Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (UK game show)
|Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?|
|Created by||David Briggs
|Presented by||Chris Tarrant (1998–2014)
Jeremy Clarkson (2018–)
|Theme music composer||Keith Strachan
Nick Magnus (2007–14)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||30|
|No. of episodes||592|
|Location(s)||Elstree Studios (1998–2014)
|Running time||30–75 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Celador (1998–2007)
Victory Television (2011–14)
Stellify Media (2018)
|Picture format||4:3 (1998–99)
|Original release||Original series
4 September 1998 - 11 February 2014
2018 – Present
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is a British television quiz show that offers a maximum cash prize of one million pounds for correctly answering successive multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty. One contestant played at a time and originally had no time limit to answer questions. Contestants were presented with the question and four possible answers before they decided whether to attempt an answer, use one or more of their lifelines: 50:50, Ask The Audience or Phone a Friend (or later on, Switch), or walk away with the money they have already won.
The show first aired on 4 September 1998 and aired its final episode on 11 February 2014. Over this time, 30 series and 592 episodes were aired. It was presented by Chris Tarrant and produced by Victory Television for the ITV network. It was based on a format devised by David Briggs, who, along with Steven Knight and Mike Whitehill, devised a number of the promotional games for Tarrant's breakfast show on Capital FM radio. The original working title for the show was Cash Mountain.
- 1 History
- 2 Gameplay
- 3 Text game (2004–2007)
- 4 Top prize winners
- 5 Controversies
- 6 Series overview
- 7 References
- 8 External links
One of the most significant shows in British popular culture, it was ranked 23rd in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes. The show has been exported to many other countries, all of which follow the same general format. Rights to both the format and all UK episodes of the show were put up for sale by Celador in March 2006, as the first step towards the sale of Celador's formats division. These were acquired by the Dutch company 2waytraffic. 2waytraffic was in turn acquired by Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2008.
On 22 October 2013, it was announced that Tarrant had decided to leave the show after 15 years. Because of this, ITV consequently announced that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? would conclude after the contract finished, stating that there would not be any further specials beyond the ones that had already been planned. Tarrant's final live celebrity edition aired on 19 December 2013. On the day before (18 December), Tarrant pre-recorded two other celebrity episodes to be shown in early 2014. The final episode, a clip show entitled "Chris' Final Answer", aired on 11 February 2014.
The show is set to make a return in 2018 on ITV, with the broadcaster putting out a casting call for contestants on 23 February. On 9 March, Jeremy Clarkson was confirmed as the new host of the show.
Originally broadcast on successive evenings for around ten days, the series later appeared weekly on ITV in a primetime slot on Saturday evenings, and also occasionally on Tuesday evenings. The episodes typically lasted for one hour (including adverts). The first contestant was Graham Elwell, who won £64,000.
At its peak in 1999, the show pulled in up to 19 million viewers, often when it only had a half-hour timeslot, before declining to around 8 million viewers by 2003.
Variants on the format were screened from time to time as special episodes were produced, such as celebrities playing for charity, couples games (where both partners must agree on the answer), Mother's Day specials, etc.
Since April 2011, only celebrity contestants appeared on the show, in special live editions that coincided with holidays such as Christmas, Mother's Day, Remembrance Day, the end of a school term, etc. The "Clock Format" is still used during live celebrity shows. However, during Series 29 in 2012, there were three The People Play specials that were broadcast live for three consecutive nights between 9 and 11 July. These specials featured non-celebrity contestants and allowed viewers to play along at home. A fourth The People Play special aired on 7 May 2013 with a further two broadcast the following Tuesday nights with the last ever People's Play episode for the contestants on 21 May 2013.
|Question number||Question value|
Members of the public applied to appear on the show by calling a premium-rate telephone number or sending a premium-rate text message. Applications could also be made at the ITV website via a system of £1 "credits", as well as through a contestant casting audition. Such auditions were held at various locations around the UK. Contestants were chosen from the large number of applicants through a combination of random selection and the ability to answer test general knowledge questions.
