Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is the most iconic gameshow to have aired around the world. The show first aired in 1998, and since then, it has been shown in many countries and adapted in many languages. Its extreme popularity is undoubtedly attributable to its amazing format, which keeps it interesting with the right amount of risk. For viewers, the gameshow’s appeal lies in the concept that anyone with any background can change their lives in 12 questions. What’s not to love?!
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has aired in 160 countries since its inception, with many contestants having won sizable prizes in the last 22 years. Read on for interesting facts on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and its many versions.
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The show may be called Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? but the winner certainly does not take home a million dollars. Why? 40% of the total winnings are deducted as taxes. This number can go further up based on the profession of the contestant. Thus, even if a contestant wins a million dollars, they take home $600,000 only. This is pretty decent money but it’s not a million dollars.
The creators of the show make you believe that it is quite easy to get on the show — all you have to do is answer a few questions over the phone and you will be the next person to answer a few questions for a million dollars. In truth, getting on the show is quite difficult. To start with, individuals are selected from a lottery drawing containing the names of thousands of individuals. Those few who get selected have to travel to New York on their own dime. They, then, go through an elaborate selection procedure during which producers choose or decline them based on their intelligence as well as personality. Before moving on to the next scandalous cover-up, please take a moment to like and subscribe to our channel and hit the bell icon to stay updated on our new videos.
During the first season of the American version of the show, many contestants won big money. After this, Lloyd’s of London, the insurance company responsible for million-dollar payouts decided to sue the producers of the show. According to Lloyd’s of London, the questions asked on the show were so simple that winning a million dollars was obviously easy. The British tabloids sensationalized the news with the Guardian noting that in the American version of the show, one just had to be American and not even smart to win the top prize. Well, that wasn’t fair.
You would imagine that a show like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? would hire geniuses or at least really, really smart people to work as writers on the show. Well, that isn’t true. The show hires normal people who like other normal people use Google to become smart. In an interview, one of the show’s writers confessed that they used the phrase ‘who is the only’ to search for information on Google and use this information to draft questions.
You would also imagine that contestants must choose geniuses to help them with the ‘Phone a Friend’ lifeline. Well, that isn’t true either. The producers of the show thoroughly check and interview the people chosen by contestants for the ‘Phone a Friend’ lifeline. In most cases, the lifelines are not geniuses but normal people who use Google to look up the answer and inform their friend. Well, Google is everyone’s best friend apparently.
The show’s set stands in stark contrast with the sets of other game shows. The music score of the show was inspired by the heartbeat of human beings and was designed to keep the contestants feeling nervous. If you have ever noticed, as the questions advance and the prize money increases, the set becomes darker and darker. This was done deliberately to keep the pressure high on the contestants.
Variations of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire are broadcast in almost 160 countries around the world. Each variant differs in some or the other way from the original show and millions of viewers watch the local version of this originally British show every year. However, in every version, one thing remains the same — the host of the show must wear Armani suits. The company that created the show mentioned in the contract that all syndication hosts must wear Armani suits.
Ed Toutant from Austin, Texas, is the only contestant to have been invited to the show twice. During his first appearance on the show, Ed was asked an incorrect question and though he gave the right answer to it, due to research errors, he was eliminated. However, the creators of the show accepted their mistake and invited Ed again to come and play the game once again.
Before becoming the host on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Regis Philbin was a morning talk show host, drawing an average salary. He joined Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on a normal salary too. However, after the first season became such a huge hit, Regis asked for his contract to be renegotiated. With each season, Regis’ payout also kept increasing. It is believed that Regis was earning $300,000 per episode during the later episodes. This doesn’t seem fair when you hear that Regis was actually not smart at all in real life. Some people who auditioned to be on the show claimed that the producers of the show told them that Regis was actually quite dumb in real life.
When Major Charles Ingram appeared on the British version of the show, the entire country was actually rooting for him. Charles had debts worth $70,500 and therefore, the audience naturally wanted him to win big. And Charles won too — he answered the million-dollar question correctly. However, the makers of the show later found out that Charles had won fraudulently — his wife and his friend sitting in the audience would cough every time the host read the correct answer to Charles. Charles was, of course, stripped off his winnings. What is worst is that he was even demoted in the army.
In Afghanistan, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was aired in two languages – the local Pashto and the widely spoken Farsi. The show’s top prize is shockingly low; winners take home AFN 1 million, which is roughly USD 13,000. It’s still a sizable amount for those residing in the country since an average Afghan earns much lesser than $13,000 every year.
Lertlak Panchanawaporn, a contestant on Thailand’s ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ format, won people’s hearts when she became the second person to win the top prize (THB 1 million or approx. USD 32,000). It was later found that there was a hardware error, and the cable supposed to be linked to the presenter’s screen was linked to hers instead; as a result, the right answers were highlighted on her screen! Not very surprisingly, the producers stripped her of her winnings. She was allowed to play again, but she only went as far as THB 25,000.
Asen Kisimov – a famous Bulgarian actor, singer, composer, and personality – was famed as the only Bulgarian ever to answer the final question worth BGN 1 million (or USD 600,000) correctly. Unfortunately, it was later revealed his daughter worked for the TV station that broadcast the show, which disqualified his win.
Phil Gibbons, a contestant on the US show, was off to a shaky start and struggled through his first few questions. He spent his first lifeline ‘Ask the Audience’ on the $2,000 question, his second lifeline’ 50:50′ on the $4,000 question, and the third lifeline ‘Phone-a-Friend’ on the $8,000 question. Surprisingly, he powered through the rest of the game without any help and did splendidly. He reached the final question, at which point he walked away with $500,000 since he wasn’t sure of the answer.
Britain’s Millionaire went through some serious cheating drama, which made everyone a lot more cautious and suspicious. Martin Flood won the top prize on Australia’s ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,’ but suspicions of cheating tarnished his win. Unfortunately for him, an audience member coughed just as he was solving through a question. In light of the similarity with the scandal surrounding Britain’s Millionaire, Martin’s winnings were frozen for months. Eventually, the producers cleared him of any unfair means, but the whole fiasco certainly cost him the win’s credibility in public opinion.
Aroma Ufodike is the only contestant to have won the top prize on Nigeria’s ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ Ufodike hailed from the small village of Nnewi and took home NGN 10 million (approx. USD 26,000). The ‘Phone-a-Friend’ lifeline helped him win the last question, and he called his cousin for the right answer.
Usually, movies are inspired by real-life, but in the case of India’s ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ format (known as ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’), life imitated art and not the other way round. The eight Academy Award winner ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is based on the life of a slum dweller who goes onto win the show. The first winner of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ in India was Sushil Kumar, who had an impoverished childhood in slums. He later revealed he intended to use his winnings to buy a house for his family.
‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ has had only two English speaking female winners so far — Judith Keppel and Nancy Christy. Both were single at the time they won, which makes it seem as though only single women win on the show.
Two decades since inception Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? continues to win hearts around the world. The super entertaining gameshow is a popular primetime option in many countries even today. If you haven’t watched it, or if you’ve watched only a few episodes here and there, we suggest you fix that right away and stream some of the episodes where contestants have played amazingly well and gone home much, much richer than before. Do let us know which episodes you particularly enjoyed in the comments section; we’d love to hear from you. Further, if there are any other controversies or cover-ups that we have missed and that you know of, please let us know through the comments section.
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