So farewell, then, Millionaire. I’m sure that you know that the last ever show was broadcast on Tuesday. I was reminded of the fact when a member of the production team on the Jason Mohammad Show on BBC Radio Wales rang me at work on Monday morning. Basically Jason was doing a feature on Millionaire – and quiz shows in general – and they wanted to know whether I could do a phone interview at about 11:30. Oh, wouldn’t I have loved to do that?!!! You might remember that I went on the show back last Easter and it was a fabulous experience. But the thing is I was due to teach a class at that time, and so I had to make my apologies and decline. You know how much I love my quizzes, but at the end of the day, the day job has to come first.
Still, it’s maybe just a small measure of just how important, influential and popular Millionaire really was. In my own experience I had far, far more people wanting to talk to me about throwing away £15,000 on Millionaire than I ever had wanting to talk to me about winning a whole series of Mastermind. This wasn’t schadenfreude either, or at least, I don’t think much of it was, but simply the fact that Millionaire was still, at that time, a Big Deal.
Like many of the great quizzes, Millionaire has given us phrases – phone a friend – final answer – which have passed into the lingua franca of quizzing. Fantastic players like David Edwards and Pat Gibson won the top prize during its run, and Judith Keppel became, for a while, a household name, and later, an Egghead off the back of being the first ever Millionaire from the show. Major Charles Ingram gave us one of the funniest shows I have ever seen. Not worth a million pounds perhaps, but nonetheless I thought the ITV special which presented his episode was superb entertainment. Millionaire ushered in an era of the mega-money quiz, which was short lived, but nonetheless still clings on tenaciously in the shape of Million Pound Drop.
Speaking personally, I find it hard to write critically about Millionaire because I appeared on it, and because things didn’t go as I’d hoped. I would hate anyone to think it is sour grapes on my part. Still, in the interests of fairness, I’ll say my bit here, and you, dear reader, must take it as you will. Looking at it purely as a quiz, I like more questions per show than you ever got on Millionaire. But then it was never purely a quiz. It was never just about answering the questions, it was about holding out very large amounts of money to people and seeing how well they coped with the pressure – and some of us, to be honest, couldn’t. Which was a shame, really, since they treated us royally all day, and looking back it was still a great experience.
It doesn’t matter what I say anyway. History has already delivered its verdict on Millionaire. It was one of the most wildly successful quiz shows ever created anywhere, and certainly the most successful created in these isles. It gave a lot of people an awful lot of pleasure for a decade and a half, and let’s be honest, that's a damn good epitaph for any show.