Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire canceled, a scant decade after you assumed it went off the air

Illustration for article titled Who Wants To Be A Millionaire canceled, a scant decade after you assumed it went off the air
Photo: Robin Platzer (Getty Images)

Lo: Just as Regis begat Meredith, who begat Cedric, who begat Terry, who begat the generically handsome man who’s hosted The Bachelor for the last hundred or so years, the prophecy has finally been fulfilled, and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire has been eliminated from the airwaves at last. (The American version, at least; its British counterpart, currently helmed by human-car hybrid and famed ibex-non-knower Jeremy Clarkson, will presumably continue into perpetuity, having already survived at least one cancellation attempt.)


Despite what your scrambled memory might be trying to tell you—Weren’t all those episodes reruns? Did Terry Crews really host for a while? How the fuck did I get so old?—Millionaire has now been on the air for 17 years, presumably growing into the kind of high school junior who’s constantly asking “Wait, you didn’t know that?!” when his classmates fail to recognize some minor piece of pop culture ephemera or trivial blip. (This hypothetical child will not be mourned.) The series originally ran for three years on ABC under Regis Philbin’s watchful, weirdly aggressive eye, before switching to a syndicated model in 2003.

Millionaire became a veritable sensation way back in 1999, when its hyper-edited, hyper-high-stakes approach to the tried-and-tested game show trivia series dominated primetime for a handful of seasons. (And set the model for god knows how many dramatically lit, swooping crane shot successors.) Unlike, say, Jeopardy!—which keeps its cash values relatively low, at least if you’re not a veteran sports gambler with a notable reckless streak—the show put an emphasis on offering life-changing amounts of money to its regular Joe contestants, along with the beguiling reality that any answer in its multiple choice design had a 1 in 4 chance of being right. (It’s not for nothing that Danny Boyle managed to wring an Oscar out of exactly this dramatic setup.)

It’s a little tricky—due to a variety of ways the rules and payouts of the series have been re-tooled over the years—to get an exact count of how many million-dollar winners the show produced, although there were nine top prize winners in the original ABC era. The show will air its final episode on May 31, 2019; reports that the series will end with current host Chris Harrison forced to wrestle for his freedom against the mysterious banker from Deal Or No Deal remain apocryphal at best.