each question is worth a specified amount of money, and the contestant has the option of "walking away" and not giving an answer after being presented with the question. In this case, their game ends and the contestant is awarded the amount of money they have earned for their previous correct answer. The amounts are not cumulative.
Questions 5 and 10 act as "milestones". Upon answering these questions correctly, the contestant is guaranteed at least that amount of prize money (respectively, $5,000/$25,000). If the contestant gives a wrong answer to any subsequent question, their game is over and their winnings will drop down to the last milestone achieved. (As such, questions 6 and 11 are considered "free guesses" because there are no winnings to be lost in the event the contestant answers them incorrectly.) If the contestant answers a question incorrectly before reaching the first milestone, he/she leaves with nothing ($0).
Starting with Season 7 of the current syndicated version (2008–09, debuted on September 8, 2008), the graphics were updated, including a new "Millionaire Menu" that shows categories for the contestant’s entire ladder of 15 questions, which are revealed at the beginning of the game and are always visible to the player.
Also starting in Season 7, contestants have time limits for each question: 15 seconds each for questions 1–5, 30 seconds each for questions 6–10, and 45 seconds each for questions 11–14. Contestants who reach the 15th and final question receive 45 seconds for that question plus all unused "banked time" from the previous 14 questions. Usage of lifelines temporarily pauses the clock while the lifelines are played. Contestants who exceed the time limit on a given question without giving a "final answer" are forced to walk away with whatever winnings they have at that point, with one exception: if a contestant who uses the "Double Dip" lifeline runs out of time before making his second guess, it is considered an incorrect answer and the contestant will lose all winnings down to the last milestone achieved.
Season 8 saw a change to the money chain. This took effect after the 9th contestant from the 2009 prime time run played.
|Amount Lost if|
|Maximum Time Limit|
|15||$1,000,000||$500,000||$25,000||$475,000||45 + Banked Time|
Second Board (2004-2009)
|Amount Lost if|
Original Board (1999-2004)
|Amount Lost if|
Contestants are given a series of lifelines to aid them with questions they are finding difficult. They can use as many lifelines as desired per question, but each lifeline can only be used once throughout the entire course of gameplay. Three lifelines are traditionally available from the start of the game. Depending on the format of the show, additional lifelines may become available after correctly answering the 5th or 10th question.
In the timed format of the show, the game clock is frozen when a lifeline is used; once the lifeline is completed, the clock continues from where it was stopped.
- Ask The Audience: The contestant asks audience members to use touch pads to designate what they believe the correct answer to be. Poll results are displayed to the contestant in percentage format. For a brief time, a separate poll showed how AOL Instant-Message users responded to the same question. With the removal of "Phone-A-Friend", it is the only remaining original lifeline from the show's beginning.
- Double Dip: Previously used on Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire, this lifeline allows the player to make two guesses at the question; however, once used, the contestant is committed to playing out the question and cannot walk away or use any further lifelines. This lifeline is available throughout the game (unlike Super Millionaire, in which it was only available after the contestant correctly answered question 10 for $100,000). The clock is frozen until contestants give their first answer, but this answer must be given right away. If that answer is wrong, the clock resumes for their second answer. A second incorrect answer (or failure to give a second answer before time expires) will result in a loss and the contestant's winnings dropping back down to the last milestone achieved.
- Ask the Expert: Similar to the Three Wise Men lifeline from Super Millionaire, this lifeline allows the contestant to call an "expert" via live face-to-face audio and video connection sponsored by Skype. The expert can be anyone, and has sometimes been a celebrity, or a previous Millionaire contestant who did well. Past experts have included Bill Nye, Ogi Ogas, Alan Thicke, Jay Thomas, and Ken Jennings. The lifeline is only available once the contestant has correctly answered the first five questions; however after the removal of Phone-a-Friend, Ask the Expert is available throughout the whole game. Unlike the Three Wise Men lifeline, there is no set time limit, and the contestant and expert are allowed to discuss the question together. However, if a video link to the expert is unavailable, the expert joins the show via phone instead.
- 50:50 (1999–2008): The computer eliminated two incorrect answers, leaving only one incorrect answer and the correct answer. Still used on most other international versions. Depending on the format, the two removed answers were either randomly chosen or predetermined.
- Switch the Question (2004–2008): This lifeline was earned upon answering the 10th question. The computer replaced, at the contestant's request, one question with another of the same monetary value. Any lifelines used on the original question prior to the switching were not reinstated.
