Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Main Event

It's night by night coverage of the return to primetime of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

I like Millionaire. I liked it when it was the biggest TV show in years; and I still like it, even though it's a pale shadow of its former self. Regis Philbin left when the show moved to daytime in 2002; he was replaced by Meredith Vieira, who is just as good if not better. What isn't just as good if not better is that the producers began tinkering with the rules. 50\50 is no longer a lifeline; it was dropped in favor of Double Dip (which enables contestants to pick two answers) and Ask The Expert (who is usually an idiot celebrity accessed via a Skype link). Worst of all, however, is that the 2008 season also introduced another "innovation": the clock. Contestants have fifteen seconds to answer the first five questions, thirty seconds for the next five, forty-five seconds for questions 11-14, and on the $1,000,000 question, they are allowed forty-five seconds plus any time left over.

What's wrong with that? Wouldn't it speed up the gameplay? Millionaire isn't supposed to be fast. The whole point of a money ladder show is watching the single contestant sit there for minutes on one question, using their lifelines\cheats\helps\whatever and pondering in desperation as they approach the grand prize. What's more, with less than a minute to decide, it's highly unlikely that anyone will win more than $100,000 - which I'm guessing is the real reason the producers introduced this.

Nonetheless, Millionaire returned to primetime today, complete with Regis, for an eleven episode event to celebrate the show's tenth anniversary. Each episode will feature regular contestants as well as a celebrity guest. Here are the results from show one:

Contestant 1 - Brad Abbey
Miss $2,000 question, win $1,000

Contestant 2 - Rob Placek
Miss $50,000 question, win $25,000

Contestant 3 - Gary Cousins
Answers $2,000 question, rollover

Celebrity - Katy Perry
The celebrity, just to let you know, doesn't play a full game - he\she plays one question, with all four lifelines and no clock, for $50,000 for his\her charity. Katy got it right. Wonderful.

This is still one of the best game shows on television, but...I don't know, what happened to the nice simple original rules? I'll bet most people can still recite them. It's a lot harder to explain time limits and the fact that you can't Ask The Expert until you answer the $1,000 question then to say...well...all together now: "You're just fifteen questions away from winning $1,000,000..."

See you tomorrow for more Millionaire,


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