Contestants answered a list of initially 15 (until 2007), and later just 12 increasingly difficult questions to win the top prize of £1 million. A contestant could choose to leave the game at any point and claim the prize for the last correctly answered question without penalty. From 2007, answering the second question correctly guaranteed that a contestant left with no less than £1,000 if they provided an incorrect answer to a later question, and answering the seventh question correctly increased the minimum payout to £50,000. A contestant who answered either the first or second question incorrectly left with nothing. The first, third and eight question were called "free" questions, the contestants could not lose anything if they provided an incorrect answer.
On the final part of each programme whilst a game was in progress, the "Out of time" signal (which usually consisted of one long blast of a chord played from brass instruments) was sounded, which was called the 'klaxon'. Most recently in the live specials, Chris told the viewers on the final part that the klaxon would sound the end of the game and the question would be null and void (the question would not count). If, however, a future live special was to be scheduled, then the contestant would return on the next programme.
Tarrant's catchphrases on the show include "Is that your final answer?", "But we don't want to give you that" (meaning that he would like the contestant to go on and win even more money), more recently at the end of the show, "But the cashpoint is now closed for tonight" or when a contestant is relieved, he sometimes says "Quite pleased, then?"
Three lifelines were presented at the beginning of the game in order to aid contestants:
- 50/50: Eliminated two random wrong answers, leaving the right answer but also whichever wrong answer was the most likely to be a tempting choice.
- Phone a Friend: The contestant called one of their friends, who had provided their phone numbers in advance. The contestant had 30 seconds to read the question and four or two (if the contestant had already used their 50/50 option) possible answers to the friend, who then had the remaining time to offer help.
- Ask the Audience: Audience members used touch pads to designate what they believed the correct answer to be. The percentage of the audience choosing each specific option was displayed to the contestant.
- Flip/Switch (2002–03, 2010–14): This fourth additional lifeline was introduced in 2002, where the computer replaced, at the contestant's request, one question with another of the same monetary value. Any lifelines already used on the original question were not reinstated. It appeared as a 'Q' symbol or as two circling arrows.
Prior to 2010, ten contestants competed against each other on each episode in the "Fastest Finger First" round in order to determine which contestant would play the main portion of the game. In the first series, players were to answer a four-choice question similar to those in the main game. However, this was later changed in series two, where a question and four answers were presented and each contestant ordered those answers in a specified order (e.g. ranking events chronologically, items in order of size etc.). The contestant who achieved the correct order in the fastest time moved to the second portion of the game. If that contestant chose to stop the game early or was eliminated following an incorrect answer, a new contestant was chosen in the same manner from the remaining nine contestants. If the question was missed, it was thrown out and a new question was played in the same manner.
Additionally, contestants were required to answer 15 questions to win the top prize. The minimum payouts were £1,000 for answering five questions correctly and £32,000 for answering ten questions.
2010 clock format
The UK version adopted the US 'Clock Format' on 3 August 2010, still using the 12-question money tree and that the final 5 questions would not have a time limit (unlike the U.S. version), and using the original lifelines. Contestants also received a fourth lifeline; "Flip" or "Switch", upon completing question 7.
Contestants would have to answer the first seven questions within a specific time limit: 15 seconds for questions one and two, and 30 seconds for each question thereafter. Questions 8-12 were not timed. If, during the first seven questions, the contestant ran out of time on a question, their winnings would drop back down to either nothing (on question 1 or 2) or the £1,000 milestone (if they passed that point), as if the question had been answered incorrectly. The clock was stopped when a contestant chose to use a lifeline on questions 1-7.
Text game (2004–2007)
On 23 October 2004 the show included a new feature called the "Walkaway Text Game". The competition was offered to viewers at home to play the text game where they had to answer the question, if a contestant decided to walk home with the cash prize they have got, by choosing the letters 'A, B, C or D' within 30 seconds to a specific mobile number. The viewer who answered the question won £1,000 by having their entries selected randomly.
On 9 September 2006, there were some changes. The competition stayed the same but this time, they played it before some commercial breaks. A question to which the contestant had given their final answer, but the correct answer had not yet been revealed, was offered as a competition to viewers. Entry was via SMS text message at a cost of £1 per entry, and the competition ran through the commercial break, after which the answer was revealed and the game continued. One viewer who answered the question correctly won £1,000. The text game ended on 28 July 2007.
