Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? And the next generation of TV quiz shows

After ‘Millionaire’ ending after 15 years, insiders are pondering the format’s future

Arts Correspondent

The dramatic music played out for the last time; the sweeping lights turned off for good. After 15 years, host Chris Tarrant had asked the last question on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

The decision to axe Millionaire, after it screenings became more occasional and largely consisting of celebrity charity specials, has left UK television insiders wondering whether another show can ever capture the public imagination to the same extent. At its height, after all, it captured 19 million viewers – and inspired one of the most successful British movies, Slumdog Millionaire.

David Flynn, chief creative officer of Endemol UK, who has worked on creating shows from Deal or No Deal to Pointless, is among those asking: “Can a quiz gain such a mass audience again?”

“It’s all about risk taking,” he says. “The reason why Millionaire got that peak was because it felt like nothing else. It’s been around so long it is easy to forget how revolutionary it was.

“The channel and producers took the risk, and ITV opened up its schedule in a way it never had before. If we take that risk on something else we could absolutely get that audience again.”

As television producers search for the next prime-time game hit, success may well be reliant on how well they harness advances in technology, according to experts.

Mr Flynn, who was a student when Millionaire launched and was inspired by its scope, said: “We’ve seen the game show genre reinvent itself all the time and one trend we’re seeing is the growth in use of digital media.”

Endemol’s show The Million Pound Drop allowed audiences to play along at home, while The Bank Job released a game which would see winners cast on the TV programme. In the first two weeks it was played two million times.

Hinting that further interactive innovation is yet to come, he said: “The next one, which I can’t talk about yet, is all about revolutionising again how we use digital media.”

Media commentator Neil Midgley agreed that big entertainment hits of recent years had all relied on advances in technology. Millionaire had a premium rate phone number for viewers to call to potentially get on the show.

“They didn’t have public voting or participation, but the phone-in to be a contestant made people feel like they had a stake in the show. A lot of people phoned that line, and that paid for the prize money.”

X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing – though not game shows – took advantage of live phone voting to help build huge audiences. “Maybe we need another technology advance in television before we get the next big hit,” Mr Midgley said.

ITV has high hopes for Rising Star – another talent show, this time from an Israeli format – which will allow the audiences at home to vote on performers while they are singing, using an app. The game show developers will be watching closely.

Of Millionaire, which launched in 1998 and went on to air in 118 countries, Mr Midgley said it “was such a perfect format it effectively killed the genre; no one yet has been able to match it. A prime-time game show is now hard to do. There are lots in daytime which are doing well.”

This daytime quiz slot was opened by the success of The Weakest Link. Among subsequent rivals, Endemol’s Pointless has also built a keen audience since its launch in 2007, and is to expand onto Saturday night schedules.

After Millionaire there were a lot of “high jeopardy quizzes,” Mr Flynn said. “It was all about high stakes, serious stuff. It felt like there was time for a change, so with Pointless we tried to create a more parlour game, comedy atmosphere. It was a reaction to the seriousness.” He sees the trend for more comedic game shows continuing.

For Endemol, quizzes are “our bread and butter,” the creative chief said. Creating a new format is a “long involved process” with the firm coming up with up to 15 ideas a month, possibly two of which will be pitched to a broadcaster.

They play the nascent formats in the office to see if they work. “You can see pretty quickly if they work or not,” Mr Flynn said. “They are like mathematical formulae, every element has to fit together, and if one doesn’t work it all falls apart.”

The company devised The Million Dollar Drop in the office using cardboard boxes with trapdoors cut into them and pound coins inside. “If the hairs on your neck don’t stand up as you watch it, even at that stage, it probably isn’t right.”

The success of a show is not only whether it receives high viewing figures in the UK, but whether the format can be sold around the world. “The holy grail is not necessarily 10 million viewers in the UK, but a smaller UK hit that is sold to 150 countries,” Mr Midgley said. “The opportunities are currently in the daytime slots and internationally. There’s life in the old quiz show dog yet.”

World's Most Popular Game Shows

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

The show that became TV’s most popular quiz was sold to 112 countries. Launched in 1998 with host Chris Tarrant, and ran until this week.

Deal or No Deal

The Endemol-produced show, fronted by Noel Edmonds, was sold to 80 countries, with contestants picking boxes in a quest for £250,000.

Wheel of Fortune

The “spin the wheel” classic has been sold to 47 countries. It was first screened in the US in 1975 where two contestants have won $1m.

Total Wipeout

An average 4.5 million UK viewers see contestants jump, bounce and crash their way through obstacles, hoping to win £10,000. It has been sold to 29 countries.

Hole in the Wall

Known in Japan as Brain Wall, it is seen in 22 countries. Entrants contort themselves to fit shapes in a moving polystyrene wall.

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?