- Phone-A-Friend (1999-2010): Contestant could call one of up to three pre-arranged friends, who all had to provide their phone numbers (and, beginning in September 2008, their pictures) in advance. The contestant had 30 seconds to read the question and answer choices to the friend, who then had the remaining time to offer their input to the contestant. While this lifeline is still used on most other international versions, it was removed during Regis Philbin-hosted shows in December 2009 (taped out of order), and was removed permanently in January 2010. It has been explained that the lifeline was removed because of the increased usage of internet search engines such as Google by the contestant's friends, although the decision and the reason has been widely criticized by fans.
By January 2001, the U.S. edition of the show struggled from not having a $1 million winner for over five months, so producers instituted a one-time skins game-type bonus of $10,000 per episode retroactive from the last episode the top prize was awarded. The bonus started at $1,710,000 ($10,000 multiplied by 71 shows without a millionaire) and increased by $10,000 in the next hour show that was not won. With this bonus instituted, the top prize grew to $2 million (over 100 shows), making the first attempt at the million dollar question (by Gary Gambino in March 2001) actually worth twice its value. Eventually, the bonus grew to $2.18 million, when Kevin Olmstead won the eventual prize on April 10, 2001. However, two such prizes were awarded due to an error in a question during the time the bonus was in place, when Ed Toutant won the top prize and the bonus was at $860,000 on January 31, 2001. When he continued in an episode not aired until September 7, 2001, he also answered all 15 of his questions correctly, and was given $1 million and the $860,000 bonus. It has not been reinstated since.
In 2001, contestants (from previous prime time episodes) who missed a question in the first tier and left with no winnings were invited back for a special episode. This has been repeated on the syndicated version as well.
In 2002, unlike the U.K. version where some questions have joke answers, the $100 question always has a joke answer posed by Meredith Vieira as the last answer choice (e.g. "The Popular Children's song It's Raining, It's Pouring mentions an old man doing what?", choice D was "Yelling at Squirrels"). This is a continuation of a gag used in the ABC series, although in that series, the first three questions all had joke answers for the D choice.
The prime time version featured the Fastest Finger preliminary round; however the daytime version does not.
From 1999–2004, the values for questions 9–12 were $16,000, $32,000 (safe), $64,000, $125,000. In late 2004, the Switch the Question lifeline was added once the new, safe, $25,000 level (formerly $32,000) was attained. The values then reached $50,000 and $100,000 before the traditional 13th-level question for $250,000.
The Ask the Audience lifeline was expanded. Instead of just the studio audience giving answers, users of the AOL Instant Messenger could participate as well. If they had asked the screenname MillionaireIM to allow his or her participation, then they would receive an instant message if a contestant used his or her Ask the Audience lifeline. The message would contain the question and four possible answers, and they would send their answer back. This was the first time in history that the public had been able to interact with a game show while it was being taped. When the tape was shown, the results of the poll would first show the studio audience's response, then the IM users' response. The AIM side of the lifeline failed to work at times. In these instances, the game show's policy was to allow the contestant to only rely on the studio audience's response. The AOL Instant Messenger Ask the Audience lifeline has been suspended as of the fifth season of the syndicated version following the withdrawal of sponsorship of the program by AOL. The AOL Instant Messenger Ask the Audience also made it theoretically possible for potential phone-a-friends to see the question before they were called by the contestant, but it is unknown if this was taken advantage of to any extent.
The eighth season of Millionaire introduced a one-off event called the "Tournament of Ten" (See "Tournament of 10" section below for details) as well as a change to the money chain. The dollar values for the first eight questions have been increased, including the first safe haven being changed from $1,000 to $5,000.
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.
List of Fill-In Hosts
Since 2007, three guest-hosts have appeared in the second half of each season. Guest-hosts usually appear in "theme weeks", beginning with a new contestant and ending with another either walking or missing a question. This is to allow contestants to have the same host throughout their game.
- Al Roker (March 5–9, 2007)
- Tom Bergeron (May 14–18, 2007)
- Tim Vincent (June 25–29, 2007)
- Dave Price (March 3–7, 2008)
- Billy Bush (April 21–25, 2008; was also an expert in Season 7)
- Leeza Gibbons (June 23–27, 2008)
- Cat Deeley (February 16–20, 2009)
- Samantha Harris (May 11–15, 2009)
- Shaun Robinson (June 8–12, 2009)
- Regis Philbin (November 30-December 4, 2009; original network version host)
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.
