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 Is that your final answer?

TV Game Show, originating in the United Kingdom (where it has been hosted since its inception by Chris Tarrant) in 1998 and now sold to multiple countries. Celador, its former production company, claims that the format has been aired in 100 countries worldwide. Regis Philbin and Meredith Vieira were the American hosts on ABC and in syndication, respectively.

The game starts with a "Fastest Finger First" (or just "Fastest Finger" in the U.S.) round, wherein about ten contestants have to place four answers in order; (e.g., "List these U.S. Presidents in chronological order, starting with the earliest"). The first contestant to give the correct answer moves to the main game; everybody else goes home.

In the main game, the contestant must answer 15 (since changed to 12 in the UK version, or 14 in the US version) multiple-choice questions, worth increasing amounts of money to win up to £1 million (or local currency equivalent). They start with three "Lifelines", which are one-time-only helps they can use if they're unsure about a question.

Possible Lifelines include:

  • "Ask The Audience": The audience votes for the correct answer. Audiences of the Russian version are infamous for deliberately giving the wrong answer out of spite.
    • In the Brazilian version, the audience consisted of people waiting for their turns to play.
  • "Phone-A-Friend": The contestant is given thirty seconds to speak to someone (whom they chose beforehand) on the phone. Discontinued in October 2009, since it had become "Phone-A-Google-User" in practice.
  • "50:50": Two wrong answers are eliminated; originally, this removed the two most obviously-wrong answers, but later changed to removing two wrong answers at random... well, maybe random.
  • "Switch The Question": Allowed contestants to change a question that baffled them for a new question of the same value. Only available in special episodes of the UK version, but permitted for all contestants on the American version from 2004 to 2008, provided the player answered the tenth question (then reduced to $25,000 from $32,000) correctly.
  • "Double Dip": Used only on Super Millionaire at first, but later replaced 50:50 in the American version in 2008. Contestants are allowed to make two guesses at the same question, but once this lifeline is used, they are locked into answering the question and cannot walk away.
  • "Ask The Expert": After winning $1,000 (later $5,000) on the US version, the contestant earned this lifeline. Ask the Expert was basically an enhanced Phone-A-Friend, but with a (sometimes) genuinely-smarter person. In early 2010, this lifeline replaced Phone-A-Friend and was available from the outset.
  • "Three Wise Men": Used only on Super Millionaire, this allowed a panel of three experts (one of whom was a former Millionaire contestant) to deliberate and provide an answer within 30 seconds. Was a precursor to Ask the Expert, noted above.
    • In the Brazilian version, the panel was made of six college students.
  • "Jump the Question": Used only on the new shuffle format implemented on the American version in September 2010, the player skips to the next question and does not earn its resulting payout (the payout goes out of play in the first round (the shuffle round) and the question value is merely passed up in the second round (Classic Millionaire)). A contestant receives two of these. Three in the Brazilian version.
  • "The Cards": Instead of the "50:50", the Brazilian version had each player being allowed to ask for help from cards. 4 cards were left face down for the player to pick one. If the picked card was a King, no wrong answer would be removed; if the card was an Ace, one wrong answer would be removed; if it was a Two, two wrong answers would be removed and; if the card was a Three, all three wrong answers would be removed.

Under the classic rules, the contestant can stop at any time and keep whatever money they've earned up to that point. If they pass the 5- or 10-question mark (2- and 7- mark in the current UK version), they are guaranteed to get that amount of money, even if they answer wrong on a later question. If they get an answer wrong, they lose their money, except for whatever was guaranteed. See below for the changes in the US Shuffle format.

Britain has had four top-prize winners to date. A fifth, Charles Ingram, lost his money after it was proved that a friend gave him the answers by "strategic coughing" in a very famous case. Ironically, the first-ever winner was a middle-aged woman who was already quite wealthy. The first American winner famously did it without using a single lifeline in the process, with the exception of Phone-A-Friend — which he only used to inform his father that he was about to win the Million.

