August 7th, 2009
04:20 PM ET

The return of 'Millionaire'

Can you hear the music? That synthesized rumbling, haunting contestants as they come up with their “final answer”?


You’ll be hearing a lot of it very soon. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” returns for a two-week, 11-episode run Sunday night on ABC, with Regis Philbin once again occupying the chair he held for the show’s original prime-time run 10 years ago. (Meredith Vieira has been in charge for the show’s syndicated version.)

When “Millionaire” appeared on ABC as a summer replacement in 1999, it was a phenomenon. The network – and many observers – were caught flat-footed by the show’s skyrocketing popularity, which earned it a spot on the network’s fall schedule. In the 1999-2000 season, the three editions of the show ABC aired were Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the ratings, and it was almost as popular in 2000-01. (Full disclosure: I was one of those who flamed out during an appearance on the show. )

But overexposure – ABC ran the show up to four times a week – eventually doomed “Millionaire,” and by 2002 it was off the prime-time schedule.

Enter “Slumdog Millionaire,” the Oscar-winning movie that also caught many observers flat-footed with its sudden rise to prominence earlier this year.

With the film filling theaters all over the world, ABC decided to give “Millionaire” another chance. Philbin and producer Michael Davies couldn’t be happier: "Regis and I have really just [been] tickled pink the last few days, the atmosphere in the studio and the atmosphere with our contestants and our celebrity guests and our experts,” Davies told Jim Halterman of The Futon Critic. "It's been very magical and we'll see what happens."

There have been some changes to the prime-time edition, matching those of the syndicated show. There’s now a time limit for answers, and among the people contestants can use as resources are experts. (Among them: CNN’s Candy Crowley and Wolf Blitzer, not to mention “Jeopardy!” king Ken Jennings.) But the biggest change could come with the ratings. With network viewership down, and reality shows having become TV’s go-to genre, can a quiz show still grab a big audience?

For that, there won’t be any final answers … for a few days, at least.

How about you? Are you going to watch “Millionaire’s” return?

soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Mike

    By the way, it's funny reading everyone else's comments knowing that they have only experienced the show from behind a screen. Any judgments on Meredith Viera's character or the contestant's experiences on the show are nothing more than generalized opinions without any solid reasoning.

    Remember people, the show is edited. They chop and screw the original footage so much that half of it is cut out to either fit the half hour time-frame or to ensure that the show looks and feels the way the producer wants to convey it. I can't tell you how much was missing from my original footage.

    August 10, 2009 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    I was on this show in October of 2006, obviously on the stint that is/was hosted by Meredith Viera. I played right before they started instituting those new rules – the 4th lifeline, the time limit, etc. It's tough to describe in a small paragraph how Meredith impacted the show and its audience. Even just getting to meet her and shake hands with her in person was exhilarating. She does a fantastic job with the program and is genuinely enthusiastic about all of her contestants. She wants you to win. She even personally wrote me a congratulatory card after the show was over.

    It seems the show has gravitated away from its original roots, and in some ways for the better. Although I consider Regis a vital part of Millionaire's heritage, using his nearly decade-old notoriety to revitalize a show lost in syndication is unnecessary. Meredith does a fine job with it now and I don't see any good reason for bringing him back. Don't get me wrong, Regis was a great host, but it just seems that he lacks the personal feel that Meredith brings to it. She relates to her contestants and shares their joy.

    Regis is just, well, Regis.

    I posted my appearance on YouTube by the way. Search for "Me on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire". I'm the good-looking college-aged guy. 😉

    August 10, 2009 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. Vigla

    Of course there is a dumb political comment when non is warranted. I wish all the haters and the party of NO would just take an extended vacation and let us adults take care of things for a while. The romper room you guys ran the past 8 years is officially closed.

    As for Millionaire, I might watch it if I catch it on TV, but I really don't watch much TV anymore except for sports. I'm waiting for the good old sitcom to make a comeback. Reality TV stinks!

    August 10, 2009 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. Beth

    This show became boring when celebrities were on too much playing for charity and also I missed seeing Regis as the host. Can't wait to see him come back and also have regular people as guests!

    August 10, 2009 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tina

    My family and I will watch the show. We love Regis and the kids enjoy testing their knowledge.

    August 10, 2009 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. PS

    I love Regis, but enough is enough! It's old!!! Won't be watching.

