- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Latest Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (UK) Logo (2010)
Format Game show Created by David Briggs
Presented by Chris Tarrant (1998–Present) Composer(s) Keith Strachan
Country of origin United Kingdom Production Running time 30–120 minutes Broadcast Original channel ITV Original run 4 September 1998– present External links Website
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is a television game show which offers large cash prizes for correctly answering a series of multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty. The format is owned and licensed by Sony Pictures Television International. The maximum cash prize (in the original British version) is one million pounds. Most international versions offer a top prize of one million units of the local currency; the actual value of the prize of course varies widely, depending on the value of the currency.
The programme originated in the United Kingdom in 1998, with an original working title of Cash Mountain; it is hosted by Chris Tarrant. It was a surprising twist on the game show genre. Only one contestant plays at a time (similar to some radio quizzes) and the emphasis is on suspense rather than speed. In most versions there are no time limits to answer the questions, and contestants are given the question before they must decide whether to attempt an answer.
In 2000 a board game based on the hit television series of the same name was released by Pressman Toy Corp. In March 2006, original producer Celador announced that it was seeking to sell the worldwide rights to the show, together with the UK programme library, as the first phase of a sell-off of the company's format and production divisions. Dutch company 2waytraffic acquired Millionaire and the rest of Celador's programme library. Two years later, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased 2waytraffic for £137.5m. The Who Wants to Be a Millionaire franchise is the most internationally popular television franchise of all time, having aired in more than 100 countries worldwide.
- 1 History
- 2 Rules
- 3 Is that your final answer?
- 4 Music
- 5 Cheating scandal
- 6 Lowest scores
- 7 International variants
- 8 Top prize winners
- 9 Spin-off
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The programme originated in the United Kingdom, where it is hosted by Chris Tarrant. It is based on a format devised by David Briggs, who, along with Steven Knight and Mike Whitehill, devised a number of the promotional games for Chris Tarrant's breakfast show on Capital FM radio, such as the bong game. The original working title for the show was Cash Mountain. It first aired in the UK on 4 September 1998.
The game has similarities with the 1950s show The $64,000 Question. In that show the money won also doubled with each question, and if the wrong answer was given all the money was lost. Contestants would win a new car as a consolation prize if they had reached the $8,000 question. In 1999-2000 Millionaire was the first prime-time game show since "The $64,000 Question" to finish first in the US season-ending Nielsen ratings.
In the 1990s future Who Wants to be a Millionaire executive producer Michael Davies attempted to revive Question as The $640,000 Question for ABC, before abandoning that effort in favour of the British hit.
Disputed claims of creation
Since the show launched, several individuals have claimed that they originated the format and that Celador had breached their copyright.
Sponsored by the Daily Mail, Mike Bull, a Southampton-based journalist, took Celador to the High Court in March 2002, claiming authorship of the Lifelines. Celador settled out of court with a confidentiality clause.
In 2003 Sydney resident John J Leonard also claimed to have originated a format substantially similar to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (although it had no Lifelines). He has to date been unable to raise the minimum £250,000 a non-UK resident needs to finance legal action against Celador in the High Court. In an effort to finance his case he published a detailed account of how he created the show.
In 2004 Alan Melville and John Baccini, real name John Bachini, sued Celador over a similar claim. On that occasion Celador reached separate out-of-court settlements with both men.
Original scheme of game
The contestants first have to undergo a preliminary round, called "Fastest Finger First", where they are all given a question and four answers from the host. They are asked to put those four answers into a particular order. (In the very first series of the British version and until the end of the 2003 season in the Australian version, Fastest Finger First required the contestants to answer one multiple choice question correctly as quickly as possible.) The contestant who does this correctly and in the fastest time goes on to sit in the chair (the "hot seat") and play for the maximum possible prize (often a million units of the local currency). If two or more contestants tie for the fastest time, those contestants play another question to break the tie. If no one gets the question right, that question is thrown out and another question is played in the same manner. If any contestants are visually impaired, the host will read the question and four choices all at once, then repeat the choices after the music begins.
In the US version, this round was called "Fastest Finger", and was eliminated when the show moved to syndicated distribution in 2002, due to episode length limits; however it returns whenever the show returns to prime time. US contestants were later required to pass a more conventional game show qualifying test at contestant auditions.