The American version was a massive hit in the beginning, spawning a huge revival in game shows in general and big money, prime time quiz shows in particular (including many other imported shows). Ratings eventually tanked, however, with most people pointing the finger at ABC for milking the show to the point of overexposure (at one point, it was aired four nights a week). It's still lives, however, in a more normal (for a game show) weekday afternoon syndication format, but the show's popularity and viewership has dipped quite a bit since then.

In Hungary, after the departure of the original host (the new one is a well-known humorist, turning the whole show into a sort of comedy), the format was changed to a fast-paced version: Six players play a single series of 15 questions, there are no lifelines and there's a time limit of 15 seconds for questions 1-5, 30 seconds for questions 6-10 and 45 seconds for questions 11-15. Each player can "pass" once a game, which rotates the next player into the same question, and that player can't pass that one even if he/she hasn't passed yet. Giving a wrong answer eliminates the player and calls in the next one with a new question at the same level. The total number of questions can't exceed 15, meaning the highest possible prize decreases as well. Currently runs once a month with one normal and one Celebrity Edition game per show. The Australian version adapts a similar format.

The US version underwent a massive alteration of its format for its ninth syndicated season. The game is now played in two distinct rounds, and the first ten questions (the first round of the game — the Shuffle Round) are worth an amount ranging from $100 to $25,000, but what a question is worth is only revealed once the question is answered correctly, and this money is accumulated rather than progressed through. Not only are dollar amounts random in the Shuffle Round, but so are question difficulties and categories. Missing a question drops the player down to $1000, and bailing out forfeits half the banked money. The final questions in the second round, named Classic Millionaire (worth $100K, $250K, $500K, and $1,000,000 of course), are played in the traditional manner. The lifelines were also changed for this, only Ask the Audience remains alongside two instances of a new lifeline called Switch the Question which lets the player skip over a question, at the expense of not being able to collect the money behind it.

The Brazilian version was originally called "Jogo do Milhão" (Million Game). However, the Brazilian network broadcasting it (SBT) had to rename it because the word 'Jogo' suggested gambling. (Many assume it was an exaggeration from Moral Watchdogs) The Brazilian version became known as "Show do Milhão" (Million Show) ever since. In that version, each contestant who got the chance to answer the million real(Brazilian currency) question was traditionally given twenty seconds before deciding between risking all the money they've got so far (R$ 500,000.00) or playing it safe by keeping the money and not answering the final question. The player can stop at any time they desire and those who do so keep all the money they earned to that point. The prize was usually (if not always) delivered as gold bars.


Game Show Tropes in use:

