The YouTube Files – Who Wants To Be A Super Millionaire?

Who Wants To Be A Super Millionaire? (ABC, 2004)

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is one of the most successful game shows that there has ever been… and it all started here! There have been variations of the show all around the world, and I planned to review the American version. Whilst having a look at some editions on YouTube, I realised that they had made a special variation on the famous format.

The American version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire launched on ABC in 1999 and was originally hosted by Regis Philbin. This version actually produced a million winning contestant before the British version did. The show did become very popular, and the decision was made to take the idea to the next level. How many people would like to become a super millionaire? vlcsnap-01336

In America in 2004, there was a special series that lasted 12 editions called Who Wants To Be A Super Millionaire? which had some slight changes to the format. Again, contestants had to answer 15 questions correctly and had three lifelines available, but there was a lot more at stake. After qualifying by playing the Fastest Finger First round, if contestants went all the way they would win a remarkable $10,000,000! vlcsnap-01334

This meant that the money amounts on offer went up very quickly. The first safe point at question five was worth $5,000, and if they get the tenth question right they are guaranteed $100,000. When they get to the 11th question, there is now a change in the game. Firstly, the amounts that are now on offer are huge, and two new lifelines that were never used in the UK version come into play. vlcsnap-01343

These were The Three Wise Men, where a trio of panellists (including a former contestant) could consult one another on what they thought the answer was for 30 seconds, sort of a deluxe Phone A Friend. There was also the Double Dip, where contestants could make two guesses at what they thought the answer was, although if they used this they couldn’t walk away from the question and they then couldn’t use any of their other remaining lifelines. vlcsnap-01335

The contestant who progressed the most was Robert Essig, who got as far as the 12th question and won $1,000,000. It was a little odd to think that this wasn’t the top prize in this version, and although he didn’t play it, he saw the 13th question which was worth $2,500,000. We can only imagine what the level of difficultly was for the final question that was worth an eight-figure sum. vlcsnap-01341

There was a contestant who went even further though. In the regular version, for a while, $10,000 was added to the top prize for every time it wasn’t won, meaning that Kevin Olmstead went on to win a massive $2,180,000 for getting the final question right, the biggest game show win at the time. He was rather pleased about it. And indeed, just about everyone else watching was. Super Millionaire was definitely an interesting variation on the format, and unlike the UK, it seems that the American version is still going on TV.

The YouTube Files – Wheel Of Fortune USA.

Wheel Of Fortune (1975-present)

I have noticed that one of my most popular blog pieces is my review of the classic game show Wheel Of Fortune. I know that this was a show that was based on an American format, so once again I decided to look at some editions on YouTube from throughout the years. One of the things that I was surprised to discover was that Wheel Of Fortune has been running on American TV almost continuously since the mid-70s. vlcsnap-01319

The rules of the American version of Wheel Of Fortune are just about the same as the British one. Three contestants take part and they have to solve word puzzles and spin a wheel to determine how much they are playing for. One major difference is that in the American version, they are playing for money. In the British version that launched in 1988 contestants played for points at this stage of the game, because of the restrictions on prize money at the time there was never really a chance of a “fortune” being given away. vlcsnap-01330

Also in the early series of the British version, contestants had to answer a question before they have the chance to spin the wheel. Every time someone solves a puzzle, they win a bonus prize, and there are lots of bonuses available on the wheel too alongside the money values, but watch out for those bankrupts! The contestant who has made the most money then goes into the final. If they can solve one final puzzle after selecting various letters, then they win a big prize, and lots of cars and holidays would be given away. vlcsnap-01323

The American version of Wheel Of Fortune has had various hosts but it has been hosted by Pat Sajak and Vanna White since the mid-80s. Watching some editions from more recent years I noticed that thanks to improved technology each individual letter is now a screen which has to be touched to reveal the letter, rather than having a panel that had to be physically turned around, although this never happened in the British version. vlcsnap-01332

Wheel Of Fortune eventually ran on British TV for 13 years, although the final few series were shown in a daytime slot. The American version has now been on TV for over 40 years and remains popular as it still offers lots of big prizes. Of all the game shows that could be revived, one that I really would like to see have another go on British TV is Wheel Of Fortune because now prizes really could be given away that are as big as what’s on offer in America and I think that it definitely has the potential to be really fun and exciting to watch. vlcsnap-01333

The YouTube Files – Jeopardy! USA.