Ratings and popularity
The prime time version of the show initially drew in up to 30 million viewers a day three times a week, an unheard-of number in modern network television. In the 1999–2000 season, it averaged #1 in the ratings against all other television shows. The next year (2000–2001), it also frequently placed within the top three or top five programs; finishing at #3 in the ratings. However, the show's ratings began to fall during the 2000–2001 season, and by the start of the 2001–2002 season, the ratings were only a fraction of what they had been one year before. ABC's reliance on Millionaire's popularity led to the network's falling quickly from its former spot as the nation's most-watched network.
The show was immensely popular in that one could qualify for the show (for most of the initial run and the two runs of Super Millionaire) by competing in a telephone contest with hopefuls across the country by dialing a toll free number and answering three questions by putting things or events in order by using a telephone keypad, much like the show's Fastest Finger round (callers had 10 seconds to enter the order on a keypad, with any wrong answer ending the game/call). The 10,000–20,000 people who answered all three questions correctly were entered into a random drawing in which approximately 300 people would compete for 10 spots on the show using the same phone quiz method. (For Super Millionaire, it was five questions, with no callback round – all callers successfully completing the five questions picked one tape date, and the players were drawn from that pool for each tape date.) In the days of the network show, contestants were driven or flown in to New York City and put up in a hotel at ABC's expense, except if the contestant is from the New York metropolitan area. The syndicated show no longer does this. The program also had the advantage of immediacy as the program was taped for the following evening's airing.
Episodes of the prime time version have been rerun on GSN since September 2003 (except August 1999 and 2002 shows). Prime time Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is the highest-rated regularly-scheduled program on GSN. GSN began airing the daytime half-hour version on November 10, 2008.
The game itself is still quite popular among trivia enthusiasts, and has also gained a cult following on the internet.
During a week of episodes in Season 6 (November 2007), to celebrate the 1,000th syndicated episode, all contestants that week started with $1,000 (which meant that no contestant could leave with nothing), and only had to answer ten questions to win the $1 million. Also, 20 home viewers each day during that week won $1,000 each.
Eleven contestants to date have correctly answered all 15 questions and have won the top prize of $1,000,000 (9 in the prime time version, 2 in the syndicated version). Only two contestants have won $1,000,000 without answering all 15 questions (one on Super Millionaire, the other in the Tournament of 10). One contestant has answered the $1,000,000 question incorrectly.
Top prize winners on ABC
Nine contestants to date in the prime time version of Millionaire have correctly answered all 15 questions and have won the top prize of $1,000,000 (unless noted).
|John Carpenter||November 19, 1999||- First millionaire in the worldwide Millionaire franchise.|
- Became the all-time American game show winnings leader from 1999–2000 before being eclipsed by Rahim Oberholtzer on Twenty One.
- No lifelines were used during his run; although he used his Phone-a-Friend on the 15th question to inform his father that he would win the top prize, not to obtain assistance.
|Dan Blonsky||January 18, 2000|
|Joe Trela||March 23, 2000||- Was the youngest millionaire on an American game show until Jamie Sadler on Power of 10.|
- Became the first millionaire with all his lifelines exhausted before the top tier of questions ($64,000 – $1,000,000).
|Bob House||June 13, 2000|
|Kim Hunt||July 6, 2000||- Was the first and only top-prize winner to ever achieve a tie during the Fastest Finger round and play another round with the tied contestant.|
|David Goodman||July 11, 2000||- Second contestant to retain all three lifelines for the final question, although all three were used on this question.|
- Youngest winner to date.
|Kevin Olmstead||April 10, 2001||- $2.18 Million top prize.|
- Became the all-time American game show winnings leader from 2000–2004 before being eclipsed by Ken Jennings on Jeopardy!.
|Bernie Cullen||April 15, 2001||- Was a five-time champion on Jeopardy!, winning $63,102.|
|Ed Toutant||September 7, 2001||- $1.86 Million top prize.|
- Most recent top-prize winner in prime time.
- Originally ruled to have answered a $16,000 question incorrectly and left with only $1,000 on January 31, 2001. It was later discovered that there was a mistake in his $16,000 question and was invited back to continue and complete his run.