  • All or Nothing: In classic editions, the first two or five questions. In these editions, the questions are generally going from easiest to hardest, and the first question always has one answer that is hilariously wrong. Averted altogether in the current American format, where missing any of the first ten questions drops the contestant down to $1,000, and the difficulties are randomized in the first round (hence the universal minimum payout).
  • Confetti Drop: A snowstorm of confetti is released when someone wins the top prize or at the end of the last show of a run. In some countries, this is accompanied by fireworks.
  • Consolation Prize:
    • Most editions offer a smaller amount if one fails on a question past a checkpoint (usually questions five and ten, or two and seven in the UK's newer format).
    • The 2010 US version offers $1,000 for missing any of the ten first questions, and $25,000 for missing any of the last four.
    • In the Brazilian version, players who gave an incorrect answer to any question (other than the million real one) got half the money won from the previous questions.
  • Game Show Appearance: A foreign version was the setting (and point) of the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. Its success, in fact, helped to fuel the 10th-Anniversary specials on ABC. The production company behind Who Wants To Be a Millionaire was part of the movie project.
  • Home Game: Board and video. Coincidentally, the latter was the first video game to reach a million sales in the United Kingdom.
  • Let's Just See What Would Have Happened: Usually done if a contestant decides to walk away. In most cases, the contestant made the correct decision by walking away.
  • Lifelines: Trope Namer.
  • Losing Horns: Type A, in a sense, whenever you go for a question worth at least $1,000 and miss. The piece played for a $32,000 loss is particularly jarring, and should you be unfortunate enough to miss the $1,000,000 question, the show takes this Trope up to about 13 (see Nightmare Fuel on the YMMV page).
    • Interestingly, the US Retool, which had to use new music for legal reasons, uses the same theme no matter what question in the stack is answered incorrectly.
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Present only in the Japanese version.
    • Game Show Host: Regis Philbin in the ABC version, Meredith Vieira (or substitutes) on the US syndicated run. Chris Tarrant in the original and continuing UK version. Silvio Santos in the Brazilian version.
    • Studio Audience: Actively used when a contestant uses Ask The Audience.
  • Product Placement: Those 15 Capital One checks, Netflix Movie Week, and Ask The Expert's Skype service. AT&T sponsored Phone-A-Friend during the ABC era, and AOL sponsored an secondary Ask the Audience poll conducted through an AIM bot. There was also a "tax free" week sponsored by H&R Block, where prize values were adjusted so that their advertised winnings would actually be what they win after taxes.
    • In the UK, Barclays Bank's logo appeared on the 15 cheques, something which disappeared almost immediately after a rival bank started sponsoring the programme. (For what it's worth, product placement in the UK was entirely forbidden until 2011.)
  • Progressive Jackpot: One on occasion during Regis's era on the American version, the grand prize would increase by $10,000 for every person who failed to reach the million dollars. The prize reached $2,180,000 until it was won, although one other contestant during the jackpot phase came back due to a faulty question and went on to win the jackpot of $1,860,000 he was playing for the first time.
  • Retired Game Show Element: Several of the lifelines in the US version, along with the clock.
  • Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: Mostly in the upper tier, but "What kind of animal did Hannibal cross the Alps on?" at $100 really sticks out. While by no means a hard question, it's certainly far harder than the typical $100 questions, which were more often along the lines of "What color is the sky?"
    • The contestant missed that question, creating a Trope of his own in what fans of the show would refer to as "Llama-ing Out" — winning nothing.
    • Even more seem to pop up in the early questions of the New Zealand version of the show. The first contestant on that version went away with nothing, in fact.
    • A bad trend in recent American episodes: questions that ask what celebrities did before they became famous (or which of four celebrities had a specific job). These are almost always the hardest in Round 1 and frequently jumped or walked away from, and none have been answered correctly.
  • Who Wants to Be Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: Trope Namer — the show's success revived the Game Show genre and inspired a boatload of imitators, including an adaptation of fellow Celador production Winning Lines and eventually Philbin's own follow-up Million Dollar Password.
Tropes used in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? include:


  • A Day in the Limelight: Regis actually played a charity question to wrap-up the 10th-Anniversary specials. Meredith took the hosting duties for this occasion -- the chairs were reversed, Meredith hosting in the usual contestant position. Inverted in the daytime version, when Regis came back to host the week after Thanksgiving 2009.
    • Regis won the money by answering which of four answers was NOT a million-dollar winning answer on the US version of Millionaire.
      • This episode was also famous for being the only time on the American show when a contestant attempted the million-dollar answer and missed it.
  • All Gays Love Theater: In the Celebrity Millionaire episode with Norm MacDonald, the $500,000 question was about a play Samuel Beckett wrote. After seeing the choices, Norm said:

  Norm: Well, I'm not gay, so I don't know that much about Broadway musicals... (audience laughs)

