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  • Series Premiere Date: Aug 16, 1999
Season #: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Image
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  • Summary: This game is based on the British version of the same name. This game is simple, but in a hard way: Be the first to answer a question correctly, get up on stage to answer 15 more questions correctly, and you win $1 million.
    But the hard parts are these: Be the first to answer a
    This game is based on the British version of the same name. This game is simple, but in a hard way: Be the first to answer a question correctly, get up on stage to answer 15 more questions correctly, and you win $1 million.
    But the hard parts are these: Be the first to answer a "fastest finger question" (a question with 4 answers to be placed in a certain order) correctly. The person who does this gets up on stage and into the "hot seat", where s/he will answer 15 multiple choice questions.
    The second hard part is the multiple choice questions get tougher as they go along: for that reason, 3 "Lifelines" (types of aid) are there to help: once one lifeline is used, it cannot be used again. These Lifelines are:

    1. Ask the audience, usually used in one of the first 7 or 8 questions. The audience uses the keypad in front of their seats to vote on what they think the answer is, and the results are shown to the player on his/her computer screen in bar graph form.
    2. Phone a friend. The player may phone one of his/her friends that may know the answer to this question, but has 30 seconds to come up with an answer.
    3. 50:50, in which 2 of the wrong answers are taken away, leaving one wrong answer and the correct one.

    When Super Millionaire rolled around (see bottom), they also threw in 2 additional lifelines only for use on the last 5 questions. They are:

    4. Three Wise Men: three trivia experts (usually one pop culture expert, one general knowledge expert like a former millionaire from the show, and one expert in any school subject such as history, science, etc.) are chosen before the show to provide contestants with assistance. When the contestant gets stuck on a question, (s)he can call upon these 3 experts and they'll have 30 seconds to discuss the answer, but they do not have to reach a consensus (for example, one might say D and another might say B.)
    5. Double Dip: The contestant will have two shots at answering the question. The player may give one answer and if it's wrong, (s)he may give another answer, which will be the final answer to the question. If the first answer is right, the lifeline is still considered to have been used. But the main catch is that if you use the Double Dip, you MUST answer the question. You can NOT walk away.

    Beginning with the 2004-2005 season, the syndication version's money tree amounts were modified throughout the whole tree and a lifeline was added to the for the last five questions only:

    6. Switch the Question: Once a contestant has reached the second safe haven, they are allowed to use this lifeline and ask for the current question to be switched. Once switched, they are not obligated to answer and can still back out. However, any lifelines used with the discarded question are not reinstated.

    Each question also has a cash value. For the first 5 questions (usually general knowledge), if a player answers a question incorrectly, s/he wins nothing. (This has actually happened to a few unfortunate contestants!) The original version's cash values are:
    15. $1,000,000
    14. $500,000
    13. $250,000
    12. $125,000
    11. $64,000
    10. $32,000
    9. $16,000
    8. $8,000
    7. $4,000
    6. $2,000
    5. $1,000
    4. $500
    3. $300
    2. $200
    1. $100

    The bolded dollar values indicated safe havens. Once you cross the $1,000 mark, you can't leave with less than $1,000. Once you pass the $32,000 question, you're guaranteed to leave with at least $32,000. Contestants can also walk away with the money that s/he has already won if s/he can not risk getting an incorrect answer. Because if (s)he goes for it and the answer is wrong, his/her winnings drop down to the value of the last safe haven question answered. In the Meridith Viera version, the values of the $32,000, $64,000 and $125,000 questions would later change to $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000, respectively.

    The first "millionaire" was John Carpenter in November 1999.

    Throughout its run, Millionaire was given several variations and specials to increase interest. These included:

    All-Star Week: The show's biggest previous winners came back to face the hot seat again. What they won the second time around they kept half of, donating the rest to their favorite charity.

    Losers Week: The previous contestants who walked away with $0 came back for a second shot at the million.

    Tax-Free Week: Most contestants usually were charged taxes that were brought on by winning large amounts of money. Contestants during this week were released from those liabilities and allowed to keep their full winnings.

    Super Bowl Night: This was a special held the week before Super Bowl Sunday, with all of its questions pertaining to professional football.

    Academy Awards Special: A special held during the exciting time before Oscars were awarded. All of the questions pertained to the Academy Awards and their winners.

    Family Week: During this week, each of the contestants faced the hot seat with one of his or her children. Valentine's Week: Lovers faced the hot seat together during these specials held during the week of Valentine's Day. Celebrity Week: Favorite celebrities were invited to face the hot seat to win money for charity. Guests included Rosie O'Donnell, Drew Carey, Emeril Lagasse, and Kermit the Frog. Since they were playing for worthy causes, celebrities were allowed to "cheat" by shouting hints or answers to the one in the hot seat, up to $32,000. Pop-Up Week: During one of the celebrity weeks, "Pop-Up Video" pop-ups were added to increase interest in the show. The pop-ups gave information about the questions, the celebrities, or the show in general. Mega Millionaire: Started 72 shows after David Goodman won the million in July of 2000 and lasted until the next big winner. The 15th question was no longer worth $1,000,000. It became a progressive jackpot that went up $10,000 for every night without a millionaire. Since it started 72 shows after the previous winner, the jackpot started at $1,720,000. The jackpot ended when Kevin Olmstead won it in April 2001. The jackpot at that point was $2,180,000! Although the daily syndicated version (with Meridith Vieira) continues to air (without the fastest finger) the Regis Philbin nighttime version has been revamped into "Super Millionaire" in which a contestant can win up to $10 million. Super Millionaire's Money Tree goes like this: 15. $10,000,000 14. $5,000,000 13. $2,500,000 12. $1,000,000 11. $500,000 10. $100,000 9. $50,000 8. $30,000 7. $20,000 6. $10,000 5. $5,000 4. $4,000 3. $3,000 2. $2,000 1. $1,000 Other foreign versions also exist, but the game in certain countries has been modified for budget reasons. Millionaire can be seen at the following times: Original Regis version: Daily at 5:00 P.M. on GSN (Pacific time, please adjust accordingly) Daily at midnight on GSN (Pacific time, please adjust accordingly) Weekends at 1:00 P.M. on GSN (Pacific time, adjust accordingly) Super Millionaire: Currently not showing.
  • Genre(s): Game Show
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