Top prize winners in Syndication
Two contestants to date in the syndicated version of Millionaire have correctly answered all 15 questions and have won the top prize of $1,000,000. One contestant has won $1,000,000 without answering all 15 questions in the Tournament of 10.
|Name||Date||Total Time for|
|Kevin Smith||February 18, 2003||Not Timed||- First contestant to win $1,000,000 on the syndicated version.|
- Oldest $1,000,000 winner in the show to date.
|Nancy Christy||May 8, 2003||Not Timed||- First and only female contestant so far to win $1,000,000 in the U.S.|
- Last top-prize winner before the Clock Format was adopted in September 2008.
- Second contestant to win $1,000,000 with all lifelines having been exhausted prior to the upper-tier questions.
|Sam Murray||November 20, 2009||3:23 (2:38 banked)||- First contestant to win $1,000,000 under the clock format.|
- Winner of the Tournament of 10, in which he was eighth seed after originally winning $50,000.
- Most-recent top-prize winner in the U.S. version to date.
- Between Nancy Christy's run and the Tournament of 10 finale, the U.S. version suffered a six-year drought of top-prize winners. The closest contestant that would have ended this drought was Ogi Ogas, who had a hunch at choosing what was actually the correct answer, but he decided to walk away. Since Nancy Christy won the million, the Japanese version of Millionaire overtook the U.S. version in producing the most top-prize winners in the entire franchise (35 currently in Japan).
While 13 contestants did win $1,000,000 or more, 27 other contestants did see the 15th question, but decided not to go for it.
|Michael Shutterly||August 25, 1999||- First contestant of the worldwide Millionaire franchise to see the final question.|
- Became the all-time American game show winnings leader before being eclipsed by John Carpenter in November that year, who became the first Millionaire winner worldwide.
|David Fite||January 10, 2000|
|Rob Coughlin||January 23, 2000|
|Stephanie Girardi||February 17, 2000||- First female contestant to win $500,000.|
|Mike Menz||April 27, 2000|
|Drew Carey||May 2000||- Celebrity Edition.|
|Rosie O'Donnell||May 2000||- Celebrity Edition.|
|Tim Shields||May 23, 2000||- Originally claimed to have incorrectly answered a $16,000 question on January 14, 2000. But after a mistake was discovered in the question, he was invited back.|
|Tom O'Brien||June 11, 2000|
|Joe Kelleher||July 23, 2000|
|Phil Gibbons||August 15, 2000|
|Patricia Thompson||November 8, 2000||- Would have won $1,000,000 had she chosen to answer the question.|
|Norm Macdonald||November 12, 2000||- Celebrity Edition.|
- Knew the answer to his $1,000,000 question, but Regis encouraged him to stop due to the money at risk. His answer wound up being correct.
|Justin Ray Castillo||November 26, 2000|
|Jim Matthews||December 6, 2000|
|Gary Gambino||March 1, 2001||- First contestant to see a multi-million dollar question, due to the progressive jackpot at the time. The jackpot was at $2,000,000, exactly double the original top prize.|
|David Stewart||April 1, 2001||- Saw a $2,140,000 question, due to the progressive jackpot at the time.|
|Steve Perry||April 22, 2001||- One of only 3 people to have all lifelines available at the $1,000,000 question.|
|Moe Cain||May 1, 2001||- Would have won $1,000,000 had he chosen to answer the question.|
|Rob & Mary Beth McNally||May 17, 2001||- First and only couple to ever see a $1,000,000 question.|
|Tom Hoobler||June 5, 2001|
|Mary Burke||June 14, 2001||- Would have won $1,000,000 had she chosen to answer the question.|
|Armand Kachigian||May 9, 2003||- First contestant to walk away from the $1,000,000 question on the syndicated version.|
- Because he was the contestant immediantly following Nancy Christy, he had the opportunity to set a Millionaire record for them to be the first "back-to-back millionaires" had he answered his $1,000,000 question correctly.
|Jeff Gross||November 19, 2004||- Also appeared in the British version of the show, in particular the episode in which Charles Ingram cheated all the way to the top prize.|
|Ogi Ogas||November 8, 2006||- Would have won $1,000,000 had he chosen to answer the question.|
|Lyn Payne||November 1, 2007||- Last contestant to see the $1,000,000 question before the Clock Format was adopted in 2008.|
$1,000,000 question incorrect
From 1999–2004, a contestant who answered the $1,000,000 question incorrectly lost $468,000. Since the second safe point was reduced to $25,000 in 2004, a contestant answering the final question incorrectly would thereafter lose $475,000.
|Name||Date||Total Time for|
|Ken Basin||August 23, 2009||4:39 (3:54 banked)||- First and so far the only contestant in the United States to answer the $1,000,000 question incorrectly, losing $475,000.|
- First contestant to see the Million Dollar Question under the new clock format.