Once in the hot seat, the contestant is asked increasingly difficult general knowledge questions by the host. Questions are multiple choice: four possible answers are given (labelled A, B, C and D), and the contestant must choose the correct one. On answering the first question correctly, the contestant wins £100 (in the UK – other countries vary the currency but have the same basic format). There is no time limit to answer a question; a contestant may (and often does) take as long as they need to ponder an answer. After the first few questions, the host will ask the contestant if that is their "final answer". Upon making the answer the final answer, it cannot be changed. The first five questions usually omit this rule, unless the contestant has guessed a wrong answer (at which point, the host is hoping the contestant will take the hint), because the questions are generally so easy that to require a final answer would significantly slow the game down; thus, there are five chances for the contestant to leave with nothing if he or she were to give a wrong answer before obtaining the first guaranteed amount; going for £1,000 after winning £500 is the last point in the game at which a contestant can still leave with nothing.
Subsequent questions are played for increasingly large sums (roughly doubling at each turn). The first few questions often have some joke answers. The complete sequence of prizes for the UK version (1998—2007) of the programme is as follows:
After viewing a question, the contestant can quit with the money already won rather than attempting an answer. If the contestant answers a question incorrectly, then all the money won so far is lost, except that the £1,000 and £32,000 prizes are guaranteed: if a player gets a question wrong above these levels, then the prize drops to the previous guaranteed prize. Answering the £2,000 and £64,000 questions wrong does not reduce the prize money. Prizes are not cumulative; answering the £500 question gives the contestant £500, not the previous £300 plus £500 (i.e. £800).
The game ends when the contestant answers a question incorrectly, decides not to answer a question, or answers all questions correctly, thus usually letting the host rip the cheque for £500,000 apart and winning the top prize of £1 million.
New formats and variations
Several international versions of the show have recently changed or modified their version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Note that with the exception of the Hot Seat format, all of the named format variants are not officially called so, and are only named after the significant change (12 question format for only having 12 questions in a game for example) for reference and comparison reasons.
From 18 April 1999 to summer 2000, the Australian version had 11 questions and their money tree is as follows. Getting the first question correct would guarantee them A$1,000, no matter what happens thereafter.
Elimination of Fastest Finger First
In 2002, the syndicated US version eliminated the preliminary Fastest Finger round; contestants immediately take the hot seat. This was also done in the 2007 Australian, New Zealand and Italy formats, the 2009 Hungarian format, the 2010 United Kingdom format, and the 2011 Bulgarian, Armenian, Philippine and Turkish format. The 2009 ABC "Tenth Anniversary Edition" featured the Fastest Finger round, as well as the 2004 ABC Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire? series. Also, this format is eliminated in some versions when celebrities play for charity (Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Russia, and the United Kingdom versions).
On 13 August 2007, it was announced that the UK version was changing its format, cutting the number of questions it takes to reach the £1 million jackpot. The prize money started at £500 rather than £100 and there are only 12 questions to replace the former 15. After reaching £1,000, the prize fund increases to £2,000, £5,000, £10,000, £20,000 and £50,000, which is the second safe haven, previously £32,000.
The first set of contestants to face the new rules were comedians Jon Culshaw and John Thomson in a charity special, shown on ITV on 18 August 2007. The Show returned on Saturday 13 June 2009 on ITV1 at 7.30pm with a new episode after a long absence since 31 January 2009. By that time, the British version of the show had suffered its longest drought of winners, not having a top prize winner since Ingram Wilcox in 2006. This drought still continues today.
The 12-question format was introduced in a number of other countries, including Arab World (January 2010), Bulgaria (January 2008), France (April 2009), Poland (January 2008), Spain (2009), the Netherlands (March 2011), and Turkey (August 2011).
Mohammad Hamzeh became the first contestant to win the top prize with this format on 23 March 2010 on the Arab version. Five days later, Krzysztof Wójcik also won the top prize on the Polish version, becoming Poland's first top prize winner after a 10-year waiting period.
In 2007, before they adopted the hot seat competition format, the Australian version slightly modified the normal format to add an additional bonus 16th question, worth A$5 Million. The Thai version also used this format before switching to the 12-question format.
