(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Celebrity Edition
Where You Can Stream It: Hulu
The Pitch: It’s the beloved game show that everyone was obsessed with in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but with famous faces in the hot seat playing for charity. Since this run of episodes was recorded just before the coronavirus pandemic shut down productions, there’s no live audience, and only a small crew to make this show happen. The result is a vibe is a lot more laid back, and host Jimmy Kimmel has a good time ribbing contestants like Catherine O’Hara, Anthony Anderson, Caitlin Olson, Nikki Glaser, Hannibal Buress, Lauren Lapkus, and more, resulting in a great way to pass the time, especially for those who are missing their weekly trivia nights.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was a phenomenon that launched back in 1999 after the United Kingdom struck gold with the trivia game show. Though you might not know it, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has been on air non-stop until it was canceled last year with the final episode airing almost exactly one year ago on May 19. But ABC decided to bring back the show with Jimmy Kimmel as host, and they added some celebrity players to spice things up for an event run of the series. The result is a show that tickles your trivia bone and also comes with some big laughs, largely thanks to the banter between Jimmy Kimmel and the guests as they deliberate the answers to the game show’s questions.
The format of the show is largely the same as it has been forever, with the exception of the absence of the Fastest Finger part of the game that would usually determine who ended up in the hot seat. Every celebrity guest has a chance to answer 15 questions, each one getting progressively more difficult and earning them an exponentially larger amount of money right up to the $1 million question. They have three lifelines to help them possibly answer the questions: the “50:5″0 getting rid of two of the wrong answers, the “Phone a Friend” letting them call a pre-chosen person for advice, and “Ask the Host,” a new lifeline since there’s no live audience to chime in via poll. But Kimmel doesn’t have the answers, so he’s only as helpful as Kimmel’s brain lets him be.
But what helps shake up the usual format of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire a bit is the addition of another person into the mix. Each celebrity contestant is allowed to bring along “the smartest person they know,” and that person is allowed to help them with the first 10 questions of the game, right up to the $32,000 mark. After that, the contestant is allowed to trade that person for one of the aforementioned lifelines, and Kimmel wastes no time trying to convince contestants to give him the boot, knowing that he won’t be nearly as helpful as the people they’ve brought. That’s because many of them bring former Jeopardy champions along for the ride, including Brad Rutter, one of the three contestants who played in the recent Jeopardy: Greatest of All-Time tournament special. Otherwise, people like Eric Stonestreet and Caitlin Olson bring writers from their shows Modern Family and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and comedian Nikki Glaser brings Dr. Drew Pinsky from Loveline.
The best part of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is easily the back-and-forth that unfolds between Kimmel and the celebrity guests. Hannibal Buress is far and away the funniest contestant, with his observations and deductive reasoning offering plenty of big laughs. Dr. Phil is entertaining for a whole other reason, mostly because of how ridiculously long he debates the answers of a couple questions, allowing Kimmel plenty of time to give him grief. But easily the best moment from the series thus far (with two episodes remaining in the season), is Nikki Glaser making a quick decision that results in some truly shocking drama. You can see how that unfolds in her episode, but suffice it to say, it’s one of the more surprising moments in the entire history of the game show.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to the game show format, but it’s some nice comfort food during these times where there’s very little new television to occupy our time. Normally our favorite shows would becoming to an end right now, giving us some semblance of satisfaction, but instead, we have to take solace in some fun game shows that are helping out charities in need. Trust me, it’ll make you feel good, and it might even make you feel smart.
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