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Was Friday evening’s “Millionaire” a fix?

(weekend blog – this weekend, a less serious subject than usual)

Like probably many millions of others, I watched Friday evening’s “WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?”. And like probably many millions of others I saw the contestant, Donald Fear, win one million pounds. After all, there had been loads of stories in the mainstream media prior to the broadcast about how someone in this series would win the £1m after many years with no winners.

The contestant was clearly knowledgeable. He taught history and philosophy or politics (if I remember correctly) and his brother had previously won £500,000 on the programme. So he seemed to come from a family that was interested in general knowledge. But thinking back on Friday evening’s £1m-winning episode, I started to have a niggling feeling that the ‘surprise’ win was as near a (IMHO) ‘fix’ as the programme-makers dared go.

Let’s review the evidence of a (IMHO) ‘fix’:

  • For several weeks, the programme’s PR department had been ‘leaking’ (deliberately spreading) the story around the main newspapers that someone during the series would win the £1m. That would be sure to boost viewing numbers and thus advertising revenues
  • Conveniently for the programme and advertisers, the £1m win came from the last contestant in the last programme of the series. This would also have helped maximise advertising revenues throughout the whole series
  • Usually the first question – “Fastest fingers first” – is something totally banal like putting four words in alphabetical order or four places in order from North to South. But with this contestant (if I remember correctly and I may well be wrong here) the “Fastest fingers first” question was actually quite difficult as it involved putting four English queens in date order of their reigns. One of them was Queen Anne and I doubt many people know when she reigned. And that was a question the history teacher was bound to know. In fact, only two of the contestants got the right answer – one of those was of course, the history teacher
  • One of the supposedly ‘difficult’ questions was about which of four whale species had teeth. I think pretty much everybody knows that’s the Sperm Whale which dives down deep to feast on giant squid. Another one was about the meaning of the word ‘loquacious’ – not too difficult, huh?
  • The first six or seven questions were, as usual, easy. But at least three of the supposedly ‘serious’ questions were all historical questions. One of them was about which of four well-known buildings was completed first. The penultimate (£250,000 to £500,000) question asked which of four UK politicians held all the “four great offices of state”. And the final question for £1m asked which of four pirates was killed in a battle in 1718. (The contestant ‘coincidentally’ had taught a course on piracy).
  • Extraordinarily, there was not a single ‘trivia question’ about some media celeb, TV soap or awful girl band – the kind of question that always catches out the most knowledgeable, well-educated, well-read contestants
  • The questions were so well-targeted to this contestant’s specific area of expertise – history – that he didn’t even bother using two of his lifelines
  • The contestant himself remarked with what seemed to cynical, nasty me to be some surprise something like how the questions “fell just right” and how there weren’t any trivia questions
  • As a (IMHO) ‘cynical’ Daily Telegraph reader has just commented: “And not once did Jeremy remind him how much he stood to lose if he got the last two questions wrong. Stranger still.” I, of course, would never support such a cynical comment!

I’ve written the above from memory as, at the time of writing, I haven’t managed to watch the whole programme again.

I’m not in any way blaming the contestant as I’m sure he knew nothing about the (IMHO) ‘fix’. Nor am I suggesting that the host, Jeremy Clarkson, knew the £1m-winning episode was a (IMHO) ‘fix’.

But I have a very strong feeling that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the programme-makers orchestrated the whole £1m-winning episode as the last contestant in the last of the series and the extensive PR surrounding it to be as near a (IMHO) ‘fix’ as the programme-makers dared go in order to build suspense thus maximising viewer numbers and advertising revenues without too obviously giving the game away.

I wonder if anyone else had the same feeling?

(you can leave comments by clicking on the headline)

4 comments to Was Friday evening’s “Millionaire” a fix?

  • Adrian Brewer

    My first thought was ‘about time’ then I looked at who and how like you. What was more interesting to me was that:-

    a) From the seemingly random process of selection two brothers were selected from millions of applications. What are the odds on that? I assume the £1m winner did not apply at the same time, which mist be more than 2 years ago.

    b)Fastest Finger First is always trivia and luck. This was specific knowledge needed, more Mastermind than Millionaire.

    I appreciate your generosity of spirit in not saying everyone was aware or conspired but who knows in these Covid days

  • What about the case of the army major who won the million and then lost it after being accused of cheating? – His wife and friend, who had also been contestants, were in the audience and were accused of coughing to give the major the correct answers when he was struggling. At least tens of thousands of people must have phoned in to become contestants, yet, somehow, the major, his wife and their friend got on to the show and won the fastest finger first part. The whole thing was all over the media and was recently made into a TV movie. What are the odds of that happening? – The entire thing looks to me as if it could have been fixed.

  • chris

    I am saddened that anyone watches any TV quiz show, just bread and circuses.

  • A Thorpe

    In these times when new religions seem to be springing up daily, I can only suggest that you witnessed a miracle.

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