In 2007, the German version modified their format, giving the contestant the option of having a fourth lifeline to their game before the game begins called Risk Mode. However, if the contestant chooses to play this variant with the fourth lifeline available for use, the tenth-question safe haven is forfeited. That means if the contestant answers any of questions 11–15 incorrectly, they drop all the way to the guaranteed winnings gained by answering question 5 correctly. If the contestant just chooses to the play the Normal Mode, they keep the second safe haven but are given only three lifelines.
In Germany the fourth lifeline given if they choose to play Risk Mode is "Ask one of the audience". Germany's three most recent top prize winners, Oliver Pocher, Thomas Gottschalk and Barbara Schöneberger, used Risk Mode to win the Million, all in celebrity charity editions.
The Polish version also implements the 12-question format for both modes and contestants are given Switch the Question as the fourth lifeline.
The Russian format gives "Double Dip" as the fourth lifeline, and contestants are given the ability to place the milestone to any level on the money tree as this wish before beginning gameplay. The "milestone change" is not available if the contestant chooses the normal format. 
In 2008, the US version changed its format, limiting contestants to answer questions within a time limit each of 15 seconds for questions 1–5, 30 seconds for questions 6-10, and 45 seconds for questions 11-14. After each of the 14 questions have been answered correctly, the remaining time after giving an answer is banked for the last question. The clock for each question began counting down immediately after all of the question was revealed, and was temporarily paused when a lifeline was used. Contestants who exceeded this time limit were forced to walk away with any prize money they had won up to that point. However, the only exception to this rule is if the Double Dip lifeline was used; if the clock expired before a second final answer was given, the contestant's winnings were reduced to the previous safe haven level.
In addition to the clock, contestants saw the category of their questions before they were asked, and the 50:50 and Switch the Question lifelines were replaced with Double Dip and Ask the Expert. Later changes included an adjustment to the money tree and the removal of Phone a Friend.
For a period in November 2009, the show also had a one-off event called the Million Dollar Tournament of 10 in response to the show's lack of a top-prize winner since Nancy Christy in 2003. The winner of the tournament was Sam Murray, who became the first person to win the top prize of US$1 Million with the clock format. The US version ended usage of this format in 2010, switching to the Super Mix format.
The Japanese version adopted this format beginning on 15 September 2009; although using the original three lifelines, a time limit each of 30 seconds for questions 1–9, 1 minute for questions 10–12, and 3 minutes for questions 13–15, and the unused time will not be banked.
The UK version also adopted this format on 3 August 2010, although using the 12 question money tree and that the final 5 questions will not have a time limit, and using the original lifelines. Contestants will also receive a fourth lifeline; "Switch the Question" or "Switch", upon completing question 7 in addition to the clock being turned off. However, during the first 7 questions, if the contestant runs out of time on a question, their winnings will drop back down to the last safe haven they passed as if the question had been answered incorrectly, instead of being forced to walk away.
The Indian version also adopted this format upon its return on 11 October 2010. India's new format will be similar to the UK version, although having a 13 question money tree, the same lifelines originally used in the US clock format version, and a 30 second time limit for questions 1-2, and 45 seconds for questions 3-6.
Similar clock rules and time limits also exist in the Taiwanese version, the former Play It! Disney theme park attraction, the video games based on this game show, as well as the Hot Seat format (See Below). The former Australian version had no true time limit, However, in 2007, a 60-second shot clock went into effect if the player took too long to answer a question (to prevent the possibility of cheating on a question). If time expired, the contestant was forced to walk away with any money won to that point.
Hot Seat format
In 2008, the Norwegian version tried out a new format, essentially involving 6 contestants playing at once, with each taking turns to climb the money tree. The usual lifelines are removed, replaced with a single 'pass' that can, at any one time, transfer the onus of answering the question to the next contestant in line, who cannot then re-pass to the next contestant. Also added are time limits on every question, with 15 seconds allocated for the first five questions, 30 for the middle five, and 45 for the last five. Walking away is no longer allowed, rendering several questions' values pointless, as they cannot be won. If a player fails to give out an answer in the time limit, it is considered an automatic pass. If that question cannot be passed on or if answered incorrectly, that player is eliminated and the highest value on the money tree is removed.
The game ends either when all contestants are eliminated, or when the question for the highest value in the money tree is answered. If this last question is answered correctly, the answering player receives the amount of money. If it is answered incorrectly, or all contestants are eliminated before the final question is reached, the last player to be eliminated receives either nothing, or a smaller prize if the fifth question milestone is reached.