$500,000 question incorrect ($218,000/$225,000 loss)
While Ken Basin is currently the only contestant to answer the $1,000,000 question incorrectly, 11 other contestants did answer the 14th question incorrectly.
|Mark McDermott||January 13, 2000||- First contestant to answer the $500,000 question incorrectly.|
|Lawrence Caplan||January 15, 2000|
|Rudy Reber||February 24, 2000|
|Richard Klimkiewicz||March 2, 2000|
|David Duchovny||May 5, 2000||- Celebrity Edition.|
- First and only celebrity to lose $218,000.
|Kati Knudsen||July 30, 2000||- First female contestant to answer the $500,000 question incorrectly.|
|Nick Meyer||August 17, 2000|
|Raymelle Greening||January 28, 2001|
|Bob Edgeworth||October 25, 2002||- First contestant to answer the $500,000 question incorrectly on the syndicated version.|
- Also the first contestant to see the $500,000 question on the syndicated version.
|Rod Martin||June 16, 2003|
|Ava Johnson||December 2, 2004||- First and so far only contestant to lose $225,000|
- First female on the syndicated version to lose on the $500,000 question
While not mentioned in the lists above, there have been 89 contestants who have left with nothing after answering one of the first five questions incorrectly (17 in the prime time version, 71 in the syndicated version, and 1 on Super Millionaire). A few of these contestants were invited back to play again, with winnings ranging from $1,000 to $250,000. In the prime time version, some of the returning contestants did not get a second chance to play because they could not win any of the Fastest Finger rounds, and therefore failed to re-enter the hot seat.
Spin-offs and special editions
The show has had various special editions such as:
- Celebrity Edition (where winnings go to charity)
- Champions Edition (where big winners come back and split their winnings with their favorite charities)
- Top of the Charts Edition (similar to Celebrity Edition but with musical artists who have chart-topping hits and their winnings go to their favorite charities)
- Zero Dollar Winner Edition (where those who took home nothing received a second chance)
- Family Edition (where two, or three family members compete together)
Also notable is an edition aired in February 2001 in which H&R Block calculated the taxes of winnings so the contestants could earn their stated winnings after taxes, called Tax-Free Edition.
During two seasons, there was also a Couples Edition where married couples played together. In recent years, special contestant episodes such as Play to Pay for Your Wedding Edition (featuring engaged couples), College Edition (featuring undergraduate college students, taking place in Walt Disney World), Teacher Edition (featuring schoolteachers), and Walk In & Win Edition (featuring audience members who haven't taken the audition test and gets to play based on his/her wristwatch number, also from Walt Disney World) have aired annually. The first season featured a Twins Edition (featuring twin contestants), which played similar to the Couples Edition and Play To Pay For Your Wedding Edition.
Themed question shows featuring questions concerning professional football (Super Bowl Edition), celebrity gossip (Celebrity Scoop Edition), the movies (Netflix Million Dollar Movie Edition; Academy Awards Edition) and pop culture (Pop Culture Edition) have aired on occasion as well.
The prime time show began as a half-hour show aired over several consecutive nights, but was made into a multi-weekly hour-long show when it was added permanently to the schedule in January 2000, allowing more Fastest-finger contestants to reach the Hot Seat in each episode. In special events it may be extended from half an hour to an hour. Episodes of the syndicated show run 30 minutes in length every weekday, but this version has no Fastest-finger question. Instead, the following contestant appears after the preceding contestant's game ends.
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the show's debut on ABC, a two week special revival of the prime time version was held in August 2009, the first run of the show on ABC since Super Millionaire. The episodes featured Regis Philbin as host and gameplay based on the current syndicated version (including the rule changes implemented in the previous syndicated season), but still using the Fastest Finger round to select the next contestant like the original prime time runs. The end of each episode also featured a celebrity guest playing a question for a chance at $50,000 for a charity of their choice, but still earning a minimum of $25,000 for the charity if the celebrity got the question wrong. The finale also presented two major firsts for the series in the US, the first contestant to reach the million dollar question with the clock format, and the first contestant to get the million dollar question wrong.
