top of page

The Flat Cap on ... "Millionaire"

With all this coronavirus going around The Flat Cap has found himself watching more television than he would usually do. Up amongst his favourite programmes is the television game show. Not those game shows that feature celebrities (whom most people have never heard of) trying to be witty, nor the ones where they get so-called famous people to win money for their preferred charity. No, what The Flat Cap likes are game shows that feature members of the public trying to win life changing amounts of cash. Top of these is Who wants to be a Millionaire? where anyone with a fast finger and a modicum of intelligence can get themselves a place in the big tall chair; unless of course they have some physical impediment or disability; in which case they can sit on something comfier. The Flat Cap would ask for a bean bag but that might mess up the show’s camera angles.

The U.K. version of “Millionaire” as it has become known, was initially hosted by Chris Tarrant. But then Chris decided it would be more fun to travel the world by train whilst a film crew followed him around. The idea of making programmes about railways isn’t a new one. Ex Conservative M.P. Michael Portillo had already done it and The Flat Cap thinks that television executives probably reasoned that viewing figures for railway journeys would likely increase if the programmes were fronted by someone who people actually liked.

Tony Robinson is another presenter who has got in on the act, probably because people still remember him as Baldrick in the television comedy Blackadder. More recently “Millionaire” has been hosted by Jeremey Clarkson, who although nowhere near as likeable as his predecessor nevertheless draws in the audiences.

For anyone unfamiliar with the show its format is pretty simple. Contestants are asked to place four answers to a question in order and the quickest to get the order right wins the chance to compete for a million pounds. They then try to work their way through fifteen questions; each one getting more difficult as the prizes increase in value. And that’s it. The early questions are really easy and The Flat Cap reckons he could get at least nine answers right in a row and win £16,000 no problem. That would be enough to buy him a decent used car or a few holidays to Benidorm. As well as relying on his own general knowledge he would also be allowed to ask a friend or narrow down the multiple-choice options with a 50/50. The Flat Cap would ask Pete off the allotments to be his 'friend in need' if it got tricky. Pete used to compile questions for the local weekly pub quiz and “knows a lot of random shit” according to pub regulars Geoff and Pat.

The show has undergone a few scandals and arguably the biggest of these occurred in September 2001 when Charles Ingram, a British Army Major won £1,000,000 after changing his initial answers to some of the questions. It was successfully argued in Southwark Crown Court that Ingram had only done so after coughing prompts from his wife and a fellow contestant, Tecwen Whittock. All three were fined and given suspended prison sentences. Ingram was forced to resign his army commission in the wake of the trial. The Flat Cap thinks the Ingrams should have tried to capitalise on their notoriety by advertising cough medicines or lozenges. Instead the Ingrams went on to appear on other television shows and Charles wrote a couple of novels. In 2010 Mr. Ingram sliced off three of his toes in a freak gardening accident involving a lawnmower. The Flat Cap was unable to ascertain if Charles had himself had a coughing fit at the time or just been a bit clumsy mowing the lawn.

The film Slumdog Millionaire is one of The Flat Cap’s favourites. Set in India it tells the story of Jamal Malik who as a contestant on the Indian version of Who wants to be a Millionaire surprises everyone by answering all the questions correctly. The film was directed by Danny Boyle and received lots of awards. This probably explains why its director was given the job of organising the opening ceremony for the summer 2012 Olympic Games. Like Chris Tarrant Danny Boyle loves railways and he was heavily involved in the making of the films Trainspotting, and its sequel T2 Trainspotting. At the weekends Mr. Boyle loves nothing more than a ride on the East Lancashire Railway, which happily for the celebrated film director isn’t far from where he was born in the Manchester suburb of Radcliffe.

Although The Flat cap doesn’t know any millionaires himself he does know a chap whose brother won some money on the National Lottery. He also knows Joan who lives in the next road and who, on her own admission, watches a lot of daytime television. Joan said she liked to watch Who wants to be a Millionaire? but wishes they hadn’t tinkered with it. Like almost everyone else The flat Cap spoke to she thought Jeremy Clarkson was “a bit of a git”. Nevertheless, she was able to offer the following interesting facts about the much-loved television game show:

  • Chris Tarrant presented 592 episodes of the U.K. show and is himself a millionaire as well as an OBE

  • The music for the show was composed by father and son duo Keith and Matthew Strachan. Back in 1988 Keith also co-wrote Sir Cliff Richard’s Christmas number one “Mistletoe and Wine”, Keith’s cousin, Gordon Strachan played football professionally for a variety of clubs including Aberdeen, Manchester United and Leeds United. Like Chris Tarrant, Gordon also has an OBE

  • The first U.K. £1 million winner was Judith Keppel, whose ancestors include King Henry ll of England

  • Continuing the royal theme another famous Keppel was Alice, who was a confidante and mistress of King Edward Vll

  • If you were to put one million pound coins on top of each other the stack would be 1.74 miles tall

  • Mr. Danny Boyle could have been Sir Danny Boyle but turned down the offer of a knighthood

  • The chairs that the contestant and presenter sit on are three feet high. This makes them unsuitable for very small children, and explains why only grown-ups have appeared on the show

  • The show spawned several catchphrases, notably “is that your final answer?” and “do you want to phone a friend?”. Joan said she uses the latter when her husband can’t make up his mind what he wants for lunch

  • Chris Tarrant always wore an Armani suit while hosting the show and when the programme rights were first franchised its producer, Paul Smith, insisted other presenters do likewise

  • Tokyo has more millionaires than any other major city


bottom of page