This format was used in Italy from 15 December 2008 to 18 March 2009, and has been adopted by the Australian version starting in April 2009, the Danish version starting in October 2009, the Hungarian version starting in September 2009, the Portuguese version starting in July 2010, the Vietnamese version starting on 7 September 2010, the Indonesian version starting on 13 September 2010, the Chilean version since January 2011,,the Ukrainian version starting on 15 February 2011 and the French version since 2011.
The first contestant to ever win with this format was Bjørn Lien in the Norwegian version on 19 January 2010. He was also the first top prize winner overall on that country's version of the show.
Beginning in 2010, the U.S. version ended their usage of the clock format and revised the rules to this new format. The money tree was shortened to 14 questions. For the first 10 questions, the money tree values are randomly shuffled and the exact values for each question are not revealed to the contestant until a final answer is given. If a contestant answers correctly, the value of the question is added to the contestant’s bank. If a contestant does not know the answer, that person can walk away with half of the bank during the first ten questions. However, if a contestant answers a question incorrectly prior to the eleventh question (even if it is the first question), the contestant will only receive $1,000 (in effect, any contestant is guaranteed $1,000 simply for participating on the show, eliminating the possibility of leaving with nothing). Once the contestant answers all 10 questions correctly, the contestant will receive the accumulated money of all the questions they answered correctly (up to $68,600) and the contestant proceeds through the money tree as in earlier formats. Contestants are guaranteed only $25,000 in the U.S. version if any of the last four questions are answered incorrectly.
All the lifelines, with the exception of Ask the Audience, have been removed and replaced with a lifeline called Jump the Question. Contestants receive two opportunities to jump any two of the first thirteen questions at the start of the game.
The set also changed, most notably that the hot seat is removed from the stage. The contestant and the host stand and possibly walk around throughout the episode. The traditional monitors facing the contestant and the host will also be replaced with monitors around the set.
If at any point the contestant is unsure of the answer to a question, he or she can use one or more lifelines. After using lifelines, contestants can either answer the question, use another lifeline, or walk away and keep the money (except for the Double Dip lifeline). Each lifeline can only be used once (except for the Jump the Question lifeline).
- Fifty-Fifty (50:50): The contestant asks the host to have the computer randomly eliminate two of the incorrect answer choices, leaving the contestant with a choice between the correct answer and one incorrect one.
- Originally, in both the UK and (original prime-time) U.S. versions, the answers eliminated were not random but were pre-selected as the ones the contestant was least likely to pick. Beginning in 2002 (on the U.S. syndicated version), two answers were randomly removed when a contestant chooses to use the lifeline. This change was also made on the UK version of the show[when?] with host Chris Tarrant emphasising that the selection was random. This lifeline was eliminated in the seventh season of the U.S. syndicated programme, and has been removed from all current U.S. versions.
- Ask the Audience: The contestant asks the studio audience which answer they believe is correct. Members of the studio audience indicate their choices using an audience response system (having 20 seconds to do so, though many televised versions edit out most of the time). The results are immediately displayed on the contestant's and host's screens. This is a popular lifeline, known for its near-perfect accuracy. Philbin once said that the audience's answer is correct 95% of the time.
- From 2004-2006 on the syndicated U.S. version, the question was also asked through AOL Instant Messenger to those who had signed up to answer questions for this lifeline. The contestant saw the studio-audience and AOL responses displayed separately. The AOL tie-in was discontinued beginning with the 2006-2007 season. Also, the Norwegian version uses the Ask the Nation, similar to that lifeline.
- This lifeline was also used on a Reality TV special of The Weakest Link in the UK, aired in 2006. Although not used as a lifeline, this feature allowed the audience to vote as to who they thought was the weakest link, and therefore who should be voted off.
- Despite the 95% success rate, sometimes a majority of the studio audience guess incorrectly. In 2011, a question relating to the only time which the House of Commons of the United Kingdom are permitted to consume alcohol in the chamber resulted a staggering 81% of the audience guessing the State opening over the correct answer which is the budget speech.