In 2000, previous Millionaire contestants who won $250,000-$1,000,000 were on a special edition where they would go for the hot seat again, winning half for charity. Examples of contestants were: John Carpenter (the first US winner), Dan Blonsky, Joe Trela, Neil Larrimore, Stephanie Girardi (the first woman to see the million-dollar question) and more.
The show began to dabble in celebrity versions of the game in mid-2000, at the height of its popularity. The first version featured stars such as Drew Carey, Rosie O'Donnell, Eve Jeffers, Queen Latifah, and Dana Carvey; later celebrity players included P. Diddy, Vanessa Williams, Chevy Chase, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, Norm Macdonald, and current host of the weekday version of Millionaire Meredith Vieira. Later, Carol Alt, Martin Short, Florence Henderson, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Tyrese, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Charlie Sheen, Jon Stewart, Joey McIntyre and more. Drew Carey is the only celebrity to be on Millionaire twice (First time was $500,000 and then the second time was $32,000 which was a drop from $125,000 for a grand total of $532,000).
The show was a huge hit in the ratings, and since they were playing for charity and for fear that celebrities would be too embarrassed to miss an early question, all players were allowed to receive help from their fellow players to attain the $32,000 level, resulting in some humorous exchanges when a celebrity player grew stumped. A classic example of this occurred in an episode (second episode of second celebrity edition for $300) where Jon Lovitz could not identify limes as the second ingredient in Sprite (after lemons), which prompted Kermit the Frog, who was there just for support, to amusingly ask him, "Hey Jon, what color am I? (referring to the fact that he and limes are both green)," after which Lovitz answered the question correctly. (Kermit is the only Muppet and celebrity audience member to be on Live.)
ABC began to rely heavily on celebrity episodes – for most of the 2001–02 season, fully half of the series were celebrity or other "special editions", a move which coincided with the show's drop from the top of the ratings. When celebrities played the game, because they were playing for charity, all were guaranteed at least $32,000, even if they missed a question before reaching it (which happened to one contestant when she missed the $32,000 question but left with $32,000 anyway; in addition, Kiss singer Gene Simmons left with $32,000 even though he missed his $16,000 question). In most cases, all contestants got a shot at the main game. In cases in which that did not apply, at the end of the series, all contestants that failed to get into the hot seat were automatically given $32,000.
At the end of each episode of the 10th Anniversary Prime Time Celebration, a special celebrity guest faces one question with one lifeline of their choice (all four lifelines are available, but only one can be used). If the celebrity answers the question correctly, $50,000 is awarded to the celebrity's selected charity. If the celebrity is incorrect, the charity receives $25,000. The celebrity player list consists of (in order of when they will play) Katy Perry, Vanessa Williams, Sherri Shepherd, Lauren Conrad, Shawn Johnson, Rachael Ray, Patricia Heaton, Wynonna Judd, Snoop Dogg, Steve Nash, and a "mystery" celebrity who was originally thought to be Meredith Vieira, but then revealed to be Regis Philbin.
It was announced in 2005 that the syndicated show would bring back celebrities for a special edition to air in November 2005, but those episodes never materialized. However, in 2003, Millionaire held a Radio Edition with three New York City radio disc jockeys playing for their station.
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:
|Amount Lost if|
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.
Million Dollar Tournament of 10
In the eighth season of syndicated Millionaire in 2009, in response to the show's lack of a top-prize winner since Nancy Christy in 2003, the show introduced the "Million Dollar Tournament of 10”. For the first 45 episodes of season 8, each contestant's progress was recorded and the top ten performing contestants were seeded based on how far they progressed and how much time was banked from their initial questions. Beginning with episode 46 on November 9, the top ten seeds returned, one at a time at the end of each episode, to answer a single question valued at $1,000,000 without the use of any lifelines. As before, a player can walk away with their winnings from before. If a player misses their question, they will lose whatever their previous winnings were and will drop down to their last milestone (e.g., if the player has $100,000 and misses their tournament question, they will drop to $25,000). However, if the player successfully answers the question, they will keep all of their winnings and remain in the running for the $1,000,000 prize. Only the top seed to successfully answer a $1,000,000 question have their winnings augmented to the top prize. (Example: if the 5th seed correctly answers their question, and the 3rd seed does the same, seed 3 will then eliminate seed 5 and will win unless seeds 2 or 1 answer their questions correctly.) 
