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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (Redux)

When Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was in its initial run on ABC it quickly became a family ritual in the Everett household. I remember watching it down in my Nana's room with her and my father, even when it was on four nights a week and fewer and fewer people were tuning in. I remember my father dialing in to try and get a spot at an audition. I remember my father being upset that the first million-dollar winner did so on what he considered a remarkably easy question. (Who wouldn't know that Richard Nixon did Laugh-In? he complained.) The show was something I always enjoyed, and those nights watching the show have a special place in my memory.

I watch the syndicated version of Millionaire occasionally (I am unemployed, after all.) But it's just not the same. Meredith Viera isn't half the host Regis was, and no one has won the big prize in quite a while. So I was ecstatic when I heard a few months ago that Regis was coming back for a limited run in prime-time.

However the 10th Anniversary Edition premiered Sunday night to such little fanfare that I forget to watch it. Back during the show's original run, this was something that never happened. Disappointed with myself, I made sure to watch the second night of the limited run, and it is with heavy heart that I report that this revival is a pretty sad affair.

For one thing, they are using the inferior daytime version's new rules, and that is clearly confusing Regis, and who can blame him? He's 78 and hasn't done this in ten years, and on top of all that you're going to switch all the rules around? Last night on a $100 question Regis clearly forget that the contestant is on a clock. He started chatting and laughing during the question, using up almost the whole 15 seconds. The contestant didn't realize the clock had started and she only barely got out her answer.

That incident clearly shook Regis, and for the rest of the show he was speeding through the questions and answers until he was nearly unintelligible. Now, I hate it when Meredith talks to the contestants on the syndicated version, but that's because she's a terrible host and the contestants, who don't have to answer a fastest-finger, are generally dumber than the general population. Regis is, or at least was, a great game-show host, and it used to be fun to watch him gently mock contestants while they thought out their answers.

The worst part of the show was the arbitrary shoe-horning of celebrities into the telecast. Last night at 7:46 central, a contestant had just won $25,000. This is when the show generally gets really interesting, but no, tonight this contestant was shuffled off until the next broadcast so that ABC could promote Ugly Betty by bringing out Vanessa Williams to play for charity. Then they went to a six-minute commercial break (seriously, six minutes) and gave Vanessa one question to answer, for $50,000 to give to her charity, guaranteeing her $25,000 even if she missed. The worst part is that they didn't put a clock on Vanessa, who tried to think out a question that she didn't know (and which could not possibly be "thought out") for the rest of the show before miraculously picking the right answer. It was unexciting, awful television.

Tonight the celebrity guest is Sherri Shepherd of The View, who once admitted to a national television audience that she wasn't sure whether the world is flat or not. Thanks for crapping on my memories ABC.

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