- Phone-A-Friend: Contestants may call one of up to five (in some countries, three) pre-arranged friends. As of the U.S. Clock Version in the Syndicated (as of 2008)/Tenth Anniversary (August 2009) era, three friends are provided. The contestant must provide the required number of friends' names and phone numbers in advance, as well as, now, their pictures. In countries where the show is broadcast live, the friends are alerted when their contestant reaches the hot seat, and are told to keep the phone free and to wait for three rings before answering. The conversation is limited to 30 to 60 seconds (dependent on which version of the show it is), in which the contestant must tell the friend the question and choices and the friend must answer. Phone-a-friends often express their certainty as a percentage (I am 80% sure it's C) .A contestant with a disability making them unable to use this lifeline without assistance has the option of having the host read the question and answer choices to the friend, and obtain an answer from them. Phone-a-friends may not be called on mobile phones, and individuals participating as phone-a-friends may do so only twice during any given edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. This lifeline was removed on the US version at the end of 2009, and the Ask the Expert is available throughout the whole game, but the Regis Philbin-hosted syndicated episodes were aired out of order 30 November – 4 December 2009, with Philbin as substitute host under the new rules. 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 criticised by fans. In Germany, the players can use this lifeline in this way or alternatively call some random person (which can be specified by town/region or gender) to answer the question. The latter will usually be chosen when a strongly regional question is asked (e.g.: What is the largest city on the island of Hiddensee? may lead to a phone call to a random person from Hiddensee).
In February 2004, the U.S. launched a short-lived spin-off known as Who Wants to Be a Super Millionaire. On this particular version, two new lifelines were introduced, but they were only available after a contestant cleared the $100,000 question (the tenth question in this version):
- Three Wise Men: The contestant asks a sequestered panel chosen by the sponsor which answer they believe is correct. The panel, consisting of three people, one being a former million-dollar-winner of the show and at least one being female, has 30 seconds to select an answer but does not need to reach a consensus—each member of the panel may provide a different answer. This lifeline is also used in the Russian version of the show when the 100,000 rubles is not a guaranteed sum, though it can be used on any of the 15 questions.
- Double Dip: The contestant can give two answers for a question. However, once a contestant elects to use the Double Dip lifeline, the contestant cannot walk away from the question, nor use any additional lifelines after using the Double Dip. The contestant must indicate and confirm that he or she intends to use this lifeline before giving a first answer. If the first answer is incorrect, the contestant gives another answer—but if the second answer is also wrong or if time runs out (in the case of the Clock format), then the contestant will go back down to the milestone they reached. For example, if they failed on the $25,000 question, they would go back down to $5,000. If the first answer given is correct, the lifeline is still considered to have been used. In versions where both 50:50 and Double Dip are available, if a contestant uses this lifeline having already used 50:50, they can get past this question freely. Most recently the Double Dip lifeline was introduced on the Russian version, but it only is avalable in Risk Mode. India became the 3rd country to use this lifeline when the Indian version, Kaun Banega Crorepati, was revived on 11 October 2010.
- Prashant Batar became the first contestant to use this lifeline on the final question in the Indian version; however, after initially getting one answer wrong, he was also wrong with his second guess, thus becoming the latest top prize loser in the franchise to date.
In 2004 the syndicated U.S. version introduced another new lifeline:
- Switch/Switch the Question: This lifeline becomes available only after the contestant has correctly answered the tenth question, or fifth for some versions. Other versions have it available for the entire game. If the contestant has not chosen a final answer on the revealed question, this lifeline entitles the contestant to switch out the original question for another question of the same value. Once the contestant elects to use this lifeline, he or she cannot return to the original question, and thus the correct answer is revealed for the record. In addition, any lifelines used by the contestant while attempting to answer the original revealed question prior to the question switch will not be reinstated. The syndicated U.S. version introduced this lifeline in 2004 and it has also been used in occasional specials of the UK show, but referred to as Flip. It is now used in the Armenia,Spanish, Colombian, Australian, Arabic, Greek, Israeli, Indonesian, Indian, Italian, New Zealand, Philippine, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Swedish and Turkish versions of the show. In the Portuguese version, the difficulty level of the second question can be higher or lower than the first one. The Polish version requires the player to forfeit the second save haven to have this lifeline available, which the player decides to do so before the game starts. Starting from 3 August 2010, this lifeline is now available in the UK version as a fourth lifeline once the contestant has answered seven questions correctly to reach the ₤50,000 safe haven.
In the German version, an additional lifeline exists, which will be given if the player decides to forfeit the second save haven before the game starts.
