Tag Archives: “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”

Meredith Vieira Taking No Credit for ‘Millionaire’ Changes

Meredith Vieira NBC photo

Meredith Vieira says she shouldn’t be given any credit for the many changes that are being made this season in “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”  Vieira, who’s in her ninth season of hosting the daytime syndicated version of the show that returns today (9/13), makes it known, “I don’t make any of the decisions. That’s not my job, but they did run things by me.”

She acknowledges she wasn’t exactly overwhelmed when she first learned of some of the changes (including doing away of the Hot Seat so that she and the contestants stand through the program; a new “Jump the Question” that gives a contestant the chance to skip a question; the fact a contestant never walks away with less than $1,000; and in round two, one only has to answer four questions — valued at $100,000, $250,000, $500,000 and $1,000.000).

My reaction was, ‘But that’s not ‘Millionaire’ and I was told, ‘Play the game and then decide.’ And they were right. There’s a new excitement to the program.”

Those votes of excitement were echoed by former “Millionaire” contestants the show enlisted for run-throughs of the reworked program.

“They loved it,” says Meredith.  “So do I.”

She particularly loves the fact that the traditional first five questions have been changed so that there’s now a greater risk and a greater reward at stake.  “It’s helped do away with a predictability on the show. It’s really for the best.”

Meredith Vieira Looks Ahead

Meredith Vieira

Meredith Vieira, who kicks off her ninth season of the syndicated weekday version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ on September 13, is making no predictions as to where she’ll be next year at this time.

Her contracts with both ‘Millionaire’ and ‘Today’ are in their final year, and as the charming, erudite Vieira puts it, ‘I can’t imagine how I will feel in a year.  I’m not there yet.  I never look ahead, but, much as I love  my work, a part of me looks at how hard I’ve worked and realizes I’d like to spend more time at home.’

Her son Ben is a senior in college, son Gabriel ,19 ,is in his sophomore year in a university and  17-year-old daughter Lily is a senior in  high school and Meredith feels that  ‘Next year when  the kids  are all  gone from home, I’d love to be able to be more flexible with my time .. I work two kinds of crazy jobs now with lot of tension and the fact is I actually like solitude — and sitting alone with my husband enjoying a bottle of wine isn’t all that bad.’  She’d also like to spend more time doing another of her favorite things: exercising.

Says Meredith,’ I love running, racing, anything outside.  I was training for the  New York marathon. but tore my hamstring and just hope I’ll be in shape to run the race in November.’

Her legs are currently getting a test as she tapes the new season of ‘Millionaire’ that, among its many changes, calls for an end of the legendary Hot Seat, with Meredith and contestants standing for the length of the program.  She is gung-ho about  the new format.  ‘I can interact with the contestants more when we’re standing.  I know like being able to move around the stage.’  The fact she tapes five shows a day — 15 shows a week — might lead some to assume the new format is a physical grind for her, but she says, ‘I could also find a seat if I were tired, but it hasn’t been happening.’

Wedding Bells and Big Balls for John Henson

John Henson "Wipeout"

Wedding bells are going to ring for comedian and ‘Wipeout’ host John Henson, who reveals that he and Chicago improv actress Jill Benjamin are into preparations for their nuptials in June.  Deep into preparations.

‘We have to make sure the caterer is prepared, the bar stocked.  There are so many details.  It’s like an entire industry,’ observes the funny man, for whom this will be a second marriage.  ‘You start to feel like, 25 years from now, the only thing anyone will remember is, did you have monogrammed napkins?’

First, Henson’s hosting this week’s ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ — a gig he loves.  ‘I now have even more respect for Meredith (Vieira) and Regis (Philbin).  You see that screen in front of Meredith on the show?  It’s like an air traffic control board it’s so complicated.  To manage that while keeping up an ongoing conversation takes some doing.’

And as far as ‘Wipeout,’ which returns for its third season this summer, John tips that ‘there are a lot of new obstacles, and two entirely new courses.  They’re now employing the concept of deceit.  Contestants can get a false sense of security that they’re in the clear when actually something bad is about to happen to them.’

