Bring back my "Millionaire"

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Column by Jim Clark

Not too far back, the show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” was a staple in our house. We taped it and watched it when we could.

Gradually, I grew to like the Meredith version better than the Regis version. She seemed more relaxed, more personable, and seemed to make the contestants more at ease.

The format hadn’t changed much from the original, and this made the daytime version a success.

So what happened?

I sat down and watched Tuesday’s version because there was a contestant from Ocala. If you haven’t watched the show for a long time, you’re in for a disappointment if you turn it on.

One of the things that made the old show great, for me, was the drama of waiting for the contestant to answer the question. But then, a couple of years ago or so, they had the bright idea of putting in a clock. If you didn’t answer in a certain amount of time, it was the same as if you decided to walk away and take the money.

They tinkered with the “lifelines,” adding things like “ask the expert” and “double dip.” The fourth lifeline was earned when you got to a certain level of winnings.

I stopped watching regularly.

So there I was on Tuesday, viewing some changes I knew had been made for the first time.

I thought it was terrible.

First of all, they did away with the “hot seat.” Despite its name, it was a chance for the contestant to sit down and relax a little. The host also sat, and it was a home-like feeling as you watched. Each had a screen in front of them for information.

Second, there was the method of choosing questions. It used to be that you started with the lowest dollar amounts and worked your way up, and at the end of each section of five questions you were guaranteed a certain prize. Then they went to showing you the categories. Now they “randomize” (is there really such a word?) both the money and the questions, so  you never know how much money a question is worth until you’re done with it.

That’s what happened to our local contestant the other day. She passed on a question, and it turned out to be worth $25,000, the biggest on the board at that point.

Then, they fooled around with the lifelines even more. Now you can still ask the audience, but you also have two chances to skip a question. But the money that each question was worth is taken off the possible winnings.

They did away with all the others, including the unique “phone a friend” that was widely followed.

The good news? They did away with the clock.

Evidently there isn’t a television executive alive who believes in the “If it ain’t broke” philosophy. And that’s too bad. Nearly all shows that are changed for no reason end up on the scrap heap or relegated to following “Lingo” or “The Newlywed Game” on a remote cable network.

It’s probably too late, but I hope they would consider bringing back the old “Millionaire” show. Maybe then they’ll get me back in the fold.

And that, folks, is my final answer.


Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at 352-854-3986 or at editor@smcitizen.com.