You can’t ask me that: Who wants to be a millionaire?

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It’s 20 years ago today since Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? first appeared on British television screens. Hosted by Chris Tarrant, the show, which was created by David Briggs, Mike Whitehill and Steven Knight, caused an immediate stir, with the biggest prize fund UK viewers had ever seen. It was quickly syndicated all over the world, with versions of the show popping up in India, Russia, Romania and China among other places. At its peak, in 1999, the UK version was watched by more than 19m people a week. The show’s format with its “lifelines”, “ask the audience” and “phone a friend” encouraged maximum audience participation and sparked lively debate. Who would be your friend on the end of the phone? Divorce rates trebled and families fell apart as people revealed that they thought all their loved ones were too thick to be trusted with the job.

The show’s brilliance was in part because it made winning a million look utterly achievable. Those early round questions were so easy. You could quickly get to £16,000 without even knowing how to pronounce your own name. From the safety of the sofa, it didn’t look difficult at all. We howled with disbelief and derision when someone couldn’t answer a simple question about geography, only to find ourselves utterly stumped moments later by a question about the 1957 FA Cup.

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