Below is a list of the tournament's participants and the final results.
|Million Dollar Winner||Answered Question Correctly but was eliminated by a higher seed||Walked on Question||Answered Incorrectly|
|Name||Date||Total Time for|
|1||Jehan Shamsid-Deen||November 20, 2009||4:36 (3:51 banked)||$250,000||- First contestant to run out of time on a $1,000,000 question.|
|2||Keilani Goggins||November 19, 2009||4:07 (3:22 banked)||$100,000|
|3||Jeff Birt||November 18, 2009||4:07 (3:22 banked)||$100,000|
|4||Matt Schultz||November 17, 2009||3:32 (2:47 banked)||$100,000|
|5||Tim Janus||November 16, 2009||3:16 (2:31 banked)||$100,000|
|6||Ralph Cambeis||November 13, 2009||4:02 (3:17 banked)||$50,000|
|7||Robin Schwartz||November 12, 2009||3:35 (2:50 banked)||$50,000|
|8||Sam Murray||November 11, 2009||3:23 (2:38 banked)||$50,000||- Tournament of 10 champion.|
- Only contestant to attempt as well as correctly answer the $1,000,000 question in the tournament.
- First contestant to correctly answer the $1,000,000 question under the clock format.
|9||Tony Westmoreland||November 10, 2009||3:07 (2:22 banked)||$50,000|
|10||Alex Ortiz||November 9, 2009||2:56 (2:11 banked)||$50,000||- First contestant to see the $1,000,000 question under the clock format in the syndicated series.|
On November 11, 2009, a contestant named Sam Murray played the Tournament of Ten and was the only contestant to go for the $1,000,000 question and answer it correctly.
|$1 Million (Tournament of 10 #8) - 3:23 time limit (0:45+2:38 banked)|
|According to the Population Reference Bureau, what is the approximate number of people who have ever lived on earth?|
|• A: 50 billion||• B: 100 billion|
|• C: 1 trillion||• D: 5 trillion|
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It!
A version of this game named Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? - Play It! was formerly an attraction at the Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, California. The game was very similar to the television version. When a show started, a "Fastest Finger" question was given, and the audience was asked to put the four answers in order. Fastest time was first player in the Hot Seat for that show.
10th Anniversary Prime Time Celebration
The series returned to prime time on August 9, 2009 as an eleven night event of hour-long episodes, finishing August 23, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the U.S. version of the franchise. Regis Philbin, who hosted the original ABC version, also hosts the revival. The Academy Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire and the 2009 economic crisis helped boost interest of renewal of the game show. The revival consists of a hybrid between the original ABC and syndicated formats, with the current syndicated rules (including lifelines, clock and question values) plus the return of the preliminary Fastest Finger round. The phone game from the original ABC show, plus a new video audition option, were used to select contestants.
The Experts for the Ask the Expert Lifeline during the 10th Anniversary in order of appearance were Sam Donaldson, George Stephanopoulos, Wolf Blitzer, Cokie Roberts, Candy Crowley, Connie Chung, Jodi Picoult, Gwen Ifill, Candy Crowley, Ken Jennings, Mo Rocca, and Bill Nye.
Former contestants were also in the audience throughout the revival including millionaires Robert Essig, Joe Trela, Ed Toutant, Kevin Olmstead, John Carpenter, and Nancy Christy; $0 winners Robby Roseman and Brian Fodera (the latter also previously returned on a special $0 winner edition and won $16,000); $125,000 winner Jason Block; $250,000 winner Doug Van Gundy; and $1,000 winner Dan Doody.
At the end of the final episode of the revival, Meredith Vieira announced that the 9 remaining contestants in the Fastest Finger podiums would be the first 9 contestants on the upcoming season of the syndicated version of the show.