Top prize winners
Judith Keppel (20 November 2000)
|£1 million (15 of 15) – no time limit|
|Which King was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine?|
|• A: Henry I||• B: Henry II|
|• C: Richard I||• D: Henry V|
|Keppel's £1 million question|
Judith Cynthia Aline Keppel (born 18 August 1942), a cash-strapped garden designer at the time, was the first one-million-pound winner and only woman to have won the top prize on the United Kingdom version of the programme.
David Edwards (21 April 2001)
|£1 million (15 of 15) – no time limit|
|If you planted the seeds of Quercus robur, what would grow?|
|• A: Trees||• B: Flowers|
|• C: Vegetables||• D: Grain|
|Edwards's £1 million question|
David Edwards (born 1947 in Barry, South Wales) is a former physics teacher at Cheadle High School and Denstone College in Staffordshire who became the first man to win the million pounds on the British Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on 21 April 2001, and was only the second person to answer all 15 questions correctly, and hence win the prize, after Judith Keppel. He competed in both series of Are You an Egghead?, reaching the last 16 in 2008, and the final in 2009, where he lost to fellow Millionaire winner Pat Gibson.
His million pound question was "If you planted the seeds of Quercus robur, what would grow?" The options were Trees, Flowers, Vegetables and Grain. The correct answer was Trees. He had no lifelines for this question, having used all three on a previous question. The phone-a-friend he used was his son, Richard Edwards (who later won £125,000 on the show).
Charles Ingram (18 September 2001)
|£1 million (15 of 15) – no time limit|
|A number one followed by one hundred zeros is known by what name?|
|• A: Googol||• B: Megatron|
|• C: Gigabit||• D: Nanomole|
|Ingram's £1 million question|
Charles Ingram (born 6 August 1963) is a former British Army major who made headlines in Britain after cheating in 2001. He was convicted of deception in 2003, and was given an 18-month suspended sentence, although he maintains that he did not cheat.
The ITV programme was produced by Celador at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. After winning £1,000,000, the payout was suspended when Ingram was accused of cheating by having his wife, Diana, and an accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, cough as Ingram announced the correct answer from the available choices. Following a trial at Southwark Crown Court lasting four weeks (including jury deliberation for three-and-a-half days), which ended soon after a jury member was evicted for discussing the case in public, Charles and Diana Ingram and Whittock were convicted by a majority verdict of the crime of "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception" on 7 April 2003, and all three received suspended prison sentences; in addition, Ingram was stripped of his winnings.
Robert Brydges (29 September 2001)
|£1 million (15 of 15) – no time limit|
|Which scientific unit is named after an Italian nobleman?|
|• A: Pascal||• B: Ohm|
|• C: Volt||• D: Hertz|
|Brydges's £1 million question|
Robert Kempe Brydges is an Oxford-educated banker from Holland Park, London. He was previously a director of GNI Fund Management, an investment brokers' firm, earning £300,000 a year and held the position of vice-president of US bank Hanover Trust.
On 29 September 2001, Brydges won £1 million, becoming the fourth person to answer the final question correctly. His appearance in the show fuelled controversy because of his wealth prior to participation (see below).
Pat Gibson (24 April 2004)
|£1 million (15 of 15) – no time limit|
|Which of these is not one of the American Triple Crown horse races?|
|• A: Arlington Million||• B: Belmont Stakes|
|• C: Kentucky Derby||• D: Preakness Stakes|
|Gibson's £1 million question|
Pat Gibson (born 19 July 1961 in Galway, Ireland) is an Irish quiz player. He is a multiple world champion in quizzing and one of the world's most successful quiz players. He is has won several quiz shows and is a panellist on Eggheads. He was born and educated in Ireland but has lived in the United Kingdom for many years.
