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Jimmy Kimmel on Bringing Back ABC’s ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ – Variety



Earlier than “The Bachelor,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “American Idol” or any of the opposite community competitors exhibits, there was “Who Desires to Be a Millionaire.” The sport present was an instantaneous smash when it premiered in 1999, and was a precursor to the fashionable unscripted growth.

Quickly, “Millionaire” was a daily a part of the ABC schedule, attracting as much as 30 million viewers and serving to skyrocket the Alphabet community to No. 1. However the execs there acquired grasping, airing “Millionaire” as many as 5 nights every week. Audiences rapidly burned out and by 2002, the primetime version was canceled. “Millionaire” returned for ABC specials in 2004 and 2009, and lived on in a syndicated daytime model till final 12 months.

Now, with the daytime model out of the way in which, unique government producer Michael Davies — who first introduced the U.Okay. format to America as an ABC exec — believes the timing is correct to reintroduce audiences to “Millionaire.” He even recruited Jimmy Kimmel, whom Davies first employed on Comedy Central’s “Win Ben Stein’s Cash,” to take over from Regis Philbin as host. ABC will air eight episodes of a brand new Celeb version of “Millionaire” beginning April 8.

“I believe ‘Millionaire’ is without doubt one of the most good video games ever invented,” says Davies, who departed the syndicated model after he felt it moved too far-off from the unique recreation’s idea. “I didn’t wish to change the format. I didn’t wish to stray from the basic 15 questions. I all the time assume video games must be adjusted and modified, however you don’t throw out the entire thing.”

In a little bit of happenstance, Sony — which owns Davies’ manufacturing firm, Embassy Row — additionally controls “Millionaire” in the remainder of the world, whereas Disney/ABC nonetheless has the U.S. rights, because of Davies all these years in the past. After a U.Okay. revival of “Millionaire” did properly, Davies pitched ABC on a brand new, trendy tackle the present — in addition to an app that viewers can use to play alongside and win at house.

“He got here in and stated, ‘You already know, this was all the time alleged to be a particular occasion that you just do a number of occasions a 12 months,’” says ABC various sequence senior VP Rob Mills. “[ABC] needed extra, after which sadly burned it out. And he stated, ‘Survivor’ continues to be on, ‘The Bachelor’ continues to be on, ‘Idol’ continues to be on — all of the exhibits from that first unscripted wave are nonetheless there. ‘Millionaire’ ought to be on, and I agreed with him.”

For the revival, Davies introduced again the present’s unique orchestral music, up to date its “spaceship” set and added an “ask the host” lifeline that was carried out on the U.Okay. present. And since they have been taking part in for charities, the celeb contestants — who embody Will Arnett, Dr. Phil, Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen — have been additionally allowed to convey alongside the “smartest individual they know” to assist with the primary 10 questions.

However the greatest change is Kimmel, who had initially appeared on a star version in 2001 and has develop into buddies with Philbin over time. “You can simply underestimate how nice he was,” Kimmel says of his predecessor. “However what he did was not simple. And he was actually the proper host at the moment to herald an enormous viewers.”

Davies says he has thought-about Kimmel the inheritor obvious for Philbin’s chair ever since that 2001 look, and Philbin — who seems in promos for the “Millionaire” revival — has given his blessing.

Kimmel says his relationship with Davies and his love of “Millionaire” made it a straightforward option to take the gig. “It’s an excellent recreation,” he says. “And I do know that, as a result of I play it with my 5-year-old and my 2-year-old. We watched a lower of the present and so they have been glued to the tv. When little youngsters are curious about one thing for adults, you’ve actually acquired one thing highly effective in your palms.”

“Millionaire” returns after ABC earned a scores bump in January for its “Jeopardy: Best of All Time” primetime particular. The community opted for an April bow as a way to premiere “Millionaire” out of the “Trendy Household” sequence finale. However the timing additionally now comes as audiences, caught at house within the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, are watching extra broadcast TV.

The manufacturing of “Millionaire” got here right down to the wire: It was shot the weekend of March 14, with no studio viewers, proper earlier than stay-at-home directives have been issued. “If it had been a day later, I don’t know that we’d have gotten it finished,” Mills says. It’s very a lot of the second: Count on to see elbow bumps and air hugs as celebrities keep away from bodily contact.

“We moved actually quick,” Davies says. “We accelerated the schedule and delivered greater than eight episodes price of fabric by the top of our second capturing day, so we have been in a position to cancel our third capturing day. That was to permit a few of our crew and employees, who had traveled from the East Coast, and a few of them from the U.Okay., to get on planes and get house to their households.”

With out the viewers, it was as much as the 15 or so employees and crew members located across the set to supply reactions. “Initially that was very regarding to me, since you’re a comic and also you wish to get laughs,” Kimmel says. “However about 10 minutes in, I may see that it was gonna work anyway. I did radio for a very long time, and while you’re alone in a radio studio, no one’s laughing. You simply need to have some type of confidence that what you’re saying can be humorous to folks watching at house. In any other case, you wind up faucet dancing and stumbling, so I type of went with the drama and saved the jokes between myself and the gamers. And I believe it got here out properly.”

As for what’s subsequent, Davies want to convey “Millionaire” again twice a 12 months — as soon as with celebrities, and as soon as with common contestants. Provides Kimmel: “I might love to offer it a strive with a studio viewers. I believe that it’s simply the proper method for comedy. I’m hoping that the present is successful and that they wish to do extra of them as a result of I’ll say — and I not often say this — that I genuinely loved doing it.”

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