Jeopardy! (1984-present)

Jeopardy! was a game show that originally ran on American TV from 1964-1979, but this piece will concentrate on the revival which launched in 1984 and has been hosted by Alex Trebek ever since. Although there were three attempts at making a British version of Jeopardy!, none of them were particularly successful, but the American version has become a long-running institution. So I decided to look at some editions on YouTube, and I remember that this version was also briefly shown on Sky One. vlcsnap-01297

Three contestants take part and they have to give their answers in the form of a question. There are six categories to choose from with five clues each. If they give the correct response, they win the money on offer. Get it wrong and they lose that money. This was repeated in the second round but with the values doubled. This meant that a contestant could gain or lose as much as $2,000 on one question, so there was slightly more tension than in the UK version where as little as five points could be at risk. Don’t forget to look out for those Daily Doubles too! (two on offer in each round in this version, three in the ITV version.)   vlcsnap-01283

In the final round, contestants were given one more clue, and they had to write down their response in the form of a question accompanied by possibly the most famous game show thinking time music this side of Countdown. When time was up, their responses were revealed, with them having their bid added to their score if they were right, but they would lose it if they were wrong, meaning the scores could change in all sorts of ways, and on at least one occasion the winner scored only $1. The highest scorer was declared the winner and could return the next day as the defending champion. vlcsnap-01292

In the early days, winning contestants could play five times before they had to retire undefeated, winning a bonus prize. After a while, this rule was changed so that contestants could stay for as long as they kept on winning and they could win a huge amount of money. The most famous example of this was Ken Jennings, the contestant who appeared on 75 consecutive shows and won a seven-figure sum of money in a remarkable winning streak. What do I think of his performance? Well he’s no Ian Lygo but he’s still clearly a very talented contestant. vlcsnap-01293

Jeopardy! remains consistently popular, and there have been several variations on the show, including tournaments featuring former champions competing, teen tournaments for students, and also lots of celebrity specials. The show also seems to have a big presence online, with websites dedicated to discussing the clues featured on the show and debating the wagering strategies for the final in a little too much detail. vlcsnap-01280

Another reason that I feel Jeopardy! is just about the American equivalent of Countdown is that it’s a slightly more challenging game show which seems to have been on TV just about every weekday for the last 30 years where you always come away feeling that you have learned something. I did enjoy watching it myself and it’s a shame that despite three attempts (on Channel 4, ITV and Sky One) a British audience never really caught on to it.

More TV Memories – Crossroads The Final Episode.

Crossroads (ITV1, 2003)

In what will probably the last in my series looking back at the final episodes of TV soaps (I don’t think I can go through Brookside again, and I don’t want to go anywhere near Eldorado), here’s a look at how Crossroads ended. This was a soap that was originally shown on ITV from 1964-1988, and then there was a revival in 2001 in a daytime slot, which featured the return of some old faces. This met with a middling response from viewers, so it was time for a rethink. vlcsnap-01272

In 2003 Crossroads was relaunched again, and this time it was somewhat daft and camp, as if they were trying to say in this version the acting was deliberately bad, ha-ha-ha! Again, viewers weren’t very fond of all this, and even having guest appearances from the likes of such celebrities as Les Dennis, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Lionel Blair (although on this occasion he didn’t simply say “cataracts?”) wasn’t that exciting. vlcsnap-01276

So the decision was made to end the show in May 2003, for good this time. How would it all end? I decided to give it another watch. Unlike the other soaps that I have reviewed, would they just go down the “it was all a dream” route? Well… they actually did. They took the opportunity to send up the genre somewhat and make references to the show, I believe the word for this is meta as the teenagers say. vlcsnap-01278

