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A BBC game show (produced as a tie-in with the British National Lottery) from the people who brought you Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. The game started with 49 numbered players (the Thunderball lottery draw which aired during the show had 49 balls), who played an elimination game based on questions with numerical answers. If a contestant thought their number was the answer to the question asked, they could buzz in. The player with the correct answer advanced to the next round, but only if they buzzed in. Those who guessed incorrectly were eliminated. This process continued until 6 players remained. Viewers whose telephone numbers contained all 6 of the "ones" digits of the advancing players could register to become a contestant on a future episode too.
Then came the next round, "Looking After Number 1", where the field would be reduced to one player. A question was asked on the buzzer whose answer was one of the numbers of the remaining players. If a contestant answered correctly, the contestant with that number would be eliminated. If the player with the matching number guesses correctly, they're saved. Wrong answers eliminated the person who guessed. This was repeated until one remained, who got to "activate" the Thunderball drawing, and then play the Wonderwall bonus round for a chance to win progressively better trips (ranging from bed and breakfast at Spaghetti Junction to a trip "around the world") by answering questions with one of 49 answers on a giant video screen in three minutes.
Winning Lines ran for six series on BBC One, hosted by Simon Mayo from 1999-2000, and Phillip Schofield from 2001-04.
To cash in on a recent renaissance of primetime high-stakes game shows triggered by Millionaire in the United States, Winning Lines came stateside in 2000 for CBS, with the hosting role filled by veteran television personality Dick Clark. The show was a faithful adaptation nonetheless, sans Lottery cross-promotion, but now with an almost lottery-sized grand prize of $1,000,000! Unfortunately, it was Too Good to Last and only managed to get 10 episodes in before being pulled due to low ratings.
Game Show Tropes in use:
- Bonus Round: The Wonderwall (not to be confused with the Oasis song), which is essentially a trivia version of Where's Wally. The player begins with 15 seconds to study a giant wall with 49 possible answers on it. Then, they got three minutes to answer 20 questions by responding with both the answer and number from the board. Each prize level is a vacation of increasing prestige, ranging from a trip to a bed and breakfast at Spaghetti Junction to a trip around the world. Two "Pit Stops" are issued to stop the clock for fifteen seconds each.
- The American version is almost identical, but with some additional changes. Contestants played for cash (ranging from $2,500 to $1,000,000), and also received two Passes, which could be used to switch out the question. However, the biggest change of all was the addition of a way to lose; each incorrect guess earned a strike. Getting three strikes or running out of time dropped the player right back down to the $2,500 level. Additionally, every question had a 15 second time limit in addition to the main 3 minutes, running out of time on that also cost a strike. If two strikes are amassed or 15 seconds remain overall (whichever comes first), a button activates allowing the player to bail out with their current prize.
- Home Participation Sweepstakes: Both versions had one; if your phone number contained the last digits of the final 6 contestants' numbers, you were eligible to enter to be a contestant on the British version, or to win a $50,000 prize draw on the American version.
- Lifeline: The two Pit Stops and passes in the Wonderwall round
- Game Show Host: Simon Mayo and Phillip Schofield for the British version, Dick Clark for the U.S. version.
- Announcer: Chuck Reilly served as the announcer for the U.S. version
- Who Wants to Be Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: The producers managed to subvert their own cliches. It only premiered about a year after Millionaire, and its influence did rub off on it in a way. It definitely has a dark, futuristic look, and even shared the same composer. However, unlike most Millionaire-inspired shows, it was a BBC/National Lottery game show (so giving away a million pounds was out of the question. They save that for the lottery), it wasn't primarily a single player game (only the Wonderwall was, but that's a typical characteristic of a bonus round), and the aforementioned Wonderwall is actually designed to be a Speed Round, averting padding (but the main game, is another story).
- However, in America, it was played straight - the average viewer probably never knew it was from the creators of their new favorite show. They just saw it as another show trying to cash in on the Millionaire craze.
- Zonk: The British version offered a stay at a bed and breakfast overlooking the Gravelly Hill Interchange in Birmingham (otherwise known as Spaghetti Junction) as a consolation prize if one were to get nothing right on the Wonderwall.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Simon Mayo was known for hosting various flagship programs on BBC Radio 1, and Schofield (who now hosts The Cube) was well-known for being one of the hosts of the BBC's children's lineup in the 80's.
- Spiritual Successor: This wasn't the first Celador show involving telephone numbers for a home game. Their 1994 show Talking Telephone Numbers was a variety show whose acts generated a series of numbers. If the last 5 numbers in your phone number matched them, you could call in live and potentially win up to £25,000.
- Timed Mission: The Wonderwall only allots three minutes. The American version further complicates matters by putting an additional time limit on each question itself.