Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (ITV, 2018-?)
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is one of the all-time greatest game shows around the world, but it ended in the UK in 2014 with something of a whimper. It had once been the big thing but its moment had passed. I thought that it would never return, so it was something of a surprise to learn that ITV were planning to revive to show for its 20th anniversary (which is actually in September). Chris Tarrant who served the show so well and is one of my favourite TV personalities decided not to return as host as he felt that 15 years was enough. Who could possibly replace him?
When it was announced that “Clarkson” was going to take the job I was pleased because I thought it meant the 90s pop star Betty Boo (because her real name is Alison Clarkson do you see I’m so funny ha-ha-ha). But of course it was actually Jeremy Clarkson which was something of an unexpected move. Now first of all as he somewhat divides opinion I have to explain whether I am a fan of his work or not.
I must admit that I have never regularly watched Top Gear or any of his other motoring shows because I simply have no interest or enthusiasm about cars whatsoever, but I know about some of his observations on life. I don’t know if he’s trying to be deliberately provocative and wind people up, but on this show he could be entirely different. Will he enjoy interacting with the public and will he be on their side?
When the show returned it was with hour-long editions on seven consecutive nights. How would it compare to the original version which had several changes by the end? Well pleasingly the format did go somewhat back to basics. The Fastest Finger First round had returned, but this time with six contestants taking part instead of ten, and they were auditioned rather than just qualifying to take part by phoning a number. Whoever gets the multiple choice question right in the quickest time can take the chair.
It should be noted that the set design looked terrific, there were definitely no problems in that area. The original money ladder with 15 questions also returned, and there was no clock! However, the graphics did look rather bad though, how they ended up looking a worse piece of design than the ones created almost two decades ago I wouldn’t know really. Some of the familiar musical cues seemed to be all over the place too.
There are now four lifelines available instead of three. They are Ask The Audience, 50/50 and Phone A Friend (where they now seemingly have to be verified that they are talking from an empty Google-free zone). Maybe this would have been better if the friends had been in the studio and appeared on screen like they did in the later series of the original version.
One of the biggest rule changes is the addition of the fourth lifeline which is Ask The Host. This is where the contestant can actually consult Jeremy on what he thinks the answer might be. There is no 30 second limit for this unlike Phone A Friend, maybe it would be better with one. What was interesting about this was because Jeremy didn’t seem to come across as much of a big quizzer his general knowledge was at a rather average level so he did have to ponder some of the answers as much as the contestants. It was up to the contestant as to whether they wanted to take his advice. Is he worth listening to?
The other main change was that after getting the £1,000 question right, they could set the next safe level themselves before they see the next question. This meant that instead of being fixed at £32,000, it could now be as low as £2,000 for the cautious, or even at £500,000 which would make the final question a free shot. However, when they do reach the second safe level the additional Switch lifeline wasn’t introduced, I wouldn’t have minded that being kept.
Another problem for viewers was the standard of contestants. A lot of them were using their lifelines at a very early stage, and a lot of wrong answers were given, with many dropping back to only £1,000. Maybe it would be good if people did better but they’ve got to prove that they can do it, they won’t be much getting much sympathy from Jeremy if they fail. There were also complaints that the question difficulty levels were too unbalanced, and the odds of someone going all the way seem to be very small unfortunately.
It would be fair to say that Jeremy definitely wasn’t doing a Tarrant impression (no “but we don’t want to give you that!“-type outbursts here) and made the show his own. The ratings were around four/five million which was about what could be expected, the days of this or any other show getting 19 million viewers regularly are long gone. I don’t know if there are any plans for another series, but it they can correct the minor production flaws maybe it could begin another long run on ITV.