After 17 years in syndication and nearly 20 years overall, “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” is coming to an end. Disney-ABC Television quietly announced its cancellation on Friday, days after its annual Upfronts presentation. The show was nominated for several Daytime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Game Show and Outstanding Game Show Host (Chris Harrison) earlier this month.
Harrison, of ABC’s “The Bachelor”, hosted “Millionaire” for four years, beginning in 2015. Regis Philbin, of course, originated the hosting gig when the primetime version started in August 1999. Meredith Vieira took over with the daytime version that kicked off in September 2002. Vieira left in 2013 after 11 years. Cedric the Entertainer and Terry Crews each hosted for a year, but things didn’t seem to be gelling.
Bringing in Harrison saw a return to form for “Millionaire” as the game show America came to know and love: simple format yet challenging questions… with high stakes. I experienced this first-hand when I attended a taping of “Millionaire” last July in Las Vegas. But when I told people before and after my trip about seeing “Millionaire” there, they couldn’t believe it was filmed in the city. Six weeks over the summer was all it took to tape around 200 episodes. It was the best kept secret in Vegas.
But if you’re a diehard game show fan, you likely should’ve seen this cancellation coming. “Millionaire” was under a year-by-year contract. In January 2016, 2017 and 2018, ABC announced that “Millionaire” was renewed for another year. But that didn’t happen this January.
This show has been on the air, whether in primetime or syndication, for nearly my entire lifetime. It’s a daytime TV staple – and one of the most iconic game shows of all time. It leaves behind a legacy of hosts, contestants and catchphrases.
Like “Cash Cab” and “Deal or No Deal”, we could see a “Millionaire” revival in about 5-10 years. But for now, this is its Final Answer.