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Best moments from
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

It’s arguably the most successful gameshow in TV history, and has certainly been responsible for handing out the most prize money. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was first broadcast in the UK in September 1998 It was hosted by Chris Tarrant, a man more familiar to radio audiences, and whose biggest TV role had been to present a Saturday morning kids show in the early 1980s.

The show became an overnight success and was soon being replicated across the globe. Within a year, Regis Philbin was asking the familiar question to American audiences, and other versions are broadcast in more than 100 countries around the world. When you also take into account the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire games that are available online, it is truly an entertainment phenomenon. Unsurprisingly, it has thrown up some memorable moments over the years, on both sides of the Atlantic. Here’s our top three.

The first millionaire

The UK might have had almost a one-year head start, but it was America that produced the first millionaire, and it could not have happened in better style. Contestant John Carpenter had sailed through the first 14 questions with almost indecent ease and without using any lifelines. When the million dollar question came up, it asked which US president appeared on the TV show Laugh-In and gave four choices. Carpenter said he would like to phone a friend, and elected to ring his father. Any fears that he might fall at the final hurdle were allayed when, instead of reading out the question, he said “I don’t really need your help, I just wanted to let you know I’m going to win the million dollars. Because the US president who appeared on Laugh-In was Richard Nixon.”

The villainous Major

The first UK millionaire was Judith Keppel, a second cousin to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. She went on to feature as a regular panelist on another UK quiz show called Eggheads. But it was the second UK winner that UK audiences remember. Just one month after Keppel’s win, Charles Ingram, a Major in the British army, became the show’s second millionaire. However, replays showed that his answers were guided by a friend in the audience who would cough to indicate the correct answer. Ingram was fined £15,000 plus £10,000 in costs and received a suspended prison sentence. He was also dishonorably discharged from the army, but has since built up a new career, appearing on numerous reality TV shows.

The French connection

Not every memorable incident concerns a big win, and sometimes the best moments surround the unfortunate contestants who leave with nothing. One of the best examples is from the French edition of the game in which a contestant was asked what celestial body orbits the earth. Given the choice of the moon, the sun, Mars or Venus, the contestant was stumped, so he asked the audience. 56 percent said the sun, and just 42 percent said the moon. The contestant went with the majority, but the laughter that greeted his wrong answer suggests that they might have been playing a cruel trick on him.


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Best moments from
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire


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