By Brian Johnsrud
If you're one on the 24 million who have tuned into ABC evenings, then you've probably been following one of the highest rated shows of the decade. "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," an unexpected hit, has knocked many television stations right out of their time slots. Having 23.52 million viewers on last Thursday's episode alone, NBC, CBS, and other competing stations are frantically searching for the recipe of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" that Americans are devouring. So, what makes "Millionaire" so different from other shows?
Every night for 15 days straight, "Who Wants to be a
Millionaire" offers individuals the chance to walk away with $1 million in less that half an hour. The plot appears simple. The contestant must answer 15 multiple choice questions, doubling his money every time, from $100, to $200, to $400, all the way up to $1 million.
But, if they miss a question, then they're done, being dropped down to their $32,000, $1,000, or zero dollar amount they've passed. To aid them in their rise to the top, each is equipped with three "lifelines," in case they get stumped. They can call a friend, ask the audience, or have two answers taken away.
Interested? Because so many Americans have become addicted to "Millionaire madness," competing stations are frantically reshuffling their schedules to give ABC some competition. Plummeting by 21 percent (NBC), 18 percent (Fox), and 12 percent (CBS), these stations have become steps on the ladder of ABC's 24 percent rise in viewers."Millionaire" seems to be most popular among adults from ages 18-49. Neilson ratings show that 8.8/21 people from that age group watched last Thursday's episode, the first time ABC has broken the "unshatterable" NBC primetime since Thanksgiving night in 1983 when "We Got it Made" aired on ABC. Experts say viewers are enticed by real-life drama, but are tired of seeing caught on tape shows such as "Cops" and "The World's Most AmazingVideos."
Given away $1,079,000 already in just November, the last isn't clear when it will air, already having added episodes to its 15-night run. Although, even after the shows November running is over, you can play "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" online. Waiting for it to return in a couple months, anxious viewers can play along virtually, with all the lifelines, music, and chance to "win" a million bucks.