On 24 April 2004 he became the fourth contestant to win the £1m jackpot on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. On the question he still had his 50:50 and phone a friend. He used the 50:50 first, where B. Belmont Stakes and D. Preakness Stakes disappeared. He then used his phone-a-friend option, phoning Mark Kerr (a highly ranked British quiz player and winner of TV's "Brainiest Estate Agent" title) who said he was 90% sure the answer was Arlington Million, which was Gibson's original instinct. He was the only person in the United Kingdom to reach the one million pound question with two lifelines remaining. He used his Ask-the-Audience on the £64,000 question, and kept 50:50 and phone a friend back until the final question. Gibson correctly answered 'Arlington Million' to win £1 million.
Ingram Wilcox (23 September 2006)
|£1 million (15 of 15) – no time limit|
|Which boxer was famous for striking the gong in the introduction to J. Arthur Rank films?|
|• A: Bombardier Billy Wells||• B: Freddie Mills|
|• C: Terry Spinks||• D: Don Cockell|
|Wilcox's £1 million question|
Ingram Wilcox (born 1944) is a British quiz enthusiast who is best known for becoming the sixth and final person to win one million pounds on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in the United Kingdom on 23 September 2006. When he reached the million-pound question, he had already used up all his lifelines. In two previous appearances he reached the "fastest finger first" stage but did not get through. His final question was "Which boxer was famous for striking the gong in the introduction to J. Arthur Rank films?" He correctly chose Bombardier Billy Wells to win the prize.
Incorrect answer to question accepted
In March 1999 contestant Tony Kennedy was asked "Theoretically, what is the minimum number of strokes with which a tennis player can win a set?", with possible answers of 12, 24, 36, and 48. He calculated that a player would need four shots to win a game, with six games in a set, giving an answer of 24. This won him the £64,000 question.
The Daily Mirror newspaper reported the next day, with the pun headline 'Fault!', that a player could win a game without playing a shot if their opponent double-faulted on every serve. This would allow a winning set in 12 strokes, assuming the player aced each of his or her own serves. The programme acknowledged the mistake and apologised for it, but Kennedy was allowed to keep his prize money (an eventual £125,000).
One Foot in the Grave
The broadcast of Judith Keppel's victory as the first jackpot winner on the UK version of Millionaire coincided with the transmission of the final episode of the BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave. The news of Keppel's win, recorded the preceding Sunday, was leaked to the press; ITV announced Keppel's success at a press conference on the day of broadcast. David Renwick, writer of One Foot was annoyed that this would take audience interest away from the sitcom. He said that the early announcement of the outcome of Millionaire was "naked opportunism", and it "would have been more honorable to let the show go out in the normal way". He pointed out that they also "killed off any element of tension or surprise in their own programme", but "television is all about ratings".
It was alleged that Millionaire's production company Celador had rigged the show to spoil the BBC's expected high ratings for the sitcom's finale. Richard Wilson in particular was quoted as saying that ITV had "planned" the win, adding "it seems a bit unfair to take the audience away from Victor's last moments on earth." Richard Webber's account, in his 2006 book, cites "unnamed BBC sources" as those who "questioned the authenticity of Keppel's victory". ITV was upset at the allegation, claiming that it "undermined viewers' faith in the programme." Leslie Hill, the chairman of ITV, wrote to Sir Christopher Bland, the chairman of the Board of Governors of the BBC, to complain about the issue. The corporation apologised, saying that any suggestion of 'rigging' "did not represent the official view of the BBC." Eleven viewers complained about the quiz show to the Independent Television Commission (ITC), but Millionaire was cleared of any wrongdoing.
On a special Valentine's Day celebrity edition of the show in 2006, which aired 11 February, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Jackie Llewelyn-Bowen reached the £1,000,000 question, which was "Translated from the Latin, what is the motto of the United States?" The Bowens chose answer A, "In God, We Trust", but the correct answer intended was actually answer B, "One Out of Many" which is the English translation for the Latin E pluribus unum. Because they answered the £1,000,000 question incorrectly, they lost £468,000. However, the question turned out to be ambiguous, as "In God, We Trust" is the legal motto for the United States; the phrase is found on many American coins, though it is not of Latin origin. Because of this, they were invited back to play again, reinstating their previously lost £468,000 to bring them back up to £500,000. The contestants decided not to risk it this time and left with the £500,000 for their chosen charities.