    August 10, 2009 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. kathy

    I would watch, if it were the average joe , but Hollywood celeb's. takes the thrill of it away to watch them play, even if they do it for charity.
    Bring on the real people. That is who we want to see..

    August 10, 2009 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. Joanna

    Am I going to watch? God no! I love Regis, but this show is the dumbest thing I have ever seen. Adults with supposedly triple digit IQs being asked the dumbest questions that grade school kids, hopefully, could answer. My husband and I watched once 10 yrs ago were in shock at how incredibly easy the questions were. I would prefer CBS put Regis and Password back on Sunday eves where it received the highest ratings of the night, according to Regis, and the brillant CBS decides not to renew it! That was brilliant! I would love to see them revive "Pyramid". I am not a tv snob- love tV. I am a 70s kid who grew up with the wonderful Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore. Love Lucy, Newhart, Andy, Barney, and Aunt Bea, Two and a Half Men, underated but well written Friends, great ensemble of young actors. Also enjoy reruns of Scrubs, King of Queens, Jim, Frasier, and DVD episodes of Fawlty Towers.

    August 10, 2009 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jason Mason

    I notice there is no mention of the fact that like most shows in the US Millionaire is actually a British show like Pop Idol, Americas Got Talent etc etc all rehashed and remade for an American audience. In the UK the show still does well so I dont see why it wont pick up again here. However I think its about time we stopped relying on British show formats, actors, writers, directors and started coming up with our own stuff again!

    August 9, 2009 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Justin

    I would... if it were like the original version. The time-limits and the 35 different life-lines kinda take the spark away from it.

    August 9, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tom Bruce

    I'll be watching. Like Jeopardy and 1 Vs the Mob, it takes brains to enjoy this show, not just the dumb luck of picking the right cases. I too like Meridith's hosting, but Regis is the bomb. Also wish they'd bring back the game show with Drew Carey before he got bogged down on TPIR.

    August 9, 2009 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. Robin

    ANYthing that Regis Philbert is on is a waste of time...

    August 9, 2009 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  13. Valentine

    I love Regis! He was wonderful on Millionaire. Then Meredith hosted the show and ruined it! She is so arrogant and unfriendly. Regis is friendly and caring and makes the show interesting to watch. Regis, you are the best!

    August 9, 2009 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. Richard Montini

    Don't really care for a show where the people answer dumb questions and it is really about how much can the network make off of advertisements.

    August 8, 2009 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MomOfTwo

    Millionaire is the only show I watch. Can't wait for Regis to return.

    August 8, 2009 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Grammi

    I vote for Meridith...

    August 8, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Connie

    I love Regis and I support anything that he does.

    August 8, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Mary Beth

    This show should be cancelled. It's demeaning, disrespectful and humiliating for the contestants.
    Trump shows what kind of demented person he really is.
    I will never watch it!

    August 8, 2009 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  19. cmarcotte

    Meredith Viera does a much better job than Regis. He is irritating and hard to take.

    August 8, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  20. bluenoiserose

    No. Don't like Regis. He is already on every week day. That's already too much to take.

    August 8, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  21. alasdair maccorquodale

    In these days of recession & large scale unemployment, how about
    giving a boost to the lives of the unemployed by taking all the
    contestants in any future 'Millionaire' from those on the dole.

    August 8, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Adrianne Sosanie

    I still watch the syndicated Millionaire with Meredith Viera and it's quite good. One of the reasons is that they limit the time you have to answer and have added some things and subtracted some things that weren't necessary. The show is crisp now and makes it enjoyable. I'm not a Regis fan but I'll probably watch it anyway – or at least DVR it!

    August 8, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Kerry

    I just can believe there are still contestants who use 'Call a Friend' and the idiots aren't calling people that are in front of a computer and can Google the answer.
    Love Regis!

    August 8, 2009 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  24. scottb

    I like Meredith Viera better. She should host the main show and get the big bucks; not Regis. That said, I'd rather they bring back The Weakest Link with Ann. Loved her.

    August 8, 2009 at 4:45 am | Report abuse |

    Isn't Regis Filbin's 15 minutes of fame over yet?

    Did a good job before, but the magic is gone with the show.
    Let the show live on its' own & don't come back for a "revival / reunion" show...weakens the brand.


    August 7, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  26. adilia goncalves

    if the show is to help people who need the money i will whatch it but it .so make sure that you choose the right ones including students.