Apart from Jane Asher who was brought in as the star attraction for this version and played Angela who ran the hotel, just about every other cast member had already been in a soap or would go on to be in one. So we had the likes of Sherrie Hewson, Anne Charleston and Lucy Pargeter who would all go on to appear in Emmerdale, with just about all the others going on to EastEnders or Hollyoaks. And also featuring was Freema Agyeman who would go on to further success in Doctor Who and Law And Order UKvlcsnap-01273

Another thing that I noticed was that there was a character called Rio who was played by Georgina Walker (who had become a redhead and picked up an American accent somewhere along the way) who was described by one character as “a right little madam”. Now you might remember that this was the actress who caught my attention when she played the mysterious Jane Harper in the great Night And Day. By a coincidence Crossroads ended about a week before Night And Day did on ITV1, so she was in the unfortunate position of appearing in the final episode of two soaps in very quick succession, and she hasn’t been seen much on TV since. vlcsnap-01257

About halfway through the final episode, suddenly all of the cast worked in a supermarket, and the announcement was made that the supermarket was about to close and everyone would be out of a job. When asked what she would do next, Asher’s character said that she might “bake a cake” (do you see??!). How we laughed. It was definitely one of the more bizarre ways for a show to leave the screen. vlcsnap-01279

More TV Memories – Family Affairs The Final Episode.

Family Affairs (Five, 2005)

After taking a look back at the strange final episode of Night And Day, here’s a look at another TV soap’s ending, this time Channel 5’s Family Affairs. This was a soap that I didn’t watch too much but when it came to an end after 2,285 episodes in December 2005 I thought that it was worth a look. What would exactly happen? They couldn’t blow everything up of course because that had long since happened on the show, but maybe there would still be the chance for some scores to be settled with all the characters in this final episode that was written by Lisa Evans. vlcsnap-01237

Following the introduction by the continuity announcer who almost sounded a little upset about the whole thing, the episode begins, with a theme that doesn’t sound as much like “Speed Of Sound” by Coldplay as I remember. Family Affairs was also set in a fictional place called Charnham, which I think was in London, although its actual location seemed to change depending on what week it was. vlcsnap-01247

Because I didn’t watch Family Affairs that often by the end I am not too familiar with most of the cast in the episode, but I will try and piece together what happened. We start with Eileen who turns up with a handsome young man with her and announces that she has won the Lottery. Nathan and Eve get married. George the plain nurse gets sacked but feels she did the right thing. At last, the mouse roars! vlcsnap-01239

Now unlike my sister, I am unable to claim that I used to be in the same class at school as someone who went on to have a UK Top Ten hit single in the 1990s, but I am able to claim that I was in the same class at school as someone who appeared in the final episode of Family Affairs. It was Ryan Davenport who played Justin. What an honour. It’s just a shame that he only had about one line in this finale though. vlcsnap-01241

Meanwhile, Cat and Doug (played by Gareth “stick a red nose on your conk” Hale) are in the pub and appear to be having some marital trouble. But it gets worse, Yasmin doesn’t want to go to the ball! She does decide to go eventually though. What a relief all round, especially for Damian the vicar. It also looks like the rather creepy Rex who has been holding some people hostage is about to get his comeuppance. vlcsnap-01251

The show ended on something on a happy note though, as someone said “I’m going to miss this place”, and then the whole cast gathered to welcome in the New Year and perform “Auld Lang Syne” among fireworks. As the show ends, the announcer returns to inform us that he thought the episode was fantastic and that the website will be remaining open so that fans can discuss what happened in the forum. I’m sure it crashed in all the excitement and the cast all hastily sent their CVs to EastEndersvlcsnap-01252

Family Affairs had fairly consistent ratings, they weren’t huge but they weren’t too bad, and the finale was watched by over a million viewers, so presumably some people somewhere were big fans of the show and sorry to see it go. After this Channel 5’s commitment to soaps was buying in Neighbours from BBC1 to show alongside Home And Away which it had already taken from ITV to fill an hour with action from Australia every afternoon and evening.

The YouTube Files – Family Fortunes USA.