No other contestant had ever lost £468,000; the most money ever lost was £218,000, which occurred only twice: Duncan Bickley lost in October 2000 and Rob Mitchell in October 2003, when they answered their £500,000 questions incorrectly and fell from £250,000 down to £32,000.
Charles Ingram affair
In an episode of the show recorded on 9 and 10 September 2001, Charles Ingram won the £1 million prize. During the recording it was noticed that a suspicious pattern of coughing could be heard. Ingram's unusual behaviour in the hot seat also drew attention. Analysed, it was believed that another contestant, Tecwen Whittock, sitting behind him, was offering him prompts in the form of coughs, indicating the correct answers. On some of the questions, Ingram read aloud all of the four answers, until a significant cough was heard, before choosing his answer. In some cases, he dismissed an answer, read aloud the answer choices again, and then picked the answer that he had earlier dismissed. It also appeared on the tapes that after Ingram repeated a particular incorrect answer several times believing it to be correct, Whittock coughed and then loudly whispered 'No!'
After Ingram won the million, Whittock won the next Fastest Finger game and so took to the hotseat. He reached the £4,000 mark, but dropped back to £1,000 after answering a cookery question incorrectly.
The Prosecution suggested that Ingram's wife, Diana (who had won £32,000 on a previous show, as had her brother), had organised the scam. Pager telephone records revealed what appeared to be a practice session for another plan to cheat the system that was not subsequently carried out. The Prosecution claimed that the original plan was for Ingram to hide four pagers on his body that would vibrate when an accomplice called the pager indicating the correct answer. It would seem that during one of Diana's questions, an audible cough could be heard after Tarrant had read out all the questions to her, with the cough landing at the end of the correct answer.
Following a trial at Southwark Crown Court lasting four weeks, Ingram, his wife Diana, and Whittock were convicted of "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception" on 7 April 2003. Ingram and his wife were each given suspended 18-month prison sentences and fined £15,000, while Whittock received a 12-month suspended sentence and was fined £10,000. Together with legal costs, the Ingrams had to pay £115,000, in addition to not receiving his £1,000,000.
Despite the conviction, the Ingrams and Whittock continue to deny that they colluded or acted dishonestly. They appealed against the conviction. An ITV documentary entitled Millionaire: A Major Fraud, presented by Martin Bashir, was broadcast in Britain on 21 April 2003 with a follow-up two weeks later, Millionaire: The Final Answer. Excerpts from the recording were broadcast but with enhanced audio highlighting the coughs emanating, the Prosecution alleged, from Whittock. Immediately after Major Fraud, the uncut recording, but again with enhanced audio, was broadcast on ITV2. Major Fraud included additional video recorded during the programme of Mrs. Ingram sitting in the audience and apparently prompting Major Ingram with her own coughing and making glances in the direction of Whittock. Major Fraud also contained interviews with production staff and some contestants present at the recording describing how they felt that something unusual had been happening. The defendants declined to be interviewed for the programme. Ingram described Major Fraud and the programme broadcast on ITV2 as "one of the greatest TV editing con tricks in history".
On 24 July 2003, the British Army ordered Charles Ingram to resign his commission as a Major.
James Plaskett has argued in favour of the innocence of Ingram, his wife, and Whittock. Plaskett's essay led to journalist Bob Woffinden, who had a long-time interest in miscarriages of justice, publishing a two-page article in the 9 October 2004 edition of the British newspaper the Daily Mail entitled 'Is the Coughing Major Innocent?' Jon Ronson, who attended the trial and had written two articles about it in The Guardian, wrote a piece about Plaskett's theory entitled 'Are the Millionaire three innocent?' In 2015 Woffinden and Plaskett published a book entitled Bad Show: The Quiz, the Cough, the Millionaire Major, arguing that Ingram's appearance on the show coinciding with Whittock's was "chance".