    August 7, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Adam

    Hmmm...I will probably watch ONE time. It's kind of like when one goes to youtube and watches a show that used to be on just to be like, "Oh, remember this!?" After seeing it again one time, you're pretty much done. I find myself completely unexcited about this show coming back, and sadly I know it will flop soon after coming back on the air. 🙁 Love Regis either way!

    August 7, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Grant

    Probably but not likely!

    August 7, 2009 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Anthony

    Charity enough would be give back to society by letting an average income player play to potentially change his life. If ratings is what your after let kim kardashian host it and I'll watch every second of it.

    August 7, 2009 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Maria

    I am confused! What is Meredith Viera hosting over on NBC? I know the format is different, but the concept is still the same. Can someone please explain this to me? I cannot stand Regis. He is abnoxious and overrated. I guess I will not be watching.

    August 7, 2009 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Laura

    Yes, I liked watching the show and loved when they did the "father & daughter" one.

    I'd also like to be a contestant, it would be fun. Even if I can't be one, I still like to guess along with the show.

    Hope it comes back!

    August 7, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Denizen Kate

    No, I won't be watching, even if there's nothing else on. All that phony drag-it-out-to-the-last-second drama is annoying. Plus, Regis is like fingernails on a chalk board to me. Every TV set has an "Off" button somewhere. Find it and use it. Read something! Play a game! Go out and get some exercise!

    August 7, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  33. dorothy

    Of course I'll watch it. I just adore Regis.

    August 7, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  34. James

    I wish they'd bring boxing back to network TV. I'd love to see a new up and coming promoter putting on boxing events.

    As far as Millionaire, I'm not sure it's gonna cut it anymore.

    August 7, 2009 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  35. J. Milton

    I’m sure Obama want to see the return of Millionaire; more money to redistribute.

    August 7, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  36. nancy

    I watch in reruns and I am glad it's back especially with Regis and his TIES! He's great! No one else can do this like him. My family likes to guess along at home. It's a great game.

    August 7, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Betty

    No. Would not like to see Millionaire returned. WE have been that route. And Regis is not the young host he use to be. These hosts are pushing themselves on us and we have seen them in just about everything.

    August 7, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Linda

    YES ! we can use our minds again, instead of all this "reality", my final answer, YES

    August 7, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  39. The Truth

    It will last a year tops, if not just to midseason. Everyone will remember why they stopped watching it before and tune out again.

    August 7, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  40. cpatrish

    No way! I am sick to death of the stupid "reality" shows, the idiot game shows, the pimp shows, especially on Fox and ABC, and the lame excuse for creativity on television in general. I have decided to read more.

    August 7, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  41. Steven R.

    I have always said it wasn't overexposure in itself that doomed the original Millionaire. It was the over-use of "celebrity" versions of the show that removed any suspense. The best game shows are those that feature the most ordinary-seeming contestants, who we can root for. Also, they started running reruns of episodes! Who is going to watch a rerun of a game show, when we know how far the contestant went already?? Try rerunning the Super bowl in prime time in June – will anyone be shocked that ratings go down?

    August 7, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Todd

    Yes, I love this show!

    August 7, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Sarah

    If I were able to get even network tv, I'd totally watch it! ::ponders splurging on cable tv::

    August 7, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Don

    I will absolutely be watching 'Millionaire's return. Regis is a great host for the show.

    August 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  45. Gus

    The real problem was not over-exposure but rather over-exposure of a dull product. The questions got harder and the winners stopped sooner as time went on. The real excitement was watching people play for the million or even 500 grand. You can only watch someone answer 5 moronic question to get to 32,000 then get stonewalled with toughies after that for so long. I won't watch unless there is a real chance of winners this time.

    August 7, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  46. jean

    with regis back in there you cant go wrong

    August 7, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  47. CWDC

    Probably not, unless there's zip on other channels, including cable. I loved the show when it first aired though!

    August 7, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  48. Marie MD

    Not that I would ever watch those two losers and their eight kids, but I rather watch Regis!

    August 7, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  49. laurie

    yes, i'll support regis!! he knows how to host!

    August 7, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Suzy Diamond

    If they are going to have hollywood celebrities playing this game then I am NOT going to watch it! That was when the show took a turn for the worse the last time it was on TV. That is when the ratings slumped to the point that the show went off the air. It was a GREAT show until they started having celebrities.

    I believe the public wants to see the average person play, not some celebrity even if it is for charity!

    August 7, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |

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