Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (US syndicated version, seasons 9-17)
A. The death of a classic. Final answer.
39–48 minutes (ABC) 19–25 minutes (syndication)
August 16, 1999-June 27, 2002, April 8, 2020-present (ABC run) September 16, 2002-May 31, 2019 (syndication)
David Briggs Mike Whitehill Steven Knight Michael Davies (US version)
Buena Vista Television (1999–2007) Disney–ABC Domestic Television (2007–2015) Disney-ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution (2015–2019) Sony Pictures Television
Regis Philbin (1999-2002, 2004, 2009) Meredith Vieira (2002-2013) Cedric the Entertainer (2013-2014) Terry Crews (2014-2015) Chris Harrison (2015-2019) Jimmy Kimmel (2020-present)
22 (4 on ABC, 17 in syndication, 1 upcoming)
From 2010 until its 2019 end, the US syndicated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? went from one of the greatest game shows of all time to a hollow shell of its former self, mainly due to a combination of declining ratings and desperate gimmicks. This page explains what went wrong during its final years.
The show just didn’t have the suspense it once had anymore.
The lighting was too bright. In Season 17, the lighting only seemed to get brighter with each question.
While most of the soundtrack is decent, none of the cues fit for a show like Millionaire. The worst of these cues, however, is the Round 1/Tier 2 music, which is just the same eight notes repeated over and over (and with two pounding noises that are supposed to be heartbeats) appearing as the game progresses.
The Shuffle format, while an interesting concept for a different game show, is poorly executed, and doesn't fit for Millionaire whatsoever.
The Jump the Question lifeline defeats the game's purpose (that the contestant must answer every question correctly to win the $1,000,000 prize). Not to mention, from 2010 to 2014, there were two of those.
Lack of the Hot Seat, making the show feel less serious.
The pointless "Thousandaire" minigame, which delayed a grand prize win.
A cheap logo (seen above) and graphics package in Season 17. For example, the new fonts are bizarre and force the questions to be squashed to fit in. The graphic that shows when a contestant answers correctly does not fit in with the rest of the graphics.
In the final years of the syndicated version, the high-tier questions were outright obscure. Before Season 9, the higher-tier questions were more "general knowledge"-based with a difficulty bend. This is because the producers could no longer afford to give away as much money as before after Celador Productions sued Disney.
Cedric "The Entertainer" Kyles and Terry Crews weren't good hosts for Millionaire, due to Kyles' attempts to shoehorn his comedy, and Crews for being too loud. The producers apparently wanted to get a host that could capture the charm of Steve Harvey on Family Feud and raise the ratings (which had declined by the time Meredith Vieira left), but that didn't work, as Millionaire is meant to be a serious show.
The Harrison era had an abundance of questions relying on internet memes, social media, and pop culture current events, even in the first tier, rather than the "general knowledge" questions the previous eras were known for. Most infamously, one episode had a $500 question involving a Buzzfeed article that the contestant lost and left with nothing.
No civilians even reached the $1,000,000 question after 2013.
Because its final episode was taped months in advance, it never got a proper finale. For a long-running and famous show, that’s very disappointing.
Meredith Vieira was still a good host, despite obviously being bored by 2011.
They brought back the classic format in Season 14, albeit with 14 questions. 50:50 was also revived, having been removed from the show in 2008.
Chris Harrison's hosting was decent.
The set still looked Millionaire-like, though it was ruined by the lack of chairs and overly-bright lighting.
The graphics and logo looked much better (and more Millionaire-like) before Season 17.
It got rid of the controversial Clock format.
The Shuffle format saw two people see the $1,000,000 question (and one person even answered on it, despite losing), unlike the Clock format where only one person saw it: Ken Basin in the 10th Anniversary finale. Granted, it was due to the Jump the Question lifeline, but still.
As stated before, most of the music is decent, but would've been better fit on another game show.
The show eventually redeemed itself with the Jimmy Kimmel-hosted revival on ABC in 2020.