Plaskett may also be heard at Episode 29 of The Pod Delusion podcast being interviewed by political blogger, Mark Thompson, who was himself led by Plaskett's essay to take an interest in the case of The Millionaire Three. In January 2006, Plaskett himself made it into the hot seat and won £250,000. He subsequently sponsored Ingram for £25,000 to run the 2006 Flora London Marathon for the charity SENSE.
Robert Brydges affair
The participation of Robert Brydges raised the ire of Brydges's neighbour, Sarah Elliott, who said "Bob is loaded. When I found out he was going on the show I knew he would win. He's as sharp as a razor and has no problem under pressure. But gambling on the tricky questions must be a lot easier when you're already worth millions. I suppose £16,000 must seem like loose change to him." Elliott's grandmother was less kind, saying "It is so unfair that someone like Robert should be allowed on the show. That family certainly does not need the money. It won't make any difference to them because they're filthy rich and live like millionaires anyway". In addition, the show has been called elitist: presenter Eamonn Holmes suggested live on GMTV that only millionaires or minor royals had a chance of winning the prize. A spokesman for Celador responded "Everybody has an equal chance to get on. It is impossible for us to check how much money people already have when they get on the show. We'd love a penniless binman as our next winner, but it never happens."
The Phone-a-Friend lifeline provided multiple instances of controversy during the show's run. A 2002 edition of the Daily Mail reported that many contestants had selected strangers who were "contacts among the quizzing fraternity" to act as their Phone-a-Friends. Specifically, game show champion Daphne Fowler was approached by a man she had not previously met and asked if she would be his lifeline in exchange for £200. Fowler refused, adding: "I thought a fair price would be a quarter of whatever the man won, so if I helped him get from £32,000 to £64,000 I would expect to get £16,000." The man was later revealed by ITV sources not to have made it onto the programme.
In March 2007 various UK newspapers reported that an organised syndicate had been getting quiz enthusiasts onto the show in return for a percentage of their winnings. The person behind the syndicate was Keith Burgess from Northern Ireland. Burgess admitted to helping around 200 contestants to appear on the show since 1999; he estimates those contestants to have won around £5,000,000. The show producers are believed to have been aware of this operation, with Burgess stating: "The show knows about me and these types of syndicates, but they cover it up to keep the show going." An earlier version of a Phone a Friend syndicate was reported in the Northampton Chronicle and Echo during 2003. Paul Smith, the Managing Director of Celador Productions, stated: "We are aware of Paddy Spooner and what people similar to him are doing, and we have made a priority of changing our question procedure. We are confident we have now made it impossible for anyone to manipulate the system." Since then, the options of people that can be called have a picture of themselves shown on-air.
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes|
|1||4 September 1998||25 December 1998||11|
|2||1 January 1999||13 January 1999||13|
|3||5 March 1999||16 March 1999||12|
|4||3 September 1999||14 September 1999||13|
|5||5 November 1999||26 December 1999||18|
|6||16 January 2000||22 January 2000||7|
|7||26 March 2000||1 May 2000||13|
|8||7 September 2000||6 January 2001||55|
|9||8 January 2001||26 April 2001||45|
|10||4 September 2001||29 December 2001||43|
|11||5 January 2002||9 April 2002||55|
|12||31 August 2002||28 December 2002||19|
|13||4 January 2003||31 May 2003||21|
|14||30 August 2003||27 December 2003||21|
|15||3 January 2004||5 June 2004||23|
|16||18 September 2004||25 December 2004||16|
|17||1 January 2005||11 June 2005||24|
|18||17 September 2005||31 December 2005||11|
|19||7 January 2006||8 July 2006||27|
|20||9 September 2006||6 January 2007||13|
|21||10 March 2007||28 July 2007||17|
|22||18 August 2007||30 October 2007||11|
|23||1 January 2008||3 June 2008||19|
|24||16 August 2008||31 January 2009||18|
|25||13 June 2009||20 December 2009||20|
|26||13 April 2010||8 June 2010||8|
|27||3 August 2010||23 December 2010||11|
|28||2 April 2011||19 December 2011||6|
|29||3 January 2012||20 December 2012||11|
|30||1 January 2013||11 February 2014||11|
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