‘Wipeout’ has become so popular, a mini version of the course is touring around the country so that fans can have the chance to try out the insanity of the oversized obstacles, including the fabled Big Balls, themselves.  As Henson notes, ‘there’s potential for a real theme park here.'<p>But he has no interest in participating.  ‘No, seeing the contestants through the years is like its own ‘Scared Straight’ program.

Regis Hoping for ‘Millionaire’ Improvements

Regis PhilbinRegis Philbin, who’ll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” by hosting 11 fresh prime-time episodes of the show in August, is hoping for improvements in the program that will make his life easier.

He thinks back to the years he hosted the show from 1999 to 2004, when, he reveals, he had to contend with frequent breakdowns of the computers used by the semi-finalists to determine who would end up in the coveted hot seat.

“Everything looked so great watching the program on TV, but every time one of the computers died, there would be a half-hour wait and it would drive me crazy.”

The icon in television broadcasting reveals that such malfunctions were the reason he decided not to do the syndicated version of “Millionaire,” which Meredith Viera hosts.

“I thought the syndicated program would be the same as the prime time show, and that would have been too messy for me with the breakdown of computers and such, and so I took a pass. Who knew that the format would change and contestants would practically take the test walking in the door.”

He notes, “I hope, in all this time, they’ve improved the quality of their computers.” And then, he adds, “I’m sure they have. And, even if that not true, I can put up with it for 11 shows. The fact is I’m thrilled that ABC has honored the show by featuring this 10th anniversary package. It is,” he says, “‘Millionaire’ is my favorite game show of all time.”

CLOTHES MAKE THE WOMAN: With “Confessions of a Shopaholic” hitting DVD June 23, costume design superstar Patricia Field recalls being inspired by the movie’s Isla Fisher, as well as her fashion-obsessed character, Rebecca Bloomwood.

“Once I figured out my road map, it worked quite smoothly. It’s about trying to make logical sense out of who these characters are,” notes the styling guru. “I can work with the actor, take what the actor has to give, then you look at the main character and the philosophy behind what you are doing. Then, you go to the supporting characters — one is the antithesis, one is the friend…”

She reveled in putting vibrant colors on the red-haired beauty. “Isla Fisher, she’s very energetic, very active and alive,” she notes. “And, the character was always an energized character. That was good casting, absolutely, and that energy is what I sort of stayed close to in dressing her. These kinds of things — you stay on the fun and happy side.”

How does, say, her “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker contrast? “Sarah Jessica is very graceful. She’s ballet trained. She’s got beautiful posture. She takes care of herself,” says Field. “The way she moves makes things gorgeous.”

THE INDUSTRY EYE: It will be mighty interesting to see how Kenny Ortega’s “Footloose” remake lands. Now that “Gossip Girl’s” Chace Crawford is in place to play the lead role Kevin Bacon essayed in the 1984 original (rather than Zac Efron, who opted not to make another musical just now), all eyes turn to the leading lady. Several names of fetching young actresses have been bandied about, including Hayden Panettiere and Amanda Bynes.

Now, we understand a casting notice has gone out for the role of the preacher’s daughter — Ariel, in the 1984 version, played by Lori Singer, now named Sarah. They’re looking for a 16 to 22-year-old able to play 17. So, perhaps Ortega — whose latest successes include the “High School Musical” movies — is going to go with an unknown. Or, at least, is thinking about that. What a star-making vehicle it could be! Adding to Ortega’s challenges, he has to work around Crawford’s “Gossip Girl” schedule.

MEANWHILE: For those who can’t wait to see a new “Footloose,” well, it’s being done as a live theater show July 19-Aug. 29th at the Glendale Center Theater near L.A.. Casting is being done now for all the roles.

CASTING CORNER: Ever wonder how much stars make for fronting pharmaceuticals related to helping their various health concerns? In case you did, you might be interested to know that a pay rate of up to $500,000 is being dangled for a celebrity spokesperson conversant on Type 2 Diabetes. Wanted is “Someone who actually has it and is being treated with insulin,” per casting notices. Being well-known is an obvious must.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster