The much-anticipated UK return of Millionaire has finally arrived just in time to celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary since it first debuted on ITV September 4, 1998. Although this version of Millionaire features a new set and a new host, it still has the same great game that captivated tens of millions of viewers in the late 90’s and the revival did not disappoint. There are several reasons why I enjoy watching the 2018 edition of Millionaire and a few changes made this series that I’m not so crazy about.
Getting Back To Basics
Much like how Family Feud returning to its original format in Steve Harvey’s first year hosting after the prior season revived the Bullseye round gimmick in an attempt to save the show from cancellation, Millionaire did the same by ditching the celebrity specials, the dreaded question shot clock and the altered 12-question money tree and essentially returned to its original format. Fastest Finger is back – albeit with six contestants, the money tree has reverted to the 15-question format with the original dollar values as well. Although it’s fun to see long-running game shows experiment and tinker with their format as the years pass by to retain audiences, sometimes it’s better just to stick to the basics. (I will admit I did enjoy the Shuffle format more exciting than the original in the US, but I digress.) As the adage goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The renovated set is the best aesthetic change to the show. The smooth, sleek, digitally-enhanced, minimalistic stage is a vast improvement from the metallic, modern industrial set we had grown accustomed to for the past couple of decades. It looks cleaner and spacious and less clunky and congested than the old set.
“Phone A Friend” Changes
Although it seems like the longtime lifeline is relatively archaic in the technological age where Skype and FaceTime are easily accessible, I can understand from a production standpoint that calling someone on a reliable landline or cell phone is less cumbersome than using a webcam chat and making sure the connection is good, making sure they are using an ethernet cable instead of a fickle Wi-Fi connection, making sure their computer is up to date so no unexpected reboots occur – the list goes on. I also love the show sending a producer to the “friend’s” house to ensure they are not using Google to quickly research the answers, which was the main reason why the lifeline was replaced with a the “Plus One” in the US syndicated version.
New “Ask The Host” Lifeline
This is the first time we’ve seen the UK version create an ancillary lifeline that utilizes help outside of “Ask The Audience” and “Phone A Friend”. In the US, there were a couple of defunct lifelines that fit this category including “Three Wise Men” used in Super Millionaire and “Ask The Expert” used on the syndicated version during the late 2000s-early 2010s. Despite fears, speculations and conspiracies that Clarkson might be receiving questions and answers ahead of time by the producers to illegally help contestants, “Ask The Host” is a great fourth lifeline replacement in lieu of “Swap The Question”. It’s intriguing to watch the lifeline when it is in play seeing the host now being temporarily placed in the Hot Seat and having to face some of the minimal pressures and agonies of attempting to answer questions. It’s also the most entertaining lifeline aside from “Phone A Friend” mainly due to Clarkson, in which I further explain in the next paragraph.
Excellent New Host
Jeremy Clarkson is doing a fantastic job as the new host of Millionaire, following in the footsteps of Chris Tarrant who hosted the show in its entire first run. Clarkson’s unapologetically authentic, unorthodox, outspoken and humorous hosting style for a show like this breaks the tense, stoic and intimidating atmosphere that made Millionaire famous in the same sense how Meredith Vieira’s stint on the syndicated version brought more of a warm and comforting mood to the show. The most entertaining aspects of Clarkson hosting is how well he banters in a naturally effortless, genuine and engaging manner and how he ribs the contestants in a comedic, lighthearted and witty manner while actively looking out for their best interest. I don’t think we would have seen much of the former if the shot clock were in play this series. In addition to these attributes, his household-name star appeal will undoubtedly attract more viewers throughout the weeklong return of Millionaire.
I’ve covered the pros. Now, let’s move on to the couple of cons I have regarding the show:
Moveable Safety Net
I have mixed feelings about this new feature. On one hand, if utilized to its maximum potential it gives contestants a risk-free chance to go for the million-pound question should they place and reach the milestone marker at £500,000. However, there should be more of a risk to the flexible safety net instead of asking the contestant if they want to place it on the next level before asking them the question on said level. I believe the second net should be confirmed and placed by the contestant once they surpass the £1,000 question. Also, since the contestant already has the choice to walk away at any moment, that option indirectly acts as an additional movable safety net. To simply sum it up: I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either.
Disappointingly Basic Font For Money Tree
This critique may seem petty and trivial – perhaps because I’m a sucker for electronic and digital readouts and graphics – but I would have thought the graphics department would at least revert back to the Copperplate Gothic font they have used for the money tree since the show’s inception. The basic, uninspiring font is dull (especially for a big-money primetime game show) and makes it appear as if the Chyron operator loaded the money tree text graphic into the software and it switched to the Arial typeface by default because it couldn’t find the Copperplate Gothic file.
Overall, I’m glad Millionaire has returned to ITV and I hope, predict and pray the revival lasts beyond the six episodes we will see this week. If you’re in the UK, check out new episodes of Millionaire all this week until Friday at 9:00pm on ITV. If you’re able to, check out past episodes on ITV Hub.