- Ask One of the Audience: The host will reread the question and ask all members of the audience, who think they would be able to answer that question, to stand up. The contestant may choose one of these (judging by looks only) and may discuss the question at length with said audience member. He may or may not choose any answer after that. If he chooses the suggested answer and it proves to be correct, the audience member will also receive a prize of €500.
In 2008 the syndicated U.S. version eliminated the 50:50 and Switch the Question lifelines, revived the Double Dip (to replace the 50:50) and introduced a new lifeline.
- Ask the Expert: This lifeline replaced Switch the Question as the fourth lifeline. This lifeline is similar in nature to the Three Wise Men lifeline mentioned above. The contestant is able to consult with an expert as to what they believe the correct answer is. It is available to the contestant after they successfully answer the $5,000 (fifth) question. After Phone-a-Friend was discontinued midway through Season 8, the rule that stated it was available starting with the sixth question was eliminated, so the Expert could be used during any question. This lifeline is also used in Poland starting in 2009 replacing Phone-a-Friend. It has also replaced Switch the Question in both the Arabian version and the Indian version as of 2010.
The 2009 Tenth Anniversary prime time series uses the four lifelines from the U.S. version: Double Dip, Ask the Audience, and Phone a Friend were always available—Ask the Expert was available after $1,000 has been won.
In the Hot Seat versions of the show, a new lifeline was introduced to replace all existing lifelines:
- Pass: True to its name, if a player does not know the answer to the question, they may pass, however, they forfeit their place in the Hot Seat. The next player in line is then forced to answer the question correctly within the allotted time. If they answer correctly, they retain control of the Hot Seat, and play continues. If they answer incorrectly, they are eliminated, and the top prize money is reduced. As with all other lifelines, Pass may only be used once.
For the Super Mix format, all lifelines with the exception of Ask The Audience have been removed and replaced with this:
- Jump the Question: Similar in nature to Switch the Question, if the contestant has not chosen a final answer on the revealed question, this lifeline entitles the contestant to skip to the next question. The difference between this and Switch the Question is that the contestant goes on to the next section in the money tree. However if this lifeline is used in the "Super Mix" section, the money value of the question will not be added to their money bank. This lifeline can also be used in the upper tier of questions, however, they will not win the specified amount and if the contest were to walk on the next question, they will only receive the money from the last question answered correctly (or if the last question was in the Super Mix section, the amount of banked money). For example, if a contestant were to use this lifeline on the $500,000 question, they can skip to the $1 million question but if they decide to walk on that question, they will only receive $250,000 (Assuming they didn't use the other jump on that question). Because of this, this lifeline cannot be used on the final question. Unlike all other lifelines in any international version though, contestants are allowed to use this lifeline twice in a single game.
The Philippine version's 2011 season introduced a new lifeline, as well as Switch the Question, to replace Ask the Audience:
- People Speak: The host will reread the question and ask all members of the audience, who think they would be able to answer that question, to stand up. Three of these are chosen by the contestant who would then give their answers to the question. The contestant may or may not choose any answer after that. The audience members who are correct will receive a share of a prize of P20,000, even if the contestant ends up giving a wrong answer. It is basically a hybrid of Ask One of the Audience and Three Wise Men.
Is that your final answer?
The series also used the catchphrase with "Is that your final answer?", or more commonly the ultimatum "Final Answer?" This question derived from a rule requirement that the players must clearly indicate their choices before being made official (since the nature of the game allows the player to think aloud about the options before committing to an answer). As a side effect, once a final answer has been given, it cannot be changed. Many parodies of the game show capitalised on this phrase.
Players can preempt the host asking this question by themselves stating "final answer" or some variant, and this is common in the American version of the show.
Another hallmark of the show is using dramatic pauses before the host acknowledges whether or not the answer was correct. Occasionally, if it is time to go for a commercial break, the host will take the final answer but not announce if it is correct until after the break. Because of the clock format in the United States, this is not usually done when there is a commercial break.
The host of the Australian show, Eddie McGuire, popularised the catchphrase "Lock it in?" rather than "Is that your final answer?". This has been adopted on the New Zealand version. This phrase is also used in the game show Don't Forget the Lyrics, where contestants 'lock in' lyrics.
