In 1999, I was in Grade 3, which only means one thing if you grew up in Toronto – a field trip to Pioneer Village. In the days leading up to the trip, we had Pioneer Day at school. This entailed a few things.
For starters, we had to sit in a dark classroom and not use electricity. We also had to stand up to address the teacher. And we had to dress in clothes that pioneers wore.
In other words, I wore an oversized plaid shirt from my dad’s closet, and tucked 3/4 of it into my pants.
At one point, I went to the washroom. On my way back to class, I found a $5 bill on the floor. It had been folded multiple times. I picked it up and put it in the front pocket of my shirt, which felt as big as an ocean.
Could’ve fit my lunch in there.
The only problem was, it was obvious I had $5 in my pocket. I didn’t have anywhere else to put it. I couldn’t put it in my backpack because I’d have to walk passed my classroom to do so and didn’t want to raise suspicion.
In my mind, I had a briefcase full of money that I was trying to discreetly sneak by security.
I don’t think my pants had pockets that day. My hand wasn’t big enough to palm it like David Blaine. I think I thought about putting it in my sock, but didn’t.
So you can see why I had no other choice but to put the $5 back on the floor where I found it, and walk back to class with nothing.
At that age, Dumb = Adorable, but if you put the words together you get, Dumbledore.
So, basically, I was wise.
But this post is not about five dollars. It is about one million dollars.
I never saw Austin Powers, so I’m not doing that weird thing with my pinky to my face, if you were wondering.
In the summer of 1999, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? debuted on ABC and the television game show genre took off like a seagull with McDonald’s.
The premise was simple – answer 15 multiple choice questions correctly and you win one million dollars.
This was no pricing game with Bob Barker. Who cares about the dinette set? This was real money! I was hooked.
The host of the show was Regis Philbin and he was the perfect person for the job.
If you want to learn how to make someone laugh by only using facial expressions as a response, go watch Regis Philbin. That is oddly specific, I know, but trust me.
No one gets more laughs from two raised eyebrows.
Regis is one of my favourite TV hosts ever. He knew how to give an abundance of life to small moments. You tuned in to see if anyone would win a million dollars, but you also tuned in to watch Regis.
I’m guessing the title, Who Wants To Sit Across Regis? wasn’t favourable among the focus group.
I still have a memory, where I was in one room playing, and my mom was in the other room and all of a sudden she says, “It’s on! Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is on!” And everyone in the house went running to the TV.
I think it was on at a different time that night and it caught us off guard. The adrenaline rush – oh man.
That doesn’t happen anymore. There is no urgency or fear I’m going to miss something. It’s recorded. I’ll watch it later.
Almost all of the questions on the show were too hard for me, even though the first five are supposed to be easy. That didn’t matter. As an almost 8-year-old, I didn’t feel left out.
I loved how the show looked and how it sounded. The set was dark and ominous. The music would intensify, the further the contestant went. Everything about it was great.
And let’s not forget the three lifelines that have crossed over and become apart of our daily vocabulary. I think most of us have said, “Can I phone a friend?” at some point in our life, when someone asks us a question we don’t know the answer to.
There was also, “Ask the Audience” and “50/50”.
Perfect lifelines. Whoever developed this show was brilliant.
Then there is the story of the first winner, John Carpenter. He made it to the million dollar question without using a single lifeline. Once there, he decided to “Phone a Friend”.
He called his parents to let them know he didn’t actually need their help; he was calling to let them know he was about to win one million dollars.
What an iconic moment in television history.
What a guy.
The Regis Era only lasted until 2002, when Meredith Vieira took over for the syndicated version of the show.
She was a good host, but when you’re not the first one, you’re always compared to who came before you. See: Drew Carey on The Price is Right.
The show transitioned into an afternoon timeslot and it didn’t feel special, or “must-see” anymore.
In 2019, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? was cancelled. Chris Harrison had been the host since 2015, and I still have a hard time wrapping my head around that.
I didn’t think a show hosted by Chris Harrison could ever get cancelled. If anything, they just add a bunch of spin-offs.
Millionaire in Paradise, hosted by Chris Harrison. Book it.
Tonight, a new Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? returns. This time, with celebrities.
Yeah, I get the winnings are going to charity which is always admirable, but as a viewer, I’d rather see a regular person play. I want the drama of that situation to play out.
The celebrity version of Family Feud is always rigged so each show ends with a winner. They ask the simplest questions in the Fast Money round and I don’t like it.
Game shows are supposed to be difficult.
I’m sure there are a bunch of people who enjoy seeing their favourite celebrities in a game show setting. It probably does good ratings. I just don’t care.
That being said, I will definitely be tuning in because they’ve gone back to the original format of the show, and Jimmy Kimmel is hosting.
If you flip through the pages of your life over the last 21 years, very few things will have stayed the same. You are different. The people around you are different. The world is different.
Meanwhile, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? is the Michael Myers of game shows. Heck, the first winner even shares the same name as the creator of Halloween.
It is a show that may never die because, for as long as we live, there will always be someone who wants to be a millionaire.