Regis is back! At least for 11 days over the next couple of weeks, beginning tonight and ending on Sunday August 23 for an 11 episode tournament-style Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Bill Carter at the New York Times had a good piece on the show covering the gamut from how it got on the air in the U.S. to begin with (Ben Silverman was in on it!) to how it changed the television landscape. Haters of unscripted content often make American Idol the target of their angst. But their wrath should really be directed to Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years already, but Millionaire premiered on Monday, August 16, 1999. The dotcom bubble was still expanding, and Millionaire premiered quietly to 7.5 million. A couple of days later on Wednesday it was up to 11.5 million and by Sunday hit 15 million. When it came back in November 1999 it was expanded to an hour, according to the Times, and routinely dominated the ratings reaching a peak of 29 million in 2000 (The Rosie O’Donnell appearance on a celebrity version of Millionaire averaged over 36 million viewers – thank you to Doug in the comments!). By November 2001 it was down to 10 million.
I like the idea of Millionaire being on every now and then for 11 episodes, and I especially like it in August when there’s not much interesting happening with the ratings. I’m pretty sure this installment will premiere with more than 7.5 million, and if it surpasses 15 million for an episode or two, it wouldn’t really shock me, though it wouldn’t surprise me if that didn’t happen either. 29 million? That would surprise everyone. Except maybe Regis.
I think it will average at least 10 million per episode over the run, but sometimes nostalgia gets the best of me…