  • Artifact Title: After the switch to the Euro, a few countries in Europe ended up with only six-figure top prize amounts (Greece and Portugal changed their top prizes to €250,000; for example), but the titles weren't always modified to reflect this change.
    • Inverted in Belgium where the show originally was called "Who wants to be a multi-millionaire?". The original top prize was 20 million BEF[1]. After the switch to the Euro, it became "Who wants to be a Euro-millionaire?".
  • Ascended Contestant: A few months before Meredith Vieira became the host of the syndicated US version of Millionaire, she was a contestant on the primetime version. Meredith was one of the last contestants out of the Fastest Finger circle, and made a joke about it when premiering the syndicated version, which nixed the Fastest Finger concept altogether.
  • Bonus Material:
  • Catch Phrase: "Is that your final answer?". This is used as "insurance" to prevent any legal dispute if someone says an answer, gets it wrong, and then claims they were just deliberating out loud as the hosts try to encourage.
    • During the first episode of the short-lived Irish version presented by Gay Bryne (that's his real name, and he was such a well-loved celebrity that nobody seems to have made a joke about it — now that is respect), he said "Is that your final answer?", "Are you sure?", "No regrets?" in that order after every. Single. Question. Every single one. Even the first five (aka "piss-easy") questions. It was unbelievably annoying, but luckily he packed it in by the second episode.
      • After a few American episodes, Regis' "Final Answer" insurances were edited out during the initial questions (because they usually were "piss-easy" and often included joke answers) to save time and keep the beginning of the game flowing.
    • Also, from Tarrant, "But we don't want to give you that!"...which managed to mutate itself into the public consciousness.
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger: Played straight in the UK, Australia and Japan; averted in the US. The closest the US came to playing this straight a rare occasion when a contestant switched out a high-level question and the replacement was only shown after commercials, but even then, the answer to the first question was shown before the break.
  • Couch Gag: The first question almost always has a gag answer for D. Subverted in that, if it isn't an obvious gag, it's probably the correct answer. And if that's the case, usually it would occur in the second question.
  • Epic Fail: Several times.
    • 2000: A contestant named Kati Knudsen was hell-bent on being the first woman to win the Million. This resolve never wavered, despite burning off all her Lifelines at the $8000 level. She even managed to claw her way to the $500,000 question. She then spent over an hour on the question (who was the most recently added member of the United Nations), saying "I'm pretty sure it's ___" on three of the four answer choices. Even Regis looked uncomfortable, and was practically begging her to stop (and probably would've physically removed her from the Hot Seat if he could have). Kati, not to be denied, plays the question, locks in an answer, and gets it wrong, dropping her to $32,000. Viewers could hear Kati cursing herself out as she left the stage.
    • August 2009: Ken Basin. "It's not your final answer; you just lost a lot of money."
  • Faux Documentary: "The Audience Experience".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: There's definitely some unusual questions that seem like they shouldn't have been allowed to air, such as one about Wienergate and another about two guys breaking a world record for longest kiss. Add to that other Accidental Innuendo such as the infamous "Uranus" slip-up and the show doesn't seem quite as innocent.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Gradual, but the background music fades away as the contestant goes up the money ladder; the sole sound (aside from a held low chord) remaining at the last question is, as you might have guessed, the heartbeat.
    • The pattern is inverted in the US Retool, which had to use new music for legal reasons. The percussion maintains the heartbeat-like rhythm for all three forms of the Round 1 music and the $100K question, but more instruments are added for the $250K, $500K and $1 million questions, making this motif less noticeable.
  • Hint System: In the celebrity versions of the Regis run, if a contestant was stuck on a question valued at $32,000 or below, the remaining contestants in the Fastest Finger seats were allowed to help the player out, usually of the comedic Cough-Snark-Cough variety. This was so that every player would be guaranteed to win $32,000 for the charity and have all three lifelines for the final five questions, where the game would be played straight.
  • Loophole Abuse: One contestant during the timer era constantly interrupted Vieira's reading of the answers, so that he could bank up more time for later questions. This trick could have been averted entirely if they rejiggered the clock to start after she's read the "D" answer...
  • Luck-Based Mission: Australia's Millionaire Hot Seat, which is the same format as the Hungarian version mentioned above.
