Good Riddance To Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? A Pointless Spectacle Of Greed
FIFTEEN years ago – and it seems much, much longer than that – Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? first aired on our screens. And now, it is set to end following Chris Tarrant’s decision to leave the show.
He said: “It’s been a huge part of my life for fifteen years and I’ve loved every minute of it, but it is time for me to move on from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. It’s been the most remarkable journey and I consider myself very fortunate to have been associated with Millionaire from its inception.”
And good riddance.
Why? Well, while it has had its highlights – Judith Keppel winning a million in November 2000 and Charles Ingram blinking and coughing himself out of his jackpot and getting a suspended sentence instead – for the most part, …Millionaire has been a blight on television.
This may seem a bit strong, but listen: Millionaire almost killed off any semblance of fun in the televised quiz show.
This show changed television and light entertainment forever. Before it, TV was on your side. Hosts and producers wanted to help the general public who weren’t used to being on the box, before an audience or under the spotlight. It put an arm around you and said, c’mon, all this is ridiculous – what have you got to worry about?
Then, with low rumbling synthesizers, interrogation lighting and the threat of how much money you stood to lose, forcing you into being greedy, Millionaire came along and trampled on the good times.
Sure, it was campy fun for a while, but the format soon spread like wildfire. The Million Pound Drop and others like it entered the fray, dangling huge sums of money in front of poor people and egging them on, not to win, but to lose as much as possible. TV whispered ‘go on.. gamble… go on… gamble…’ over and over until the dizzying amounts of money became conceptual. £50,000? That’s not enough! We’re just one question away from MORE!
Gone were the gameshows that featured people having a nice time and winning a bit of beer money or something toward a holiday. With Bullseye, 321, Family Fortunes and the rest, people took part and got some spends. They might win a new TV too. Maybe some dressing gown and a teasmaid.
It wasn’t really about winning, even though the prizes were nice. It was a friendly wager down the pub. It was sticking a quid on the Grand National. It certainly wasn’t the cranked-up tension, promising to change your life forever with untold riches and gambles so huge that they became enormous life decisions.
Now, no pregnant pauses. No biting your nails so hard you went down to the elbow.
That’s because Pointless happened. Pointless returned to the format of having a giggle and winning enough cash to make you have a lovely month or two. It is no gamble to appear alongside Xander Armstrong or Richard Osman. You laugh, you might win and you’re certainly not made a fool of.
With the success of Pointless – the biggest cult favourite on television right now – and the popularity of The Great British Bake Off, Educating Yorkshire, Gogglebox and more – we can only hope that TV has turned a corner, away from this needless thumbscrew action. The last bastion of this Ultimate Gamble TV is The X Factor, who cribbed more notes from Millionaire than any other show. If that can realise that it should be a laugh like Opportunity Knocks or New Faces, we might get back to a more satisfying period of light entertainment where the general public are allowed to flourish and be themselves.
God knows there’s not enough nice, normal people on the box these days.