There was also a celebrity at the end of each show, playing one question for $50,000 on behalf of their favorite charity. The celebrity would receive $25,000 for charity even if their answer was incorrect, but this situation did not occur. All four lifelines were available to the celebrity, although only one of which could be used, and the timer was removed.
|Katy Perry||August 9||St. Jude Children's Research Hospital||Phone a Friend|
|Vanessa Williams||August 10||The Maria Torres Emerging Artist Project at the Amas Musical Theatre||Ask the Audience|
|Sherri Shepherd||August 11||March of Dimes||Ask the Audience|
|Lauren Conrad||August 12||m.powerment by mark||Ask the Audience|
|Shawn Johnson||August 13||Blank Children's Hospital||Ask the Audience|
|Rachael Ray||August 16||Yum-O Organization and ASPCA||Ask the Audience|
|Patricia Heaton||August 17||Westside Pregnancy Clinic and Lighthouse Medical Missions||Phone a Friend|
|Wynonna||August 18||Backpack Mission Ministries||Phone a Friend|
|Snoop Dogg||August 19||Snoop Dogg Youth Football League||Ask the Audience|
|Steve Nash||August 20||The Steve Nash Foundation||Ask the Expert|
|Regis Philbin||August 23||Cardinal Hayes High School, Bronx, NY||Double Dip|
*Philbin was asked the question by Meredith Vieira, host of the syndicated version.
The finale of the 10th anniversary special featured a contestant named Ken Basin; an entertainment lawyer, Harvard Law graduate and former Jeopardy! Contestant, who went on to play for the Clock format’s first Million Dollar Question. The question referred to LBJ's fondness for Fresca. Using his one remaining lifeline, Basin asked the audience for help, which supported his own hunch of Yoo-hoo rather than the correct answer. He decided to go for it and went on to lose $475,000, the first time in the history of the U.S. version of Millionaire that a contestant has answered the Million Dollar Question incorrectly.
After the show’s broadcast, Basin posted an entry in his blog about his experience in the show, including why he went for Yoo-hoo. He explains that he remembers a photo of LBJ meeting the Beatles in which he's drinking a Yoo-hoo; a photo which he has not been able to find since.
Notable members of the audience in that particular episode included Nancy Christy, at the time the latest winner of the million dollars, and Charles Ingram, who was convicted of cheating on the U.K. version of the show.
- Basin's Million Dollar Question: (used the Ask the Audience lifeline on the question)
|$1 Million (15 of 15) - 4:39 time limit (0:45+3:54 banked)|
|For ordering his favorite beverages on demand, LBJ had four buttons installed in the Oval Office labeled "coffee," "tea," "Coke" and what?|
|• A: Fresca||• B: V8|
|• C: Yoo-hoo||• D: A&W|
|Ask the Audience: A: 15% B: 12% C: 40% D: 33%.|
Daily Episode ratings
- ^ ""Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary". ABC. 2009-07-27. http://thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20090727abc02. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
- ^ CNBC
- ^ Hollywood.com
- ^ a b c d Game Show Forum (2009-08-31). "WWTBAM doing their own "Million Dollar Mission"". http://gameshow.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=18636&st=45&p=224578&#entry224578. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
- ^ "We No Longer Have Phone-a-Friend" - Mecha03 on Youtube
- ^ “Phone A Friend” Lifeline Removed from “Millionaire”- BuzzerBlog
- ^ Phone-a-friend no longer available - The Marquee Blog - CNN.com Blogs
- ^ http://buzzerblog.flashgameshows.com/millionaire-gets-a-new-money-chain-today/
- ^ NWsource
- ^ Pages Persos Chez.com
- ^ Millionaire Celebrities Announced – Will This Be An Annual Thing?
- ^ Who Wants to Be a Millionaire TV Show – Zap2it
- ^ FLASHGames²
- ^ http://3F#Key_moments
- ^ ABC.go.com
- ^ http://tvseriesfinale.com/articles/who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire-returning/
- ^ FLASHGames²
- ^ a b FLASHGames²
- ^ Web Dish
- ^ Buffalo News
- ^ FLASHGames²
- ^ "A Million Dollar Moment is Coming Up on Sunday's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"". 08.18.09–11:21 AM. http://www.thefutoncritic.com/news.aspx?id=20090818abc01. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
- ^ Official postmortem - Begging the Question (Ken Basin's Blog)
- Official website
- WWTBAM.biz: A site with statistics on the U.S. prime time and syndicated versions of Millionaire by $500,000 winner Jeff Gross
- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (US – 1999–2002) at the Internet Movie Database
- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire at TV.com
- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (US – current) at the Internet Movie Database
- Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire (US) at the Internet Movie Database
Win Ben Stein's Money
|Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show|
2000 – 2001