'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' Turns 20: See How the Show Evolved (PHOTOS)
It’s hard not to read the show’s title without thinking of Regis Philbin’s Bronx accent — he hosted the show for its ABC run from 1999 to 2002. Today
vet Meredith Vieira hosted the syndicated version from 2002 to 2013, followed by comedian Cedric the Entertainer from 2013 to 2014, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
star Terry Crews from 2014 to 2015, and Bachelor
host Chris Harrison from 2015 until its finale this year.
The syndicated version dropped the Fastest Finger round, and in 2008, it introduced a timer, with 15 seconds on the clock for the first five questions, 30 seconds for the next five, and so on. Then, from 2010 to 2015, the show shuffled up the cash values of the first 10 questions so that contestants didn’t know how much a question was worth until they answered or skipped it. But from 2015 to 2019, the show went back to the ladder structure.
Speaking of the ladder, it changed four times over the show’s run. In 2004, Questions 10 through 12 went from being worth $32k, $64k, and $125k to being worth $25k, $50k, and $100k, for example. In 2009, the first several questions got souped-up prizes. And starting in 2010, it only took 14 questions, not 15 as before, to reach the $1 million jackpot.
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Ask the Audience lasted the entire duration of the show, 50:50 came and went, and Phone a Friend lasted until 2010. Along the way, the show introduced several other lifelines. Double Dip, for example, let contestants choose a backup answer. +1 let them bring a friend on stage for help. And Jump the Question allowed them to bypass a question (and its associated cash value).
When the shuffle format was introduced in 2010, the production said goodbye to the Hot Seats in favor of having the contestants meet the host at a central podium and read the questions off large video screens. And in 2012, after the show went high-def, the set got revamped again, with new lighting and even larger screens. Hey, you don’t spend 20 years on TV without a couple of facelifts!
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire quietly ended its 20-season run earlier this year, and to say it’s the end of an era would indeed be our “final answer.”
Especially during its debut season, the televised trivia show had America on the edge of its seat — and cheering when John Carpenter, the first grand prize winner, used his Phone a Friend lifeline to tell his father he knew the answer to his $1 million question.
Millionaire turns 20 years old on August 16, and to mark the occasion, we’re recapping five ways the show evolved over its two decades on television. Check ‘em out in the gallery above.
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