Thursday, May 6, 2010

What Hath Millionaire Wrought?

I'm going to talk more now about something I mentioned briefly on April 15 - the concept of the Million Dollar Revival.

"Million Dollar Revival" is a term I made up, but when I describe it you'll get the idea - it's when an already successful show is forced to introduce a $1,000,000 jackpot to be "relevant" in the post - Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? era. That this has happened is no surprise; what is a surprise is that, while virtually every new show introduced after Millionaire has a $1,000,000 jackpot, there have only been five million dollar revivals. I'm going to take a look at each of them now, in chronological order:
  • Twenty-One - "Never heard of it" you say. You aren't alone. The original version of Twenty-One (which ran from 1956 - 1958) actually had an excellent game and game show veteran Jack Barry as host, but is remembered now mostly for being rigged (when it's remembered now at all!) Why NBC thought it was a good idea to bring this show back I don't know, but in 2000 they did it as one of the earliest responses to Millionaire, with host Maury Povich (well, if Regis Philbin worked...). I was eleven years old, and while I recognized even then that Maury was not the greatest host, I also frequently picked Twenty-One over Millionaire. Admittedly, that may have simply been because Twenty-One offered more money, but I still think this show had a good game, if not an astonishing one - the Second Chance element didn't work, and the bonus round really, really broke up the flow. The 1950s version didn't have either of those, and actually was an amazing format...but it was rigged. Perhaps there is someone out there who can do Twenty-One right, but that person hasn't been found yet.
  • Jeopardy - It was probably inevitable that "AMERICA'S FAVORITE QUIZ SHOW!" would eventually go down the big-money route, and in 2002 they did in the form of the Million Dollar Masters Tournament. Why Jeopardy had a whole two-week tournament when most other million dollar game shows enable contestants to win $1,000,000 in one game we'll never know. As for Ken Jennings...can't we just dismiss that as something the producers weren't anticipating?
  • The Price Is Right - Again, probably inevitable. A primetime version of The Price Is Right became very successful in 2002, so in 2003 we got the first Million Dollar Spectacular. The Bob Barker - hosted version simply increased the bonus for spinning $1 twice on the Big Wheel from $10,000 to $1,000,000, making the Showcase flat out redundant (and making this even worse, the bonus for spinning $1 once was still $1,000). Drew Carey actually probably did this better - you got $1,000,000 for coming within $1,000 of the price of your showcase or for meeting a certain criteria in the night's designated Million Dollar Game. However, as this resulted in three $1,000,000 wins in the first four episodes, it's unlikely we'll see it again. I did, admittedly, think the contestant who won Clock Game in under ten seconds deserved a lot more than the $1,000 she would have got under normal circumstances.
  • Password - This one was not inevitable, and indeed if any one show exemplifies how Millionaire changed things, that show would be Million Dollar Password. The show that once had a grand prize of $250 now had a generic post-Millionaire set and theme, a money ladder, and Regis Philbin himself as host. The show was far from terrible, but it didn't feel like Password and didn't last long either way.
  • Wheel Of Fortune - Inevitable? Maybe, but it is surprising that the show began in 2008 to offer a $1,000,000 jackpot five days a week.

Why am I going through all this? This week marks the final episodes of Jeopardy's third Million Dollar Tournment - the Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational. Yes, you read that right...celebrity. They're playing for charity, and the whole thing has been broadcast starting in September at the rate of one episode a month. Seriously.

In all honestly, there's not much more to say at the moment. Let's just hope there's some news next week, or failing that, that I can think of something to write about.


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