    • The current US format to a lesser extent, since the first ten questions and their values are separately randomized.
  • Manipulative Editing: When a contestant walked away with time remaining on the clock, you could sometimes see for a split-second how much time the contestant actually had left (a jump in the music also signified an edit). This was most notable during the Tournament Of Ten.
  • Missing Episode: The first US celebrity edition's episodes (where Drew Carey and Rosie O'Donnell won $500,000 each for their charities), and the episode where Ed Toutant returned after a flawed $16,000 question and went on to win a $1,860,000 progressive jackpot, have never been rerun on GSN even though Millionaire reruns are quite common on that network.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: During the US Celebrity Millionaire, Norm MacDonald was going for the Million and almost answered correctly, but was talked out of it by a nervous Regis, who was concerned Norm was merely recklessly guessing (to be fair, he kinda was) and might potentially lose $468,000 to Paul Newman's charity. Still, how awesome would it have been to see Norm win the Million, especially since it would've been a great Take That at everyone who had picked on Norm all week (Norm was the last contestant in the batch of shows) for supposedly being dumb?
  • Nintendo Hard: The top tier of questions, as they should be.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The removal of Phone-a-Friend in the US version. It was obvious that these friends were often typing keywords into Google or other search engines to try to find the answer in the 30 seconds allowed. They often didn't even try to hide it. Neither did the show when they invoked said Obvious Rule Patch and replaced it with giving the Ask the Expert lifeline throughout the game.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: The British version remixed its own music in 2007, although it did not replace some of the shorter themes (like the "final winnings" tune) or the sound effects. The American version kept the same music through the clock format of 2008-2010, but replaced all music and sound effects with the 2010-2011 season for legal reasons. Just as an example, the intro themes in the original soundtrack (albeit with sound effects), the 2007 UK remix and the 2010 US soundtrack.
  • Reverse Psychology: One of Meredith's hosting trademarks is trying to psych out contestants who just gave a final answer before telling them they're right. She never does this when the contestant gets a question wrong, however.
    • Of course, feigning disappointment before telling a contestant they were right was also a Regis trademark, to the point of parody.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Occurs a few times, such as in this $100,000 question. [2]
  • Rules Spiel: In most versions.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike: The US syndicated version is much harder than the ABC version, with entire seasons going by without million-dollar winners. Justified, considering ratings of the syndicated version aren't as huge as the network version once was (ABC's Executive Meddling didn't help matters), and thus can't offer as much money.
    • The Canadian version bragged about this, even though it was done for the same reason.
  • Sweeps: In the US syndicated version, many of each season's best and most memorable contestants as well as games that get into the very high-level questions are aired during sweeps periods.
    • Before the show became a regular fixture on ABC, the first two two-week network runs were done during August and November (1999) Sweeps periods.
  • Take That:
    • Regis shouted "Peanuts!" when Ken Basin answered how much he won on Jeopardy!.
    • A similar crack by Meredith can be found here, aimed at the Phone-a-Friend rather than the contestant.
  • Time Keeps on Ticking: Under the US clock format, the clock starts ticking down after each question is read, but while the four choices are read. Most contestants waited until Meredith or Regis was done reading the choices before speaking (see Loophole Abuse above for an exception), which nearly cost some players.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: When three contestants ended up winning the top prize within a month of each other in Summer 2000, network executives thought it would be a good idea to tell people ahead of time that a glut of millionaires was coming. In truth, the ratings weren't really affected either way, but it set a precedent for many other game shows in later years to do the exact same thing.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Subverted, hard. Before Ken Basin's penultimate question (for $500,000), former million-dollar winner Nancy Christy said to him from the audience, "You know more than you think you do. Trust yourself." He became the first person to blow the $1,000,000 question in American Millionaire history.

Notes

  1. 1 USD was worth about 35 BEF
  2. For starters, krypton is not fictional, but she could have simply misspoken when she said neon "doesn't sound like a gas" (maybe she meant to say it didn't sound like the right answer?).
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