The Indian version Kaun Banega Crorepati also uses a famous catchphrase - "Lock kiya jaye?" (Lock it?). It is similar to the Australian catchphrase, and was introduced by Amitabh Bachchan with the first season of the show in India. The phrase proved to be hugely popular, and has now become part of the Indian patois. The third season saw Shah Rukh Khan step in as anchor, and he changed to the phrase "Freeze kare?" (Freeze it?). Amitabh Bachchan returned in Season 4, and with him returned "Lock kiya jaye?".
Italian host, Gerry Scotti, uses the catchphrase: "La accendiamo?" (translated as "Shall we light it up?"), referring to the graphic resolution of emphasizing the player's answer by illuminating it.
The Turkish host, Kenan Işık, uses the "Son kararınız mı?" (translated as "Your final decision?") catchphrase, and the participant responds as "Son kararım." (translated as "My final decision.").
In France, Jean-Pierre Foucault also uses the catchphrase, asking "C'est votre dernier mot ?". The participant answering "C'est mon dernier mot Jean-Pierre".
Father-and-son composer team Keith Strachan and Matthew Strachan wrote the show's music. Brought in after the initial pilot with a brief instructing them to create music providing mood and tension, they decided to approach the project like a film score with music playing almost throughout the entire show, a unique approach for a game show at the time. After almost completing the task they came up with the idea of taking the pitch up a semi-tone for each subsequent question in order to increase tension as the game progressed. The music has received numerous ASCAP awards.
A soundtrack album was released, featuring most of the musical stages, but not all of them.
In April 2003, British Army Major Charles Ingram, his wife Diana and college lecturer Tecwen Whittock were convicted of winning £1 million on the UK version of the show by fraudulent means when Ingram was a contestant on the show in September 2001. The allegation was that when host Chris Tarrant asked a question, Whittock, one of that edition's nine other Fastest Finger contestants, would cough in order to guide Ingram to the correct answer. Ingram won the £1 million top prize, but members of the production crew raised suspicions over Whittock's coughing along with the Ingrams' behaviour after the recording, and the police were called in to investigate. The defence claimed that Whittock simply suffered from allergies, but all three were found guilty and given suspended sentences. They maintained their innocence. After the trial, ITV screened a documentary about the scandal, along with the 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 ad-break.
The first contestant ever to win nothing was John Davidson from the British version, failing on his fifth question. Robby Roseman, from the United States version, was the first ever contestant to fail on the first question, and Richard Hatch, in a celebrity special on the Australian version became their first AU$0 winner, failed on his fourth question. New Zealand's first ever contestant, Courtney Washington, also became their first NZ$0 winner, failing on her fourth question. In March 2007, Dutch contestant Peter Lindhout got his fourth question wrong, worth €250 and went home with €0.
In 2006, a screenshot from the UKGameshows.com site was digitally altered and used in a piece on the satire site BS News. The image was also widely circulated as an email in which it was purported to show a contestant named Kathy Evans failing to answer her $100 question correctly after using all three lifelines because she was too skeptical of the assistance that was given. The image was actually a digitally altered screenshot of real-life contestant Fiona Wheeler on the original UK version answering a different question from a higher tier.
The hoax may have been inspired by an infamous moment from the French version of the show, in which a contestant requested help from the audience on a €3,000 question which asked which celestial body orbited the earth - the sun, the moon, Mars or Venus. The audience, perhaps intentionally poking fun at the contestant, provided the answer of "the sun", and the player ended up leaving with €1,500 as a result. The hoax also borrows elements from other infamous moments of numerous unlucky contestants on the US version, all of whom won nothing after giving a wrong answer to one of the first five questions.
Since its debut in the UK in 1998, international versions have spawned in over a hundred countries, more than any other game show. While most versions follow the original format, some have altered or changed the format as written above.
Top prize winners
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 would win the million.
Other notable top prize winners include Judith Keppel, the first winner of the UK version; Kevin Olmstead from the U.S. version, who won a progressive jackpot of $2.18 million; Martin Flood from the Australian version, who was accused of cheating much like Charles Ingram but was later acquitted; Takeshi Kitano from the Japanese version, who participated in two celebrity episodes, winning the top prize in his latter appearance after having answered the top question incorrectly in his first; and Svyatoslav Vakarchuk from the Ukrainian version, who was the first celebrity contestant outside of Japan to win the top prize.
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- Original United Kingdom version
- Millionaire at itv.com
- Challenge TV Classic WWTBAM website
- UKgameshow.com's website on the show
- Major Charles Ingram affair in detail
- Internet Movie Database pages
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