Family Feud (ABC, 1976-1985, CBS, 1988-1993)

This is another game show that began in America before coming to the UK, but unlike just about the all others that I have reviewed so far, this one is a very-long running and popular show. Family Feud (which was renamed Family Fortunes when it launched in the UK in 1980, because the idea of two teams competing against one another on a game show being described to British viewers as a “feud”, ugh, how ghastly!) launched in the mid-70s. I didn’t know much about the American version beyond the parody in Family Guy, and, as ever, I was intrigued to discover more on YouTube. vlcsnap-01211

The way that Family Feud is played is just about the same as the British version, it’s a simple but effective format that has endured on American TV for many decades. Two related teams of five take part and they have to find the most popular answers to a question in a survey of 100 people. Some things that I definitely noticed as different in this version is that for the first stage of the game the board isn’t computer-generated, and it’s rather strange to not hear the famous incorrect answer sound effect. It does seem that the US version can be as good value for silly answers as the UK version though! vlcsnap-01210

In the next round, the point values are doubled, can you believe it. The first team to get to 300 points makes the final called Fast Money (Big Money in the UK version). If two of the five contestants on the team can score 200 points between them they can win lots of money, ($5,000 in the earliest version, again much more than the 80s UK version could offer) and this version also had returning champions, so five-figure sums were possible to win. vlcsnap-01213

There have been several versions of Family Feud over the years with several hosts, although the basic idea remains the same, and the current version features a lot of questions that seem to be deliberately phrased to practically encourage contestants to offer rude or silly answers leading to loads of daft “you won’t believe what this contestant said!” headlines alongside endless celebrity specials. vlcsnap-01214

As I do enjoy the original version of Family Fortunes, I thought that Family Feud was an interesting variation. It was definitely good seeing the show played with more money on offer, and it’s great to know that the format is as much loved in America as it is in the UK and indeed many other countries around the world. I’ll take a look at some more American game shows soon.

The YouTube Files – Wipeout USA.

Wipeout (1988-1989)

Wipeout was a game show that I enjoyed watching in both its primetime and daytime versions, and, oh yes, it was yet another show which was originally shown on American TV in the 1980s, so of course I had to go on YouTube again to see it for myself. This version of Wipeout was hosted by Peter Tomarken, who is better remembered for being the host of Press Your Luck, and again, there are a few differences in the rules to the British version.

The basic idea of this version is the same. Three contestants take part, and they had to find the 11 correct answers out of the 16 on offer to win money and avoid the wipeouts (or “whammies” as Peter accidentally referred to them on one edition, seemingly thinking that he was still hosting Press Your Luck) or they would lose everything. In this version however, only one question was played, the British primetime version featured three questions. vlcsnap-01207

The scoring system was slightly different too. The first correct answer was worth $25, with another $25 added for every next correct answer, meaning that the 11th and final one would be worth $275 and could really change the game. In the British primetime version, the value went up £10 for every correct answer from £10 to £110. There was also a bonus prize behind one correct answer called a Hot Spot (not to be confused with Strike It Lucky). vlcsnap-01199

The two highest-scoring contestants then went through to the second round which was the Challenge round, known in the British version as the Auction. This round was played in just about the same way as the British version. There were now 12 answers on the board, eight correct and four wipeouts, and players bid how many they thought they could get right. The first to get two questions right then went into the final. The defeated contestant won some consolation prizes, but probably not a paperweight. vlcsnap-01204

Again, the final was just about the same as the British version, although there was more at stake. The contestant now had to find the six correct answers out of the 12 on offer in one minute. If they succeeded, they could win a car and lots of money, prizes on American game shows were a lot less restricted and more expensive than anything that could have ever been offered on UK game shows in the 1980s. vlcsnap-01206

There was also a video online somewhere of a contestant who when playing the final round hacked the board which was rather odd. In later editions contestants could also return to play for more prizes. This version of Wipeout was syndicated on American TV and ran for less than a year but almost 200 editions were made, again this was a show that ran for much longer in this country, and again it was good seeing another variation on this show which was also a success in many other countries too.